Bakufu 幕府 Shogunate

Governmental system headed by a shogun and administered by warriors from 1192 to 1867.

batsubun 跋文

A postscript or afterword.

bijin 美人

(literally, “beautiful person”) Term at times applied to both males and females but most often to women, especially courtesans.

bokashi 暈し

Printing technique that produces a variation in value of a single hue by hand-applying a gradation of ink or color to a moistened wooden printing block rather than applying the pigment  uniformly. This procedure had to be repeated for each sheet of paper that was printed. See The Ukiyo-e Technique: Traditional Japanese Printmaking.

bunjin 文人

A literary person or literatus. This term was adopted from Chinese to describe scholars who also pursued arts such as poetry, calligraphy, painting, and music.

chitsu 帙

Protective case made of cloth-covered board to wrap and protect books. Such cases are usually later additions by owners in the Meiji era (1868–1912) or later.

chūhon 中本

Dimension classification for Japanese books: 18 x 13 cm.

daiji 題字

A formal inscription.

daisen 題簽

Title slip attached on the front cover of a book.

edehon 絵手本

A manual or copybook produced by an artist for students or others.

ehon 絵本

Illustrated book in which images are prominent, whether hand-copied or printed.

eiribon 絵入本

Books with text and inserted pictures. 

fukuro 袋

Wrapper, usually printed, in which books were sold. Fukuro were often printed in color and included the title of the single volume or multivolume set, as well as other information. They were removed upon purchase, and they rarely survive.

fukurotoji 袋綴

Binding type in which printed sheets are folded with the printed side out. Folded sheets are stacked, punched along the open edges, and bound with rolled paper cords. The bound “book block” is placed between heavier paper covers and sewn with thread.

furigana 振仮名

Japanese kana placed beside Chinese characters to indicate Japanese pronunciation.

gafu 画譜

Collections of illustrations, usually presenting the work of a single artist. Gafu were often bound as albums and used by artists for study and as copybooks to practice a particular master’s style. They were often beautifully printed and accompanied by calligraphy by the artist or inscriptions such as a preface and poetry by the artist or his cultural circle.  

gajōsō (or gajōjitate) 画帖装((画帖仕立て)

Binding type in which each printed sheet is folded inward and pasted along the outside vertical edges to the back of the next sheet. The first and last sheets are usually pasted to the inside of the front or back cover.

gashiki 画式

Painting or drawing method.

gedai 外題

External title as printed on the title slip.

hangi 板木

Printing block.

hankabu 板株

Right to publish.

hanmoto 板元


hannen 板年

Year of production of printing blocks for a book, not necessarily the date of printing.

hanshibon 半紙本

Dimension classification for Japanese books: 23 x 14 cm.

hanshita-e 版下絵

Final text and/or image written with brush and ink on thin paper to be pasted face down on a block as a guide for the block cutter.

haru 春

(literally, “spring”) Term that in the colophon date of a printed book indicates a New Year publication.

hashira 柱

(pillar) Vertical column at the center of a printed sheet for a fukurotoji binding that appears at the fold of the sheet when bound. The pillar may be unprinted or may be printed with the title or abbreviated title, subtitle or section heading, sheet number, and name of the publisher’s firm. Occasionally, the name of the block cutter is noted.

hen 編

Compilation of a text or counter for a volume.


Block cut to print a “white-on-black” design. The main design appears as unprinted paper while the “background” is printed in black.

hiinagatabon 雛形本

(literally, “pattern books”)  Books illustrating diverse designs intended primarily as “model books.” Often include pattern designs for textiles.

hiragana 平仮名

Cursive syllabary for phonetic transcription of Japanese.

hissai 筆彩

Hand-coloring by applying water-soluble pigments with a brush on sheets previously printed with black outlines.

hyōdaishi 表題紙

Title page.

hyōshi 表紙

Front and back covers of a book, made of heavy paper covered with finer paper that is often dyed, colored, printed, or embossed.

kadogire (abbreviated in catalogue data as “K”) 角裂

Textile pasted over part of the upper and lower bound corners of a book.

