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11 Learning Painting in Books: Typology, Readership and Uses of Printed Painting Manuals during the Edo Period

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Chapter Summary

The production of printed books during the Edo period, from the late seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century, gave rise to a significant corpus of didactic works destined for the study of painting. Diverse in genre, this category covers a broad spectrum of publications - compilations and catalogues of pictorial themes and models, painting albums, technical manuals and treatises on painting - suggesting the emergence at that time of a new approach to knowledge and the introduction of new learning methods. The early eighteenth century also saw the appearance of pictorial collections more specifically intended for the instruction of beginners and artisans. The Gasen was the first proper painting manual to be published. Its title refers to a proverb ascribed to Zhuangzi - "when the fish is caught discard the fishtrap" - signifying that the tool is but a means of attaining the goal.

Keywords: artisans; Edo period; Gasen; pictorial knowledge; printed painting manuals



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