Printing Landmarks: Popular Geography and Meisho Zue in Late Tokugawa Japan
Printing Landmarks tells the story of the late Tokugawa period’s most distinctive form of popular geography: meisho zue. Beginning with the publication of Miyako meisho zue in 1780, these monumental books deployed lovingly detailed illustrations and informative prose to showcase famous places (meisho) in ways that transcended the limited scope, quality, and reliability of earlier guidebooks and gazetteers. Putting into spellbinding print countless landmarks of cultural significance, the makers of meisho zue created an opportunity for readers to experience palpable encounters with places located all over the Japanese archipelago.
In this groundbreaking multidisciplinary study, Robert Goree draws on diverse archival and scholarly sources to explore why meisho zue enjoyed widespread and enduring popularity. Examining their readership, compilation practices, illustration techniques, cartographic properties, ideological import, and production networks, Goree finds that the appeal of the books, far from accidental, resulted from specific choices editors and illustrators made about form, content, and process. Spanning the fields of book history, travel literature, map history, and visual culture, Printing Landmarks provides a new perspective on Tokugawa-period culture by showing how meisho zue depicted inspiring geographies in which social harmony, economic prosperity, and natural stability made for a peaceful polity.
Robert Goree is Assistant Professor of Japanese at Wellesley College.