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Father Couplet, Klaproth, and others, ascribe it to a much later date. “Under the reign of Mint-song," writes Klaproth, "in the second of the years Tchang-hing (932) the ministers Fong-tao and Li-yu proposed to the Academy Koue-tseu-kien to review the nine king or canonical books, and to have them engraved upon blocks of wood, that they might be printed and sold. The emperor adopted the advice; but it was only in the second of the years Kouan-chun (952) that the engrav- . ing of the blocks was completed. They were then distributed and circulated in all the cantons of the empire."
But that the art was known and practised by the Chinese at a period still more remote, we learn from the 39th volume of the Chinese Encyclopædia, where we are informed, that on the eighth day of the twelfth month of the thirteenth year of the reign of Wen-ti, founder of the Souï dynasty (593) it was ordered by a decree to collect the worn out drawings and inedited texts, and to engrave them on wood and publish them. This fact is confirmed by various Chinese writings; and this, continues the work quoted, was the commencement of printing upon wooden blocks. Under the Thang dynasty, from 618 to 907, it grew much into use; made still greater progress during the five lesser dynasties, from 907 to 960; and reached its perfection and greatest development between 960 and 1278.
But as block-printing was only for the first time imperially ordered in the year 593, it is very probable that the art was known long before that date. Had it then been a new invention, something surely would have been said about its origin and author.
The following particulars relative to Chinese printing are given by Du Halde.
“ The work intended to be printed is transcribed by a careful writer upon thin transparent paper: the engraver glues each of these written sheets, with its face downwards, upon a smooth
tablet of pear or apple tree, or some other hard wood; and then with gravers and other instruments, he cuts the wood away in all those parts upon which he finds
which he finds nothing traced (as in the fac-simile* in the margin]; thus leaving the reversed characters ready for printing...... When once the blocks are engraved, the
paper is cut, and the ink is ready,
one man with his brush can, without fatigue, print ten thousand sheets in a day. The block to be printed must be placed level, and firmly fixed. The man must have two brushes; one of them of a stiffer kind, which he can hold in his hand, and use at either end. He dips this into the ink, and rubs the block with it; taking care not to wet it too much, nor to leave it too dry......... The second brush is used to rub over the paper with a small degree of pressure, that it may take the im
“Sy-chong-ngen-pon," the name of a Chinese Song-book.
pression: this it does easily, for not being sized with alum, it receives the ink the instant it comes in contact with it. It is only necessary that the brush should be passed over every part of the sheet with a greater or smaller degree of pressure, and repeated in proportion as the printer finds there is more or less ink upon the block.”
The number of copies which, according to Du Halde, a Chinese workman can print in a day, is greatly exaggerated. About four thousand, or four hundred an hour, is the utmost that the most expert workman would be able to throw off.
To the above account it may be added, that the blocks, each containing two pages, are frequently engraved on both sides; that the sheets printed are small, and impressed on one side only; and that each sheet when dry is folded back, so as to present the appearance of a leaf impressed on both sides.
The history of printing in China, and the productions of the Chinese press, are subjects which Oriental bibliographers have more or less touched upon. Interesting as they are, there will probably be no occasion to allude to them in these pages more than once again.
But the history of books in Europe, the productions of the early printers in the various countries to which they carried their art, is one to which our subject is most closely allied ; and European bibliography is a study to which many men of great ability have devoted themselves during the last three centuries, in Germany, Holland, England, Spain, France, Italy, Belgium, and other countries.
, To their labours all later writers on the subject are under manifold obligations.* But
* The following alphabetical list includes the most distinguished of these writers:-Andrés, Antonio, Baillet, Bayle, Blount, Bouterwek, Brucker, Brunet, Buhle, Chalmers, Collier, Corniani, De Bure, De Vries, Dibdin, Ebert, Eichhorn, Falkenstein, Fischer, Foppens, Frere, Gesner, Ginguéné, Goujet, Graesse, Greswell, Hallam, Hain, Heeren,