Mokkatsuji-ban (wood movable-type printing) (木活字版)

Mokkatsuji-ban is the generic term for wood movable-type prints; however, it is sometimes narrowly interpreted as printed books of wood movable-type printing published from the mid Edo to the early Meiji periods (Kinsei [the early modern times] Mokkatsuji-ban). This Mokkatsuji-ban is distinguished from Kokatsuji-ban (the old movable-type printing), which was flourished in the early Edo period. There are various theories as to the definition of Mokkatsuji-ban among researchers: one theory is that it started from the Kanei era (1624-1643): another theory is from the Tenmei and the Kansei eras (1781-1800). And the other theory is that Mokkatsuji-ban refers to all the wood movable-type prints published after the time of Kokatsuji-ban and before the Meiji period (including metal movable-type prints).

In Japan, the movable-type printing took a considerable time to be widely used, and the wood-block printing was the main current from the Kanei era; however, the wood movable-type printing barely continued. A dramatic turnaround occurred after the Tenmei and Kansei eras. This stems from the fact that the technical book of wood movable-type printing titled, "Kintei Bueiden Shuchinbanteishiki," was introduced from the Qing Dynasty, and the improvement of the wood movable-type printing technique took place. With this improvement, Mokkatsuji-ban became more costless and handier than the wood-block printing using one engraving block, so that it made publications with limited capital and small circulation possible. Mokkatsuji-ban began to be used for privately printed books or the amateur edition, so called, private publication as well as text books for educational institutions of the Edo shogunate, local schools established by feudal lords, and private schools of scholars.

Since there was no concept of copyright at that time, and Mokkatsuji-ban was unfit for the traditional publication practice that a manufacturer and holder of a printing block was regarded as a rightful person, some bookstores as publishers in the three major cities launched a campaign against it. At the time, these bookstores were not under strict control by the shogunate and domains, so that they published many political books or books introducing new theories and opinions. As many as 1000 kinds of Mokkatsuji-ban are extant.