2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Printing for the Literati: Hu Cheng-yen’s Publishing Strategies for a Specific Market

Meng-ching Ma

Department of Calligraphy and Painting, The National Palace Museum

Commercial Printing is an integrated part of the Ming print culture.  This paper is a case study on the Ten Bamboo Studio Publishing House in late Ming Nanking, owned by Hu Cheng-yen (1584-1674), a publisher who had close ties with the literati circle.  It analyzes Hu's publishing strategies linking literati culture and commercial printing by examining his two famous publications: Shih-chu-chai Shu-hua-p’u (Collection of Calligraphy and Painting) and Shi-chu-chai Chien-p’u (Collection of Stationery Designs).

Having worked as a craftsman of fine writing materials, Hu Cheng-yen naturally befriended  the local literati group, who were later to become customers for his publishing enterprise.  The list of illustrators and text writers of both books reveals this friendship.  An analysis of the content of the extant publications from the Ten Bamboo Studio Publishing House further indicates that Hu geared his books to those men of letters.  Besides, he avoided San-shan Street, a crowded business district traditionally housing many bookstores.  Instead, he located the press in the vicinity of the National University, easily accessible to his targeted readers.  This suggests that the Ten Bamboo Studio Publishing House tried to cater to the taste and needs of the literati.  Furthermore, high book prices meant that only well-to-do official-scholars and the nouveau riche could afford these books, often designed in an exquisite style.  In sum, the expansion of the publishing market in late Ming Nanking resulted in specialized publishing houses for different tastes of reading.  Hu Cheng-yen’s Ten Bamboo Studio Publishing House was a representative example of bridging literati taste with commercial printing.


Key Words: late Ming, Nanking, commerical press, Hu Cheng-yen, the Ten Bamboo Studio Publishing House