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Japanese Early-modern Palaeography

This project combines training for a new generation of scholars, with a view to equip them with the skills necessary to decode and transcribe Japanese early-modern hand-written and printed materials, together with research on Japanese palaeography.

Every year I run a Graduate Summer School in Japanese Early-modern Palaeography, which attracts graduate students, scholars, librarians and museum curators from all over the world. During the summer programme we also run special projects to transcribe and translate early-modern materials kept at the Cambridge University Library.

The first research output that ties with the Graduate Summer School are transcriptions of early-modern texts that are only available in their original format and in cursive Japanese. Recasting the Past: An Early Modern Tales of Ise for Children (Brill, 2016) showcases the potential disclosed by studying early-modern primary sources that lie unearthed in archives. The book offers the transcription and the translation of a 1766 picturebook that recasts The Tales of Ise and it discusses for the first time how Edo-period publishers were trying to target children with this adaptation, while problematizing the very idea of children’s literature. A series of books of this kind will be published over the years and talented participants of the Graduate Summer School will be given an opportunity to collectively work on a volume of the series.

At the same time I am exploring specific lines of palaeographic research that focus on the cursive hand in early-modern Japan.

Manual for women’s letter writing entitled Tebiki no matsu 手引きの松. Private collection, Suzuran bunko.
Manual for women’s letter writing entitled Tebiki no matsu 手引きの松. Private collection, Suzuran bunko.