kana 仮名

Japanese syllabary; refers to two parallel systems of orthography that represent the Japanese language phonetically: hiragana, simplified from Chinese cursive script, and katakana, derived from Chinese standard script.

kanji 漢字

Chinese characters.

kanki 刊記

Colophon usually printed on the last page of a single-volume book or the last page of the final volume in a multivolume title. The colophon may include name(s) of authors, compilers, artists, block cutters, and editors; names and addresses of publishers or distributors; and year of production of the blocks (hannen), which is not necessarily the date of printing.

kappazuri 合羽刷り

Color applied to areas of a print by using a stencil rather than a woodblock.

karazuri 空摺り

Embossing or blind-printing from a carved block intended to leave a relief pattern but no color, usually combined with other printing techniques.

kashihonya 貸本屋

Commercial lending libraries.

katakana 片仮名

Noncursive syllabary for phonetic transcription of Japanese.

kohon 小本

Dimension classification for Japanese books: 14 x 11.5 cm. Horizontal kohon are 11.5 x 14 cm.

kunten 訓点

Marks indicating punctuation, word order, and inflection inserted into Chinese texts to assist reading in Japanese.

kusazōshi 草双紙

Text in hiragana phonetic script that fills the areas around the illustration.

kyōka 狂歌

(literally, “mad verse”) A type of witty poetry based on the form of the classical thirty-one syllable tanka or waka, but often breaking the rules of classical diction and composition.

mamehon 豆本

Dimension classification for books smaller than kohon.

manga 漫画

(literally, “random sketches”) Term that now refers to comic books but was first popularized by the immediate success of the series titled Hokusai manga.

meisho 名所

(literally, “famous places”)  Term that refers to Japanese places with long-standing literary and aesthetic associations.

mikaeshi dai 見返し題

Title on the inside front cover, which may not agree with the gedai (external title).

mikaeshi 見返し

Inside front cover, to which a printed sheet may be attached. In later printings of the same volume, it may be omitted. 

netsuke 根付

A small figure made of ivory, wood, metal, or ceramics, originally used as a toggle to secure a cord under a man’s sash from which a tobacco pouch or inro (sectional container) was suspended.

nishiki-e 錦絵

(literally, “brocade pictures”) Term for full-color printed images, so named because they were thought to be as beautiful as color silk brocades (nishiki).

nodo 喉

Gutter between facing pages of a fukurotoji  bound book. Sheet numbers are occasionally printed in this area rather than in the hashira (pillar).

ōhon 大本

Dimension classification for Japanese books: 26 x 18 cm.

okuzuke 奥付

Usually refers to a colophon printed on a separate sheet. This section may extend to include additional information such as the names of the authors and artists as well as advertisements for books and other products.

renga 連歌

Linked verse.

ryakuga 略画

Abbreviated pictures or sketches.

Sagabon 嵯峨本

Books printed with movable wood type in the early seventeenth-century at Saga, west of Kyoto.

satsu 冊

Counter for volumes of books.

shitatoji 下綴

Inner structure of the book binding

shōmenzuri 正面摺り

(literally, “Surface printing”) Term for atechnique of surface polishing or burnishing; after the colours have dried, the print surface is burnished to achieve a sheen.


(spring books) Erotic books.

sumizuri 墨摺り

Printed in black ink.

tanshokuzuri (light-color printing) 淡色摺り

Printing with a limited range of light colors such as pink, blue, or gray.

tashokuzuri 多色摺

Printed from multiple relief blocks in many colors.

tsunogaki 角書き

Title prefix, printed in reduced size above the title but not present on all books. In transliterations of titles, it is enclosed in parentheses.

ukiyo-e (pictures of the “floating world”) 浮世絵

 Woodblock prints and paintings of popular subjects such as courtesans and kabuki actors. The term also encompasses later subjects such as landscapes, nature studies, warriors, ghosts, and legends.

umeki 埋木

Wood pieces inserted into printing blocks to alter a part of the text or illustration.

usuzumi 薄墨

Gray tones printed with dilute black ink.

yakusha 役者

Actors of the kabuki theater.

yomihon 読本

Genre of books for reading, in which text predominates. Serial publications are common in this genre.


Block owner.