Special project on book for women 筆海女用文書


This year the thirty participants of the Graduate Summer School were assigned a special project around a very rare text: Hitsukai onna yō bunsho 筆海女用文書 (lit. The sea of the Brushwork: Texts for Women).

The Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books only accounts for one copy held in a private collection in Japan (竹清). Recently another copy was acquired as part of the private collection Suzuran bunko 鈴蘭文庫 in Cambridge (UK). The colophon records the Edo publisher Okumura Genroku 奥村源六 as the one who issued the text. Unfortunately no date is mentioned anywhere in the text, though we are probably looking at the eighteenth century.


Because Okumura Genroku was also involved in the production and in the publication of woodblock-prints by the artist Okumura Masanobu 奥村政信, the Union Catalogue of Early Japanese Books lists him as the author of Hitsukai onna yō bunsho. Whether this attribution is correct or not still needs to be verified.

As the title slip pasted on the cover reveals, this medium-size (chūbon 中本) book contains a variety of contents meant for the edification of women: how to conduct weddings, how to write letters, how to compose poetry on vertical stripes of paper known as tanzaku, moral teachings, and much more.


For the special project six groups have transcribed and translated into English the first three half folios that follow a woman from the moment of her marriage to the care she must give to her newly-born child months after the wedding celebration.


Find below here the passages that have been transcribed and translated. The transcriptions have been done following the rules for diplomatic transcriptions (honkoku 翻刻) that we apply throughout the whole Summer School for texts in wabun. The translation strategies, though, vary from group to group.





1. 婿入 Adopting a bridegroom

2. 嫁入 Sending off the bride

3. 祝言之盃 The exchange of cups at the wedding

4. 新枕 New pillows

5. 平産之躰 Conduct for a safe birth

6. 産後養性 Postpartum recuperation

The work was conducted outside the classroom and was presented on the last day of the programme. Needless to say, it sparkled a great deal of questions and discussion, which we all had great fun with!


The special project has certainly become a highlight of the 2018 programme.