Visit Toppan’s “Printing Museum” in Tokyo

– Explores development of printing world and society in history –

  what’s the Printing Museum

Print M- Logo x-01.JPG The Toppan’s Printing Museum is located in the Koishi-kawa in Print M- Outlook x-04.JPGBunkyo Ward, Tokyo. The Museum is famed for displaying the elaborate historic features of publishing culture in the world and as well as in Japan.  Last month I could visit the Museum.
In the museum, a wide range of exhibits describing printing culture and technology that Print M- Outlook x-03.JPGinfluenced to human activities and its cultural advancement, such as development of the style of characters and drawing pictures, the way of printing technology. There many examples of historic evidence of printing from the ancient world to the present, including Print M- Illust x-09.JPGChinese text scripts, Japanese woodblock prints, in addition to the Western typographic printings works from Gutenberg, modern printing modes of Japan, etc.   Here I tried to explore the contents and features of the exhibition, history of printing culture, prints and society, and other subjects along the line of the exhibition.

♣  Exhibition Structure of Printing Museum 

Print M- Illust x-08.JPG    The museum comprised several sections. There is a prologue corner, general Print M- Outlook x-02.JPGexhibition section, special exhibition and printing work studio in the exhibition hall. Among them, the prologue corner”at the corridor is showing wonderful view with various printing forms from the ancient times to the contemporary world.
The General Exhibition section displays  various letter-character printings, color printing books, illustrations under the theme of “Encounter to Printing”. It’s Print M- Prologue x-04.JPGdescribing how printing works have invited social evolution and culture advancement in history.  The next printing studio is a performing corner where visitors could experience real printing works. In addition, Special planned exhibition offers specific theme exhibition seasonally.
All of them are well arranged and visitors are able to gain enough knowledge about the development of printing technology, as well as evolution of printing culture.

♣  History of printing culture displayed in the Prologue corner 

Print M- Prologue x-01.JPG print m- illust x-06 In the prologue exhibition, it shows how printing technology was born, developed and spread in the world.  There variety communication tools from primeval time to the present, and its social impact to the society along the line of history.    There are also miniature models showing the evolution of printing technology in image, so we can understand well its historical advancement.
Print M- Prologue x-06.JPG    The first exhibits are the cave paintings of the old Stone Age, primitive letter-like inscriptions which were engraved on the stone and clay, wood pieces or animal bones.  It shows how human beings had exchanged necessary information among them in the early time.Print M- J print x-02.JPG

The printing history after the invention of paper is displayed at the next part. We can see there many replicas of Buddhism Sutrasuchi and manuscripts in the ancient age.  For example, we could see Quran manuscripts, the Tibetan sutras, the Japanese “Dalarni” (Buddhist textbook, and Chinese ancient banknotes, and others.
Print M- W print x-05.JPG    The evolution of the full-fledged printing system, called “Letter-press” invented by Gutenberg and developed in 15th century is also displayed with plenty of replica products. For instance, the “42 Lines Bible ” created by Gutenberg, Shadell’s ‘Chronicle’, Plenius’ Naturalis historia”, “Cosmographia” and others.
On the other hand, the history of Japanese woodblock printing is exhibited in the section too with showing various style.  Such as “Nishikie”, amulet prints, narrative books with Print M- Prologue x-05.JPGpicture, and other style of printings.
The appearance of the modern printing world is intricately exhibited too, in which the contemporary highly developed printing technology and the spreading print culture to the wider society. For instance, cartoons, posters, labels, catalogs, and photograph printings are Print M- Illust x-14.JPGfound there.      Thus, this prologue corner is intended to make visitor capture total pictures which are associated with printing technology and its social impact tangibly.. This aim seems achieved owing to the fine exhibition on the corridors wall.


♣  Main “General Exhibition” Zone

This corner constitutes the total view of development of printing technology and its impact to the society and culture.  The arrangement of exhibition is following.

