Feel-Good! | airplanes | animals | architecture | art | auto | cool ads | funny | food | futurism | gadgets | russia | japan
military | music | nature | photo | sci-fi | signs | space | sports | steampunk | technology | trains | travel | vintage | weird

Intricate Japanese Movable Type Sets

Link - article by Avi Abrams

Visual Caffeine: Exploring Art and Architecture with Avi Abrams, Issue 1

Welcome to a new series of showcasing highlights in the history of arts and architecture! Wait a minute, this does not sound exciting enough. How about -

Welcome to exploring the..."aesthetic-precepts-smashing, eyeball-massaging, brain-searing-with-its-heartbreaking-and-fragile-beauty, visually-apocalyptic" side of art, style and architecture? While you may think that we exaggerate here (well, only a little), you are welcome to assume that you will be assaulted with purple prose, strange "red-shifted-into-impossible" facts, and images... well, images lurid enough to shimmer through your eyelids and trigger an iridescent neural zeitgasm! - all for the sake of breaking from the boring and mundane and promoting the "weird and wonderful" side of things.

Seriously though, this column is not going to be earth-shaking in the way we described it, but don't say we did not warn you... you may still find yourself lost for some time in the ensuing cataract of pictures and information, unable to complete your study and work commitments. For those of you, who want an even larger dose of our visual caffeine, head over to Dark Roasted Blend site, and get addicted to our endless stream of thrilling visual information.

Might I add, that our "visual caffeine concoctions" are bound to be somewhat unpredictable as we explore history of art and architecture in tandem with mythology, culture and obsolete technology, seeking to find the overall "look and feel" of certain time periods. The goal here is to connect as many points of reference in art history as possible, highlighting little-known gems, visual styles and trends - and making them relevant in our caffeine-infused culture.

Today we're going to see highly-sophisticated sets of Japanese letterpress movable type:

(images credit: Tomoyuki Ishida)

Craft letterpress companies are experiencing a revival in recent times, and nowhere it is more evident than in Japan. Most of you will be familiar with the ancient Chinese and Japanese art of woodblock printing, but masterpieces created with wood and metal movable type are somewhat lesser known, although they show craftsmanship and attention to detail similar to fine woodblock prints.

(image credit: Tomoyuki Ishida)

The first movable type and printing presses were invented in Asia, not Europe.

...but their development stalled because of the extreme complexity and sheer number of Chinese and Korean characters (the same problem that the Asian cultures faced with the transition to typewriters and the internet). We can thank the simplicity of Western alphabets for the rapid development and adoption of the printed word in Europe, which quickly lead to the Renaissance and further advances in culture and education.

It is a widespread misconception that Johannes Gutenberg created the first movable type system and the printing press, around 1450 A.D. It's true, Gutenberg was the first to make his movable type from a certain alloy of lead, tin, and antimony (which was more efficient than iron, used in Asia) - but movable type itself was originally invented in China around 1040 A.D. by Bi Seng (during the Song Dynasty). The new system was badly needed to replace the labor-intensive woodblock printing technique, where a single wooden block was carved to represent a single page. The first movable type sets were made from wood or ceramic materials, with clay eventually replacing wood "due to the presence of wood grains and the unevenness of the wooden type after being soaked in ink".

(images credit: Tomoyuki Ishida)

The world's oldest (and still existing) movable metal print book is considered to be Jikji, which was published in 1377, seventy-eight years prior to Johannes Gutenberg's printed Bible (left image below). On the right is another ancient book printed with wooden movable type - "The Auspicious Tantra of All Reaching Union" from 1139–1193, the earliest existing example of its kind:

(images via 1, 2)

As you can see, just reading this sort of printed material (not to mention assembling movable type and actually printing it) requires intense concentration for our Western minds: it's hard to simply glance on this page and "speed-read" it. One needs a certain serendipity and discipline of mind to read long Asian texts - consider, for example, how you would feel reading the massive 1000 volume encyclopedia "Imperial Readings of the Taiping Era" printed in 1574?

(letterpress machines seen at Tokyo Printing Museum, via)

Here is an interesting tidbit of history that describes extreme cultural inertia and a reluctance to adopt new forms of communication:

"A potential solution to the linguistic and cultural bottleneck that held back movable type in Korea for two hundred years appeared in the early 15th century — a generation before Gutenberg would begin working on his own movable-type invention in Europe — when King Sejong the Great devised a simplified alphabet of 24 characters for use by the common people, which could have made the typecasting and compositing process more feasible.

But Sejong's brilliant creation did not receive the attention it deserved. Adoption of the new alphabet was stifled by the inertia of Korea's cultural elite, who were appalled at the idea of losing Chinese, the badge of their elitism." (via)

Cutting to modern times, today we see some truly gorgeous work being produced by Japanese craft printing firms, and it seems the arcane and esoteric skills of movable type setting are much in demand - see for example here and here. Note the imposing press dominating the room:

(images credit: Takuma Nakagawa, AllRightKoubou)

Try typesetting in Japanese and learn attention to detail!

So how did Bi Seng, the movable type inventor himself, group his type and find the proper pieces? He organized them by "rhyming groups"... turning the printing process into a sort of poetry. Interesting alternative to organizing information by the alphabet, but perhaps not as efficient.

