Introducing Waseda bungaku #2 早稲田文学第二次

Waseda bungaku, the literary magazine of Waseda University (Tokyo Senmon Gakkō until 1902), was originally published in the 1880s by famed writer and theater critic (and professor) Tsubouchi Shōyō, and ceased publication in the 1890s. It was started up again by his successors, explicitly in his honor and in that of the original magazine, in 1906, and went until 1927. This, as opposed to the first run (dai ichi-ji) is known now as the second series or run, dai ni-ji. It’s since gone through a number of changes in ji and is on dai-jūji (#10) in its current form – it’s still a running literary magazine today.

I’m particularly interested in this second run of the magazine because of its content, as well as its clear intent to do honor to the original, influential mid-Meiji (1868-1912) periodical. As I’ve touched on in previous posts, it’s highly nostalgic, with articles not only on current novels but on earlier Meiji works, and memories of the writers regarding their literary and social groups from their youths in the 1880s and early 1890s. There were some special Meiji literature issues (特別号) that came out in expanded form and cost significantly more than the typical issue, but even the other issues are full of memories, not just current concerns.

photoThe publisher of the magazine, Tōkyōdō, is also of interest to me, and I’m currently starting to try to look into the relationship of this commercial publisher and the academic interest group behind Waseda bungaku. Surprisingly to me, there is quite a lot published (in a relative sense, and relative to my expectations) on both Waseda University, and also Tōkyōdō itself. (Including great titles like A Stroll Through 100 Years of Tōkyōdō History.) I’m fast checking these books out and they’re becoming a growing mountain on my office bookshelves, with a significant amount of space taken up by four volumes of the 9-volume set 100 Years of Waseda University History.

Why am I so interested in this publishing history? Well, I recently received the 1929 Meiji bungaku kenkyū, which is ostensibly (according to catalog records, anyway) a reprint edition of the special Meiji literature issues of Waseda bungaku. However, when I examined the two-volume set itself, it’s a set of rebound issues – original covers and advertisements and all, bound up in hardcovers. Even the preface refers to new binding (新装) specifically, rather than a new printing or a collection. It’s extremely explicit that it’s a literal collection of old magazine issues.

The fact that Tōkyōdō seems to have rebound its overstock in 1929, two years after the journal ceased, and sold it at relatively low prices (5 yen for the set) is interesting enough, but what is even better is the fact that the advertisements are not from 1925, when the first issues included were originally published, but from 1927. Even more interesting, they’re Meiji-focused, largely for the series Meiji bungaku meicho zenshū, a collection of “famous writers” of Meiji literature (which I’ve posted on previously). These are obviously reprinted issues of the magazine from 1927, two years after their original publication date, and have had current advertisements related to the content of the issues (remember, “special Meiji literature” issues) inserted into them instead of the original 1925 ads for things like books written by the journal editors on Western philosophers. (By “original” I’m referring actually to a reproduction I have of these same issues with 1925 ads, but am not actually sure if these are from “originals” as in first printings, or if these are also later printings that have been reproduced.)

So this indicates that not only are these overstock that Tōkyōdō wanted to try to sell off in a repackaged format (“as a resource for future Meiji scholars” rather than “old issues of a literary magazine from four years ago”), but they were later printings than the 1925 original first printings. This means that there was enough interest in and demand for the Meiji special issues, whether at the time or after the fact, for them to be reissued by a commercial publisher whose goal is to make money off of them. There must have been such demand that the publisher saw profit in it.

This brings me back to previous posts about interest in Meiji, Meiji nostalgia, and Meiji and Meiji literature themselves as “things” to be studied, as fields, newly invented post-Meiji and specifically in the late 1920s. (Even if this isn’t the first appearance of the phrase “Meiji literature,” I’d still argue that as a “thing,” it really came into being at this time in terms of being popular, published, studied, and talked about.) There is obviously a market and demand for things Meiji at this time, testified to by both the reissued magazines and their rebinding, packaging, and marketing to “scholars.” I’m still on the fence about what the interest in Meiji actually meant – was it really scholarly work as these collections advertise themselves, or was it something about grasping onto recently lived past and lost youth? Or perhaps both?

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