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3 Treasure Boxes, Fabrics, and Mirrors: On the Contents and the Classification of Popular Encyclopedias from Early Modern Japan

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Chapter Summary

Early modern Europe saw an increasing number of encyclopedic works that professed, in the words of Denis Diderot, to elucidate the true principle lying behind all phenomena, to bring forth their relationships and to contribute to the certainty and the development of human knowledge in order to further the advancement of society as a whole. Edo period Japan too, is known for the publication of scholarly as well as popular encyclopedias. The division of early modern encyclopedias and advice manuals as setsuyōshū and ōraimono in modern facsimile collections suggests that distinctive features can be discerned to such a degree as to justify such a genre classification on the one hand, and a 'subsumption' of diverse encyclopedias and advice manuals under the headings oraimono or setsuyōshū on the other. Encyclopedias and books of advice offer what human beings have always been questing for: they make reality controllable.

Keywords: ōraimono; Denis Diderot; early modern Europe; early modern Japan; encyclopedic works; setsuyōshū



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