(images credit: AllRightKoubou)

Learning the system of storing and retrieving all these characters can be a daunting task. Here is how Takuma Nakagawa, a master custom printer, describes the process:

"You have to remember each place for each word - it's about 400,000 characters, can you imagine!.. Too many. Some of them are set in alphabetical order, and then kanji characters are categorized for each kind. It's hard to remember it."

(images credit: Takuma Nakagawa)

Article by Avi Abrams, Dark Roasted Blend. This article appears simultaneously on Dark Roasted Blend and on "Out of Order" magazine - a Yale University print and online publication that curates innovative and bold fashion, art, music and film for the university set - link




Hellish Weather on Other Planets

Wild, Untamed, and Uncut

DRB Feel-Good Issue #33

Loads of cool and rare imagery

Medieval Suits of Armor

Metal Body Suits vs. Weapons of Medieval Destruction

"Dark Roasted Blend" - All Kinds of Weird and Wonderful Things, Discovered Daily!"

DRB is a top-ranked and respected source for the best in art, travel and fascinating technology, with a highly visual presentation. Our in-depth articles in many categories make DRB a highly visual online magazine, bringing you quality entertainment every time you open your "feed" reader or visit our site - About DRB

Connect with us and become part of DRB on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Google Plus; make sure to subscribe to our updates.



Post a Comment

<< Home

Don't miss: The Ultimate Guide to NEW SF&F Writers!
Fiction Reviews: Classic Cyberpunk: Extreme Fiction
Short Fiction Reviews: Lovecraft's "At the Mountains of Madness" (with pics)
New Fiction Reviews: The Surreal Office


World's Strangest Theme Parks

Amusement to the (twisted) extremes!

Enchanting Victorian Fairy Tale Art

"Then world behind and home ahead..."

Adorable Pedal Cars

Collectable Pedal Vehicles Showcase

Japanese Arcades: Gundam Pods & Other Guilty Pleasures

These machines have gone up to the next level

Modernist Tallinn Architecture

Delicious blend of old and new!

Early Supercomputers: A Visual Overview

"Computers in the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons"

Futuristic Concept Cars of the 1970-80s

French, Italian & Japanese rare beauties

Epic 1970s French Space Comic Art

DRB Time-Slice: Valérian and Laureline

The Trees Are Escaping! The Abandoned Prison in French Guiana

"Great Escape" from the Devil's Island

Videophones from the Future Past

Skype? Smartphone? Google Hangouts?

The Best of DRB in 2014

Weird & Wonderful 2014 Overview

FULL ARCHIVES (with previews, fast loading):

Jan-Feb 2015 -- Nov-Dec 2014 -- Sep-Oct 2014 -- July-Aug 2014 --
June 2014 -- May 2014 -- April 2014 -- Feb-March 2014 --
January 2014 -- Oct-Dec 2013 -- September 2013 --
August 2013 -- July 2013 -- May-June 2013 -- April 2013 --
March 2013 -- February 2013 -- Dec-Jan 2013 --
November 2012 -- October 2012 -- September 2012 --
August 2012 -- July 2012 -- June 2012 -- May 2012 -- April 2012 --
March 2012 -- February 2012 -- Dec-Jan 2012 --
November 2011 -- October 2011 -- September 2011 --
August 2011 -- July 2011 -- June 2011 --
May 2011 -- April 2011 -- March 2011 --
February 2011 -- January 2011 -- December 2010 --
November 2010 -- October 2010 -- September 2010 --
August 2010 - July 2010 -- June 2010 --
May 2010 -- April 2010 -- March 2010 --
Winter 2009-2010 -- Oct-Nov 2009 -- September 2009 --
August 2009 -- June-July 2009 -- May 2009 --
April 2009 -- March 2009 -- February 2009 --
January 2009 -- December 2008 -- November 2008 --
October 2008 -- September 2008 -- August 2008 --
July 2008 -- June 2008 -- May 2008 --
April 2008 -- March 2008 -- February 2008 --
January 2008 -- Dec, 2007 -- November 2007 --
October 2007 -- September 2007 -- August 2007 --
July 2007 -- June 2007 -- May 2007 --
April 2007 -- March 2007 -- February 2007 --
January 2007 -- December 2006 -- November 2006 --
October 2006 -- Link Latte Issues -- Biscotti Issues

Feel-Good! | airplanes | animals | architecture | art | auto | boats | books | cool ads | funny pics | famous | futurism | food
gadgets | health | history | humour | japan | internet | link latte | military | music | nature | photo | russia | steampunk
sci-fi & fantasy | signs | space | sports | technology | trains | travel | vintage | weird | abandoned

Cool Ads
Extreme Weather
Funny Pics
Link Latte
Oops Accidents
Science Fiction

UE Abandoned

Avi Abrams
Rachel Abrams
M. Christian
Simon Rose
Paul Schilperoord
Scott Seegert
Constantine vonHoffman

Send us your topic ideas, site suggestions, rants or sweet unpublished poetry. We love to hear from you.

Naples Audubon Homes For Sale -friendly.