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9 The Jinkōki Phenomenon: The Story of a Longstanding Calculation Manual in Tokugawa Japan

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Chapter Summary

When historians discuss literacy in Tokugawa Japan, they seldom mention the art of computation. The question, however, deserves attention given the widespread popularity achieved by a number of calculation manuals during the Edo period. The most famous of these manuals is the Jinkōki, one of the first mathematical treatises to be printed in Japan and the one that had the most enduring influence. The Jinkōki's first edition was published in 1627 by Yoshida Mitsuyoshi, when commercial publishing in Kyoto was still in its early stages. This chapter reflects upon this editorial phenomenon and analyzes the changes the Jinkoki underwent from the early seventeenth to mid-nineteenth century. Mitsuyoshi's original manual consists of a succession of short problems. Each problem includes the statement, solution and calculation procedure. Procedures are always brief and no explanation is offered. In some cases they are incorrect or approximate.

Keywords: Edo period; Jinkōki; Tokugawa Japan; Yoshida Mitsuyoshi



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