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By Joseph McDermott

This e-book offers with quite a lot of matters at the heritage of the e-book in past due imperial China (1000 to 1800), quite often fascinated about literati courses and readers within the reduce Yangzi delta.

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Extra resources for A Social History of the Chinese Book: Books and Literati Culture in Late Imperial China

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Fearing, then, that Hu had made no preparations for his burial, Tang ended up buying him a coffin made of fine cypress (shan) wood and composing a brief memorial to honor his skilled work. The response of Hu Mao and other Ming workers with woodblocks to these working conditions, when they were sober, can easily be imagined. Yet, no Ming account records any collective activity by them other than for, perhaps, religious worship and mutual support. 146 This vignette of “a proto-industrial proletarian” suggests a sharp social divide between woodblock carvers and the literati authors of the texts they cut.

Often that must have been the case, Tang Shunzhi’s sympathy being more the exception than the rule. But, in the late Ming also the boundaries between artisan and literatus were blurred not only by artisans like the Huangs but also by Yangzi delta literati like Wen Peng (1498–1573). 147 Even with woodblock carving, one can note a few signs of this trespassing, as when some students at the National University in Nanjing during the last half of the sixteenth century carved woodblocks that were eventually used to print the university’s edition of three dynastic histories (neither their Song nor Qing counterparts appear to have engaged in such labor).

These figures are notoriously hard to interpret accurately, since prices for the same title and amount of work could vary greatly according to the quality and availability of labor and materials, the place of production, and the infernally complex irregularities of metallic currency changes and depreciations over the seven centuries of these three distinct dynasties. 97 This fall in so crucial a component in book production costs, when combined with the other production savings we have considered, can only have meant a considerable drop in the overall cost of producing and buying books.

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