kusazoushi 草双紙
KEY WORD : art history / paintings
Illustrated popular fiction published in Edo from the mid-17c to the late 19c. Narrative and dialogue was written in kana 仮名 in the blank spaces of the full-page or half-page illustrations. Because illustrations were crucial, the books are also called *ezoushi 絵草子. The kusazoushi is thought to have originated around 1662. There are several explanations for the origin of the word. One is that the cheap, smelly ink with which they were printed led to the name kusazoushi, which is thought to have originally meant "smelly books." Another explanation is that the character kusa 草 has the same meaning as in the word kusazumou 草相撲 (local wrestling match) in that the books were informal and a contrast to proper and regular forms. The characters soushi 双紙, also written 草子 meant book or booklet. Originally, books which were intended for learner readers were all called kusazoushi. In the early stages, illustrations were often designed by the writers themselves but later woodblock *ukiyo-e 浮世絵 print designers began to work as book illustrators. Kusazoushi were produced on inexpensive Mino paper *minogami 美濃紙 in the form of slim booklets, each containing five double pages measuring about 19cm x 13cm. The term kusazoushi was used generally to describe books known by the color of their cover, type of binding, or content: *akahon 赤本, *kurohon 黒本, *aohon 青本, *kibyoushi 黄表紙 and *goukan 合巻 can all be considered kusazoushi, although kibyoushi and goukan, because of their wider range of contents, are also considered part of the genre of popular fiction known as gesaku 戯作. As plots became more complex, the increasingly longer stories were produced in multivolume sets. Kusazoushi were produced through the end of the 19c, eventually losing their readership to the development of serialized novels in the newly introduced daily newspapers.


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