Sagabon (Saga Books) (嵯峨本)

Saga Books (Sagabon) are books printed using movable type at the beginning of the early-modern period of Japan. The Suminokura family, wealthy merchants in Saga, Kyoto, published them with the help of Koetsu HONAMI and others. They are also called Suminokura-bon or Koetsu-bon (Koetsu Books).

Spurred by Jesuit printing (kirishitan-ban) and the introduction of movable type printing technology by way of the Korean Peninsula at the end of the 16th century, publishing books gradually became more and more widespread in Japan as well, and Sagabon were among the earliest of these. Behind the birth of the Sagabon lay the fact that in Kyoto at the time there was already an existing base of readers in the form of a merchant class with accumulated wealth, and craftsmen from the Gozanban (Five Mountains Editions).

Soan SUMINOKURA, the son of Ryoi, and friend of Seika FUJIWARA and other Confucian scholars, set his mind on the publishing business, and published Sagabon with the help of Koetsu HONAMI, Sotatsu TAWARAYA, and others.
They were luxurious books using paper decorated with mica and elaborate designs on the binding, published at the beginning of the 17th century (during the Keicho-Genna years (Japan))

The contents were mostly classic literature, and chief among the remaining books are "The Tales of Ise," "Essays in Idleness," "The Ten Foot Square Hut," and some No plays.

The plates for Sagabon were made not by combining pieces of type one letter at a time, but by combining wooden movable type in units of several letters of 2 or 3 that copied the vertical and cursive style of Koetsu's writing. Because it takes time and effort to make wooden movable type and because wood block printing was easier to deal with when reprinting again and again, wooden movable type soon fell out of use and the history of printing in Japan appeared to progress backwards from wooden movable type to wood block printing.

[Original Japanese]