A History of Japanese Literature/Bibliography

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In regard to bibliography, the writer of the present volume of this series finds himself in a very different position from his predecessors. He has no embarras de richesses to contend with. The only survey of the whole field of Japanese literature which has hitherto appeared in any European language is an article by Sir E. Satow, in vol. ix. pp. 551–565 of Appleton's American Cyclopædia (New York, 1874), excellent as far as it goes, but owing to the brevity inseparable from such a form of publication, more fitted to excite than to satisfy the reader's curiosity. It will be found useful by any one who wishes to extend his knowledge of the subject, as it mentions a large number of Japanese books which have been entirely passed over in the preceding pages.

Mr. B. H. Chamberlain's Classical Poetry of the Japanese (1880) contains translations into English verse of a number of poems from the Manyōshiu and Kokinshiu, with selections from the and Kiōgen, and an appendix of very short biographical notices of the more ancient Japanese poets. There is a similar work in French by.

Some interesting glimpses of the popular literature and folk-lore of the Yedo period are given in Mr. A. B. Mitford's Tales of Old Japan (1871).

Mr. William Anderson's Catalogue of Japanese and Chinese Pictures in the British Museum (1886) deals with the literature of Japan viewed as a source of supply of subjects for the artist.

The Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan contain a number of translations and notices of Japanese books, by Sir E. Satow, Mr. B. H. Chamberlain, and others; and Dr. K. Florenz's contributions to the Journal of the German Asiatic Society of Japan should also be mentioned.

In addition to the above, there exists in various European languages a considerable mass of translations from the Japanese, published either separately or in magazines and journals of learned societies, of which it may be said—

"Sunt bona, sunt quædam mediocria, sunt mala plura."

The more important have been indicated in the body of this work, and it is believed that little inconvenience will be caused by the omission of all reference to the remainder. Those who wish to prosecute their researches further in this direction will find the means of doing so in Mr. Fr. von Wenckstern's comprehensive and useful, though not particularly accurate, Bibliography of the Japanese Empire (1895). A Catalogue of Japanese Books and Manuscripts in the British Museum, by Mr. R. K. Douglas, is also useful for reference.

The contributions of the Japanese themselves to the materials for a history of their literature are naturally much more important than anything which has been written by Europeans. The labours of Mabuchi and his greater pupil Motoöri have been already noticed, and good work has been done by a multitude of native editors and commentators towards clearing up the obscurity which even to Japanese surrounds many of their older authors. Nothing, however, which deserves the name of a History of Literature appeared until 1890, when Messrs. Mikami Sanji and Takatsu Kuwasaburo, of the Imperial University of Tokio, brought out their Nippon Bungakushi, which is by far the most valuable work on this subject. The critical judgments of the authors may not always commend themselves to Europeans, but they have succeeded in setting forth the leading facts of the history of their literature in a clear, methodical manner. I gladly acknowledge my very considerable obligations to their work.

A history of fiction, entitled Shōsetsu Shikō, by Sekine Masanao (1890), should also be mentioned.

The most useful bibliography in the Japanese language is the Gunsho Ichiran, by Ozaki Masayoshi, six volumes (1801), and the best biographical dictionary is a bulky work by a number of authors, entitled Dai Nippon Jimmei Jisho (1886). A list of other works of this class may be found in the article in Appleton's Cyclopædia already referred to.

Monographs on Hakuseki, Sorai, Chikamatsu, and other eminent authors, have been lately published, and a good deal is being done at the present time in the way of re-editing and annotating the monuments of the older literature.

The Hakubunkan publishing house of Tokio have reprinted most of the fiction and drama of the Yedo period under the description Teikoku Bunko or "Imperial Library." As an illustration of the cheapness of books in Japan, it may be mentioned that each volume of this series contains about one thousand octavo pages of reasonably good print, on tolerable paper, in neat binding, and is sold for the equivalent of about one shilling of our money.