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Prof. Peter Kornicki

History of the book in Japan
Prof. Peter Kornicki

Emeritus Professor of Japanese Studies

Deputy Warden, Robinson College


I did my BA in Japanese and Korean at Oxford and then did a D.Phil. in 19th-century Japanese literature. I have spent about six years in Japan in total, mostly in Kyoto. I first taught Japanese at the University of Tasmania, in Australia, where I also acquired a taste for Australian wine and bushwalking in the Tasmanian Wilderness. After four years there, from 1978 to 1982, I became associate professor at the Humanities Research Institute of Kyoto University. From the beginning of 1985 I have been based in Cambridge as lecturer, reader and then, from 2001, as professor. In 1992 I was awarded the Japan Foundation Special Prize (with Hayashi Nozomu), in 2002 I was elected a fellow of The British Academy, in 2011 I received the degree of Doctor of Letters from the University of Oxford, in 2012 I was elected a member of the Academia Europea and in 2013 I was awarded the Yamagata Bantô prize.


Education and Awards


BA Oxford

1975 MSc Oxford
1979 DPhil Oxford
1992 Japan Foundation Special Prize (with Hayashi Nozomu)
1993 Japan Festival Award (with Richard Bowring)
2000 Elected Fellow of the British Academy
2004 Elected Honorary Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford
2011 DLitt Oxford
2012 Member of Academia Europea
2013 Yamagata Banto prize

Subject groups/Research projects

Japanese Studies:

Research Interests

For much of my career I have been studying the history of the book in Japan, in order to get a better idea of how ideas and literature circulated, how books were read and what factors determined their reception. I have published catalogues of the large collection of early Japanese books in Cambridge University Library and of various other collections in Manchester, Lille and Moscow; in 1989 I launched the Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books in Europe project. In 1998 I published The book in Japan: a cultural history from the beginnings to the nineteenth century which explores a range of issues from censorship to lending libraries, and in 2010 I published a collection of essays on Japanese women readers in the Edo and Meiji periods, the fruit of collaboration with two former graduate students, Gaye Rowley (now teaching at Waseda University in Japan) and Mara Patessio (now teaching at Manchester University). In 2010 I became managing editor of a new journal which first appeared in 2011, East Asian Publishing and Society.

Key Publications

The history of the book in East Asia, edited with Cynthia Brokaw (Farnham: Ashgate, 2013); volume two of three-volume set ‘The history of the book in Asia’, of which I was the general editor.

‘The Hyakumantō Darani and the origins of printing in eighth-century Japan’, International Journal of Asian Studies 9 (2012): 1-28

‘Towards a history of the Tangut book: some recent publications’, East Asian Publishing and society 2 (2012): 83-91.

 ‘Korean books in Japan: from the 1590s to the end of the Edo period’, Journal of the American Oriental Society 133 (2013): 71-92.

See more here (link to PDF)