<Human’s encounter with printing>
print m- illust x-10  Here, the first exhibits of catching our eyes is the reproduction a Print M- Outlook x-05.JPGletterpress printing machine in the Gutenberg period and a scene of production site of woodblock printing “Ukiyoe” picture (Nishikie).    It is really fascinating to be able to compare the printing technology in Europe and Japan where the woodblock printing system was predominantly introduced and developed uniquely.Print M- J print x-01.JPG        The following corner is named as “Encounter with printing.”  There described how closely printing technology has linked with dissemination of religion and people’s spiritual faith, and how printing styles interacted between the West and East in history. At the exhibits corner, various reprints of Chinese and Print M- J print x-03.JPGJapanese Buddhist “Sutras”, old prints of amulets and paper bills, woodblock picture prints, and other materials are abundantly displayed.  For example, a “Hyakuman-to Darani” (A million tower Dalani text), duplicate print seals of Amidanyorai Buddha, talisman paper named “Otsu painting” book and “Namazu painting,” book, famous wooden print pictures “Ukiyoe” in the Edo period and others.

Print M- Outlook x-06.JPG     The next “Letter Print ” corner tries to show the establishment of printing system and its dissemination. There how the printing technologies advanced the science activity, Print M- J print x-06.JPGand how it invited huge social changes in history.  Then the exhibition here gives good examples of the social changes brought by Gutenberg printing technology, and also the influence of Rangaku books Print M- W print x-11.JPG(Dutch Study) in Japan in Edo period as well as the great contribution to promote primary education in the early Meiji by adoption of typographic printing.

Among the exhibits, “42-line Bible” (1455), Galileo’s Print M- J print x-05.JPG“Astronomical Dialogue” (1656), Japan’s “Gunsho Chiyu” (Collective governing rulebook) (1616) are found.  The “Saga book” of a beautiful cursive book with wood typography is also displayed as one of precious examples.
Print M- W print x-02.JPGIn addition, there are exhibits of the first copper-made letter-type Kanji characters in Japan in the 17th century.   The “Suruga version copper type” is one of them.Print M- J print x-07.JPG
The “Japanese English dictionary for commerce” by Motoki in 1859) are also known as a first domestic letterpress print in Japan which was made by Motoki Shozo in the early Meiji.

<Image and Color Printing >
      In this corner, the graphic printing materials combined with character-print are Print M- W print x-08.JPGintricately exhibited as an artistic work. They are suggesting the great impact was existed to the development of science and culture. For example, the spread of graphic printing Print M- J print x-10.JPGtechnologies have given a huge influence to the development of zoology, phytology science, and astronomy in the pre-modern period of Western Europe and Japan. The diversification of artistic presentation is also noticeable, and it helped the popularization of science and culture. As an example, Yonston’s Historiae Naturalis De Quadrupedibus Libri” 1718), Sugita & Maemo’s “Kaitai-shinsho”(Japanese translation of  “Ontleedkundige Tafelen” ) (1774), etc. are displayed.

 <Increasing scale and speeding printing style>
  Print M- J print x-15.JPG      The exhibition here shows how recent advancement of printing technology has promoted the dissemination of mass Print M- J print x-16.JPGmedia and created new style of formation in the industrial society. In particular, it is emphasized that recent digital printing technologies, the expansion of the visual world in the printing culture in our society. Colorful posters and Print M- Outlook x-09.JPGpictures of artistic style, magazines, literary books, etc. are introduced here.

Furthermore, at the Genes of Printing corner in the next, the exhibition tries to illustrate that the digitization isPrint M- New Print x-1.JPG advancing printing methods toward the world where print technology is not confined to the simple “printing-on- paper”, but expand to the “printing-for-everything”. The exhibits show that the digital technology is now shifting to the personal hands by conventional devices like PC, tablets and smart phones. It can be impressive to be able to observe such development in the exhibition.

