Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Myrmecobius fasciatu

I recently paid a pound for a remaindered book entitled "Japanese Studies" - rather than being a general guide to any particular aspect of the language, examination proves it to be a collection of "papers presented at a colloquium at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, 14-16 September 1988". The colloquium was set up by the British Library and the contents cover a fascinating range of issues relating to the collection of Japanese books. Some of these are particular to the time and place; studies on the collecting habits of European libraries following a general 1980s recognition that Europe rather lacked in scholars of Japanese. Some papers deal with the physical aspects of fifteenth century manuscripts, some on the methods of cataloguing texts in non-European languages in a way that computers can understand (CJK cataloguing having only been "tested" in the British Library at this point).

Here's some trivia from the book that I found intriguing:

"J R Black was born in 1827 in Scotland and educated there. In 1854 he arrived in Adelaide Australia on the barque Irene with his wife and a female servant. In 1858 his son Henry was born in Adelaide. After several failed business ventures in Australia James Senior took his family to Japan in the 1860s. The exact date is not known as different sources give the arrival date as 1862, 1863 and 1864. By 1865 James was editor of the Japan Herald. In 1867 his second son James Reddie Black II was born and in 1869 his daughter Elizabeth Pauline followed. In 1870 he published the first number of The Far East one of the oldest English-language newspapers in Japan, issued in 1866. In 1876 his wife took his first son to England to be educated and James went to Shanghai. In 1879 he returned to Yokohama in ill health and died in June 1880 and was buried in the Yokohama Foreign General Cemetery. James Black is remembered for his contribution to journalism in Japan, especially in the introduction of the editorial into Japanese journalism in 1866. The file [from the Harold S Williams collection held at the National Library of Australia] contains details of the mariage of J R Black II and the death of his mother, the subsequent history of J R Black II and his presidency of the Kobe Club but perhaps the most interesting part of the file is that devoted to Henry James Black, the son born in Adelaide who became a traditional Japanese storyteller, took a Japanese name, Ishii Buraku, married a Japanese wife, was adopted by her family and died in Tokyo in 1923. The file describes some of Henry's performances one of which depicted the night-time streets cries of the Tofu man, the Soba man, the blind masseur with his flute, the fish vendor, etc."
["Australia and Japan - the Harold S Williams collection". Pauline Haldane, Asian Collections, National Library of Australia]

The collection has also corrected a long-standing misconception of mine. I once knew a person of Brazilian (i.e. Portuguese-speaking) background called Santos, and one day when I walking around Nagasaki I found a street called Santos-dori (サントス通り). Knowing the history of missionary activity in the area, I guessed that this street had been named after a priest called Santos. As Nagasaki is perhaps the most Western of all Japanese cities, this seemed pretty likely to me (most Japanese cities do not even name their streets). It now seems far more likely that the street is named after Sanctos, which I think is Latin for 'sacred'. Between 1590 and 1614, missionary literature (Kirishitan-ban) was produced - the first books ever printed with movable type in Japan. One of these was a translation into romaji by two Japanese Christians, and was called Sanctos no gosagueo no uchi nuqigaqi (サントスの御作Xのうち抜書). (X representing a kanji I must have once known: four strokes above a horizontal, under which is the Yen sign and then 木 - help! The whole is rendered much more inpressively in the original as SANCTOS NOGOSAGVEONO VCHINUQIGAQI.)
["The Japanese collection in the Bodleian Library". Izumi K Tytler, Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. Ms Tytler goes on to point out that the Bodleian collection has been greatly assisted by grants from a major corporation ("the establishment of the Nissan Institute of Japanese Studies") and a shall we say unusual politico-religious group ("a recent major donation is the benefaction made twice by the Soka Gakkai International and amounting to 3,300 volumes, which has enabled the library to strengthen its holdings in various fields, including Buddhism, philosophy, history, and literature"). Love the use of the Oxford comma there!)]

"We are also the proud owners of a set of Meiji zenki sangyou hattatsu-shi shiryou in some 950 volumes. Everything after volume ten is a supplement and the whole still lacks an index so it is hardly, if ever, used. It is hoped to persuade someone in Japan to undertake the compilation of one so that this wealth of material does not remain the yellow-bound white elephant it is at present."
["A note on the Japanese collection of SOAS". Brian Hickman, School of Oriental and African Studies. Apart from guessing that zenki is an archaic rendering of denki, I have no idea what this 950-volume is about.]

"The library collection is, as one might expect, strong in social sciences material and books published since the 1950s. [...] Major series held include Meiji zenki sangyou hattatsu-shi shiryou and Nihon gaikou monjo."
[Resources for Japanese Studies in the Centre for Japanese Studies Library, the University of Sheffield". Valerie R Hamilton, Centre for Japanese Studies, University of Sheffield]

"In the early 1890s Western art, particularly oil painting, was enjoying a resurgence of popular interest. The first wave of enthusiasm had been in the 1870s, culminating in the establishment of the Technical Art School in 1876 where the Italian painter Antonio Fontanesi taught the basics of Barbizon painting. There followed a sharp reaction against Western style art in the 1880s, with the beginnings of the Nihonga 日本画 movement and the widespread renaissance of Nanga 南画 painting. [...] By 1896, however, the times had changed [...] For at least two decades the Western style artists of Japan were loosely divided into groups: those associated with Asai Chuu and Koyama Shoutarou who had studied Barbizon style painting in the 1870s at the Technical Art School and those associated with Kuroda [Seiki] and Kume [Keiichirou] who had studied in Europe in the Impressionist-influenced plein-air style.
"The colour purple became a focus of controversy which had an indirect influence on the books which are to feature in these notes. Raphael Collin had taught Kuroda and Kume to use purple pigments for shadow effects, a striking contrast to the somber browns Fontanesi had taught. 'Purple' and 'brown' became buzz words in the Japanese art world, denoting 'new' and 'old' approaches to oil painting."
["Shasei ryokou (写生旅行) and the 'sketch tour' books of the early twentieth century". Scott Johnson, Kansai University, Osaka]

And this blast from 1988:

"The use of electronic media is, however, hampered by the fact that Japanese texts contain many thousands of different characters, which, with their complicated pattern, require a huge pattern memory, a high resolution screen and consequently a high resolution dot printer for output. In recent years due to the progress in VLSI design, cheap Japanese word processors have appeared. Even so, the input of kanji texts into the computer will always be more expensive than that of alphabetic scripts."
["Computerised information sources in Japan for academic studies". Ulrich Wattenberg, German Society for Information and Documentation, Tokyo]