The First Printed Text in the World, Standing Tall and Isolated in Eighth-century Japan: Hyakumanto Darani


  • Robert G. Sewell Rutgers University Libraries



Japan, History, Printing, Hyakumanto darani,


It is undoubtedly true that printing was invented in China. The Chinese developed all the necessary elements required for printing at an early stage. Their writing system was formed more than four thousand years ago. They imprinted images from carved seals well before the birth of Christ. The first paper was produced in China in the first or second century A.D. Rubbed ink impressions were taken from stone inscriptions before the second half of the sixth century in China. In general, their civilization was far more developed than that of any other country in the region; however, there is no physical evidence that the Chinese were the first printers. The first extant specimens of textual printing are found in Japan and Korea, dating from the eighth century. The earliest dated, printed texts in China are from the ninth century. Someday an earlier specimen of Chinese printing may be found that predates those in Japan and Korea. But for now, the Japanese and the Koreans have the claim to the earliest printed texts in the world, and it is quite certain that these texts were created very near the inception of the printed word.

Author Biography

Robert G. Sewell, Rutgers University Libraries

Robert Sewell is associate university librarian for collection development and management at the Rutgers University Libraries.