This book is exactly the sort of book I'm wanting my dissertation to resemble, it's a truly excellent series of essays about the social impact of printing in China from the Song to the Qing, covering different regions, different types of publications and publishers and different social groups. It's a really interesting book, with an awful lot of footnotes I will be chasing up in the next few months.
The first chapter by Cynthia Brokaw introduces the book, and the study of the history of the book in China, and the ways it is similar and different to its western counterpart (6,7). It covers issues of technology, language, education and reading traditions, the role of government, and sources and methods. It is a great introduction to the topic.
The ascendance of the imprint in China - by Joseph McDermott. This essay was written before McDermott's book on the social impact of printing was published, and follows along similar lines to his book. He argues that printing went side by side with manuscript books until the publishing boom in the Ming. He starts by giving examples of how the boom in publishing is usually portrayed (55) but then gives other examples to counter this. It is interesting to see that the technology did not have a "revolutionary" change, but existed side by side with the traditional methods for eight centuries. (This no doubt could have implications for those who are worried that e-books will completely eliminate print). 68 and 69 discuss the decline of the imprint in the early Ming. 85 takes up the book culture in the 16th century on. McDermott also discusses the use of manuscripts in a world of imprints.
Lucille Chia's chapter, "Of three mountains street, the commercial publishers of Ming Nanjing", follows on from her book discussing Fujian publishers, using the methods developed in that study to look at a new area. Her work includes a huge table of publishers in the area (113-) and looks at the different types of books published by commercial printers, including what were the popular categories of books. Like her book concludes with possible areas for further research.
Anne Mclaren's essay "Constructing new reading publics in late Ming China" looks at the use of vernacular texts used by a broader audience. By analysing commentaries and prefaces she is able to attempt to reconstruct the type of audience such works as narrative and drama were aimed at. This essay also looks at Zhu Xi's attitude towards reading, how books should be read and for what purpose (156). She discusses (though briefly) women readers (162-163) and the lack of authors in the traditional western sense (164).
Cynthia Brokaw’s essay – “Reading the best-sellers of the nineteenth century” looked at the commercial publishers of Sibao. It was a very interesting essay showing how printing had spread to include groups not formerly integrated into the book selling market. This group was largely Hakka and a relatively isolated community. Her research was restricted by materials that had survived, but included many photographic reproductions of the books discussed. 214, translates an introduction to a book which is designed to help readers fully recognise different characters. 218, 219 focus on the nature of reading and discuss the use of prefaces and commentaries to look at the intended user of a text. 224-225 talks about the way books were used within a household and draws on the theories of Chartier.
Robert Hegel’s “Niche marketing for late imperial fiction” looks at the way fiction books were developed and marketed during the Ming and the Qing. (236-237) He talks about the physical differences in books aimed at different readers and the quality of illustrations (253).
Katherine Carlitz – “Printing as performance” looks at literati playwrights of the late Ming. She includes a section on print vs. manuscript and how plays were circulated in both formats with different purposes (283). How the works published were part of a group identity rather than that of a single author’s vision (297).
Evelyn Rawski looks at publishing in non-Han languages, in particular the Manchu documents produced by the government in the Qing. It looks at how Beijing became the centre for printing in Manchu, Mongolian and Tibetan (322-323).
Preserving the bonds of kin by Xu Xiaoman looks at how printing with wooden moveable type was used to print genealogies. This was interesting as it showed how the genealogies were made and complied, (337) the prices for printing, the use of genealogies (343), the technology of reproduction (345) and offered an alternative to the type of printing discussed so far.
The last two essays, Visual Hermeneutics and the act of turning the leaf by Anne Burkus-Chasson and Didactic illustrations in printed books by Julia Murray, looked at the physicality of illustrations in printed books, while both were interesting essays neither were particularly relevant to my own area of interest.
Overall a truly magnificent collection of essays on this topic by the leading scholars in this field. This is so far the only main work on the topic I had to borrow from the library rather than own, I will definitely be keeping my eyes out for a cheaper copy, currently it seems to be at least 50 quid on Amazon!