Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

4 - Marketing Medical Knowledge in Early Modern Japan

Thursday, March 22
7:30 PM - 9:30 PM
Location: Virginia Suite B, Lobby Level

The development of the Japanese commercial publishing industry from the seventeenth century onwards created new pathways for the transmission of medical knowledge. Publishers and booksellers in Kyoto, Osaka, and Edo printed and distributed a wide variety of medical books in different genres, while doctors and the broader public increasingly came to rely on commercially printed books as sources of medical information. This growth of medical publishing was a crucial factor in the development and spread of innovative thinking about anatomy, disease, and therapy during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Nevertheless, the tendency of historians to focus on the most innovative aspects of medicine in any given period risks simplifying and distorting our understanding of early modern Japanese medical culture. Typical bookshops and book collections contained not only the most recent and innovative works but also editions and reprintings of older books, many of which retained their authority for centuries after their original composition. In this talk, I describe qualiative and quantitative approaches to understanding of the marketplace for medical books, using a newly constructed database of publishers’ catalogues, advertisements, and private book collections. I show how these sources provide the basis for a “distant reading” of medical literature that can offer us new insights into the development of early modern Japanese medical knowledge over time.

Daniel Trambaiolo

University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong

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