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

The History of the Book in Late Imperial China:
A Review Article

Feng-En Tu

Department of History, National Taiwan University

The cultural history of the book in late imperial China has received much attention in recent years. Inspired by scholarship on Western history, researchers from Taiwan, Japan, Europe, and especially America have tried to investigate Chinese book history from new perspectives. The recent studies of book history include not only considerations of the printing technology but also of written culture and the history of reading. By reviewing the recent trends in the topic of book history in Ming-Qing China, the aim of this article is to point out the further potential of this field. This article introduces the development of the study of book history in Europe and America and surveys the social history of the book in late imperial China. Then I discuss major topics in recent scholarship: including the relationship between writing, reading and publishing; the recent works by Chow Kai-wing and Joseph McDermott concerning literary professionals in publishing culture; the “textualization of techniques,” and books in everyday life. Finally, I discuss some unresolved questions and topics for further research.


Keywords: book history, publishing culture, reading history, written culture