♣  Attractiveness of “Experience Studio” to experience printing>

In the museum, a “printing Workshop” is facilitated so that visitors allows  to Print M- Outlook x-07.JPGexperience real printing works.  A lot of printing activities are arranged there, such as practical experience and study course of a conventionalPrint M- Outlook x-08.JPG letterpress process . They are introducing what function the print technology has, and how operational work of  letterpress printing makes while giving historical commentaries to Print M- J print x-26.JPGvisitors.  It is a really  attractive to understand the basics of printing method.
Additionally it would be precious experience for visitors to be able to use the printing machines which had used in the 18th and 19th centuries in the workshop space. So visitors can touch on this to experience the typography methods at that time.

♣  “Temporary Exhibition Zone” to  obtain deep knowledge about printing culture.

Print M- Illust x-01.JPG    The printing museum regularly holds the “Temporary exhibition” quite regularly Print M- J print x-27.JPG. Currently The special exhibition of “Astronomy and printing – seeking a new world image” is held at the museum from November 2018 – March 2019.  This is the exhibit showing how the dissemination of letterpress printing have brought the evolutionary change of astronomy and various sciences.  The exhibition is being held at about the pace once a year. In the past exhibitions, there are “Kinderbuck’s 90 Years” (2017), “Samurai and Printing” (2016), and so on. All were attractive exhibitions for many visitors. 

♥  Additional info:

  paper museum- illust x15 Appendix 1 : The lesson learned by visiting Museum

     Here describe additionally what I’ve learned from the visiting Museum

♣  How Japanese Printing Methods walked on the different road

Print M- Illust x-19.JPG         The museum explains that Japanese printing development proceeded on the different track from the western ones, and it also shows that printingPrint M- J print x-18.JPG technology was developed taking its own unique way.  It is believed that development of typography pointing was a major concern in the Western world.  But in Japan, the printing method was eventually constructed on the wooden plate, though some typography printing had been attempted once in the early period
This process was elaborately introduced in the museum. The following  is described in  in the museum.

<Attempt of one-time typographic printing>
       In the ancient time of Japan, most of the Buddhist scriptures and document had been Print M- W print x-02.JPGprinted by manuscripts or wood curving patterns. However, Print M- J print x-19.JPGthere’s a period to try to adopt typography printing method by introducing technology from China and Korea. The museum displays some of these rare evidence in stock, such as the several typographic printings and copper bricks used which had been produced in the Tokugawa Ieyasu’s shogunate.  These are the “Suruga version of copper type for typography printing” (1607-1616). This is regarded as the first application of typology printing in Japan.
Print M- J print x-04.JPG However, this typology printing in the Tokugawa pattern had faded away soon caused by technical complication of producing metal type and due to the difficulty of handling so many kanji characters.    Since then, the printing based on woodblock printing became dominant and flourished In Japan. Under this trend, so Print M- J print x-05.JPGcalled “Saga Bon”( “Saga book”) prints were produced by wood pattern printing methods. These are printed books that were written by hiragana character mixed with colorful paintings.  This printing series produced many excellent literature books like “Ise Monogatari” (Narratives of Ise), “Tsure Zure Gusa” (Collection of Essays by a monk Saigyo). These books are exhibited at the Museum as museum’s important collection.

< Prominence of wooden plate printing and culture of art print >
  Print M- J print x-23.JPG     In the meantime, artistic picture works of woodblock greatly prospered in the Edo era too. So the artistic “Ukiyo-e” and “Nishikie” pictures made by woodblock attracted so many people that various specialized publishers had emerged and published aPrint M- J print x-20.JPG large number of these printings. In the museum, “Nishikie Painting Studio” is set up in the exhibition room to demonstrate the “carving” and “print sliding” of woodblock, as well as displays the real products of multicolored “Ukiyo-e” picture prints.

Print M- J print x-21.JPGPrint M- J print x-22.JPGAlso, a huge number of printed books such as “Kusa zoushi” and “Kana zoshi” printed books which mixed articles and picture charmed common people in the Edo era.  And the information media such as “Kawara ban” paper that tells various topics and gossip news had been quite popular. Many samples of them are exhibited in the museum shelves.

