Today’s Fun Link Friday is more of a quick and interesting news update. The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign added its 13-millionth book to its collection at the end of September, which happens to be the Ise Monogatari (Tales of Ise) of 1608, the first illustrated Japanese printed book. It is also the first printed edition of Ise Monogatari! If you’re not aware of what your university (or even local public libraries, which especially in big cities have unique collections of unexpected items) has in its possession, be sure to check it out! Oftentimes you can go take a look at these fabulous items of the past first-hand thanks to special collections experts.

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Ise monogatari 伊勢物語 (Tales of Ise). Kyoto-fu (Saga): Suminokura Soan, with Nakanoin Michikatsu and Hon’ami Kōetsu, 1608.

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has added its 13-millionth book, maintaining our status as the largest public university library in America.  The 13-millionth volume is the Ise Monogatari of 1608, the first illustrated Japanese printed book.  It is also the first printed edition of the popular Ise Monogatari (or Tales of Ise).  Published by Suminokura Soan 角倉素庵 (1571-1632),  a wealthy entrepreneur, scholar, litterateur and art connoisseur, it is also one of the earliest Japanese books printed with moveable type.

Soan’s printing establishment, which he set up at Saga 嵯峨 village near Kyoto, produced the much sought after “Saga-bon” imprints, of which this is the most famous.

The Tales of Ise is an anonymous compilation of 209 poems and 125 episodes from a poet’s life, arranged in rough chronological order as a…

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About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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