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Call for Papers–Call for Special Issue of East Asian Publishing and Society: Collectors, Collections, and the Making of East Asian Book Worlds

By 1st July 2016September 4th, 2020Blackboard

Robert Darntons’s seminal idea of the “communication circuit” focused on the synchronically connected participants involved in the writing, manufacture, distribution, and reception of books (“What is the History of the Book,” Daedalus 111 (1982): 65-83).  Subsequently, Thomas R. Adams and Nicolas Barker added a diachronic dimension to this scheme through the notion of survival (“A New Model for the Study of the Book,” in A Potencie of Life: Books in Society, edited by Nicolas Barker, The British Library, 1993). In addition to the physical form, print runs, and popularity that Adams and Barker identify as key variables in a book’s survival, we want to highlight collectors and collections as a critical link between the synchronic and diachronic circulation of books. 


This special issue seeks to showcase how collections and collectors shaped how successive generations of readers understood premodern East Asian book worlds in material, aesthetic, intellectual, and/or social terms. Rather than treating survival as a given or a matter of pure chance, we invite prospective contributors to examine how collections and collections fashioned texts and to what extent such activities ensured not only the physical survival of books, but made the fact of their existence known among contemporaries and posterity alike.


Possible topics include, but are not limited to, the following:


The role of imperial, royal, and other official collections in shaping the survival of particular texts

The role of individual collectors 

The role of diplomatic, religious, commercial, academic, and/or artistic missions in creating foreign collections

The survival of proscribed texts in Asian, European, and/or other countries outside the text’s country of origin

The material practices of collectors relative to the storage and consumption of texts (e.g., rebinding, seals, annotations, republishing etc)

The role of collections in creating access for readers to texts in historical time (e.g., coterie borrowing, libraries for different publics, etc)

The significance of book catalogues of collections and collectors for our understanding of the intellectual trends

Queries: Direct to Peter Kornicki ( or Patricia Sieber (

Style sheet: See “Authors Instructions” at