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The Book Worlds of East Asia and Europe, 1450-1850Connections and Comparisons$
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Joseph P. McDermott and Peter Burke

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9789888208081

Published to Hong Kong Scholarship Online: May 2016

DOI: 10.5790/hongkong/9789888208081.001.0001

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The Proliferation of Reference Books, 1450–1850

The Proliferation of Reference Books, 1450–1850

Chapter:
(p.237) 6 The Proliferation of Reference Books, 1450–1850
Source:
The Book Worlds of East Asia and Europe, 1450-1850
Author(s):

Peter Burke

Joseph McDermott

Publisher:
Hong Kong University Press
DOI:10.5790/hongkong/9789888208081.003.0006

The essay by Burke and McDermott is concerned with the production, indeed the proliferation of reference books (defined as books intended to be consulted, rather than read from cover to cover) in both Europe and China. He discusses general reference books such as encyclopaedias, large and small, and calls attention to the increasing number of different kinds of ‘how to do it’ books in both East Asia and Europe in the early modern period, and also to the relative lack of interest in China in the production of dictionaries or translations. The differences between these two traditions of reference works are linked to the types of elite careers available in these societies. Tokugawa Japan is also discussed, if only to highlight how distinctive the Chinese tradition of reference books and encyclopaedias remained throughout the centuries covered by this book.

Keywords:   Europe, Asia, Eurasia, Book history, Book culture, Book Printing, Technology, Publishing, Book distribution, Book consumption

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