FutureLearn | Travel Books: History in Europe and Japan

Unlock the history of travelling books in Europe and Japan

Books are cultural artefacts that are easily transported and translated. As such, they have been important in fostering relationships between countries for hundreds of years.

On this three-week course presented by Keio University and the British Library, you’ll learn more about the history of European and Japanese literature promoting cultural exchange, how this continues in the digital era, and how vital this exchange is.

Delve into the history of travelling books

To start you’ll find out how books moved between Europe and Japan, beginning in the 16th century.

Discover how the books were received, compare printing styles, and find out about the role that Jesuit priests played in these book-sharing interactions.

Explore the rich heritage of travelling books and travel books

In the second and third weeks of the course, you’ll get to appreciate how travelling books influenced individuals, society, and European and Japanese literature.

Besides explaining the importance of rare and illustrated books, the course shows you how to trace physical signs on the pages that show what life was like for readers and collectors in the past.

Finally, you’ll learn about the way travel books led to great cultural exchange by allowing people to learn about places that they would never otherwise have experienced. The way these books exist in the digital era will be examined throughout.

Expand your history know-how with leading experts

The course is jointly produced by Japan’s Keio University and the British Library, which are both recognised in their own countries and abroad.

With their rich resources and longtime friendship, these institutions will deepen your understanding and appreciation of European culture, Japanese culture, and how books brought (and bring) them together.

We would like to acknowledge the following experts for providing valuable contributions to this course:

  • Kristian Jensen, Former Head of Collections and Curation, the British Library / Chair of the Consortium of European Research Libraries
  • Karen Limper-Herz, Lead Curator, Incunabula & Sixteenth Century Printed Books, Western Heritage Collections, the British Library
  • Hamish Todd, Head of East Asian Collections, the British Library
  • Alessandro Bianchi, Bodleian Japanese Librarian, Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford

Japanese-English translation by Daichi Ishikawa, an English Literature specialist at Keio University.


Weekly study:3hours

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