<Returning to typographic printing>
Print M- Illust x-12.JPG  However, in the rapidly changing society and modernizing in the Meiji Era, traditional woodblock prints couldn’t catch up with the huge demandPrint M- Illust x-13.JPG of social information and spreading science and education. Then, it was essential to introduce modern printing method using metal typography which is capable of mass printing.  It was a scientist Motoki Shozo who led the first move in the dawn period as he had studied typography printing method from the Print M- J print x-24.JPGNetherlands. From the end of the Edo period to the Meiji era, he created a number of Japanese Kanji bricks of typograph by lead in his own way and printed several books.  He also set up a “Katasuji Suritate Sho” (typography Print M- J print x-14.JPGprinting firm) for that purpose. This is said to be the first modern typography printing work in Japan.
Since then, the major shift occurred from traditional woodblock printing to the modern Western typography Print M- J print x-25.JPGmethods in Japan, and various academic books, newspapers, textbooks and government papers were beginning to be widely printed in this technology.
This process leading up to the printing revolution is exhibited in the museum as numerous books and documents published during the period. It was interesting to see the way how modern printing technology promoted social evolution and change.

paper museum- illust x15  Appendix 2 : The new finding with visiting the Museum

♥  Another Japanese printing method
                                  – Diffusion of unique mimeograph printing —.

Print M- Light print x-03.JPG    Printing Museum didn’t describe much about light printing and mimeograph printing that has been quite popular in Japan since Meiji, Print M- Light print x-04.JPGparticularly after the War II.  However, this mimeograph printing system is very useful for common people who want to  simply and quickly print anywhere at at low cost.   If there are simple printing tools available it is quite convenient to print daily materials though printing capacity being limited. This is what’s called “Gari Ban Printing” (a sort of mimeograph printing) which is printed by writing characters by hand strongly on the waxed paper using by steel pen, then penetrating black ink on to the print paper.

<Importance of Japanese unique mimeograph printing.
  Print M- Illust x-11.JPG       This prototype of “Mimeograph” was developed by Edison in the 1890’s, but a Japanese inventor Horii Shinjiro rearranged it to reinvent a new tool Print M- Light print x-01.JPG“Toshaban Insatsuki” (mimeograph printing machine) in 1894 in Meiji period. This printing method has spread rapidly because the principle is so simple and inexpensive, in addition, due to be able to freely create a numerous Japanese Kanji characters by hand writing.

<Dissemination of Toshaban Printing>
       In the 1950s and 1980s, a printing culture, called “Gariban Print”, became popular Print M- Light print x-08.JPGin various social movements, education purposes, and cultural promotion activities, such as prints for scripts of theater play, Print M- Light print x-06.JPGmusical scores, and the community arts magazines, etc. After that, this printing method has evolved further by adopting Japanese language typewriter and rotary printing machine/ So it has become the most Print M- Light print x-02.JPGpopular printing style for small scale printing world.
However, the intense technology shift of printing has made small-scale printing industries replace to the newly appeared lithographs and other electric copying machines in the 1980s. It is said though that some artists still like to use it, like script of the animation movies and others. Even now, we Print M- Light print x-05.JPGheard that this mimeograph printing is often used in small schools in Africa and Asia where is lack of electricity, so the beneficiary of its printing system isn’t lost in these areas.
It shouldn’t forget that such a simple and social printing system has been existed and functioned well for development of printing culture, beside a large scale of dominant letterpress printing world.

After visiting museum

Print M- Logo x-02.JPG       When I was young, I had engaged in part-time job at a certain printing workshop. Since then I felt a special interest in printing technology and its Print M- J print x-11.JPGimpact to the society. So, by visiting the museum I could realize how printing technology has made the historical progress and how it has revived.  And I could also know the fact how printing system has made a major role in various social and cultural, academic and educational development at each historic stage.  It was a really impressive and useful for expanding my knowledge about printing world and its culture impact.



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