Size of Chinese Texts: 1550 - 1800, Dynamic Visualization

Press and drag your mouse across the bottom of this visualization to change the range of years in the distribution. Once you have selected a range, you can drag the selection to see it change. This visualization illustrates shifts in the size of Chinese texts across the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries. It derives from research presented in the paper "Analyzing Late Imperial Printing Trends Using Large Bibliometric Datasets", which is forthcoming in 2016. This figure was produced using bibliographic meta-data stored in MARC records acquired from WorldCat through the WorldCat search API (with the generous permission of the Online Computer Library Center of Dublin, Ohio). Online library catalog records remain a largely untapped source of information on late Imperial Chinese texts. Yet because of the Rare Chinese Book project, a significant amount of information on rare Chinese books is contained in WorldCat records. This information, while in some cases spotty, is very valuable in visualizing large-scale printing trends once it is properly sanitized. The results of this study are striking. The average size of texts produced in China during this period were published at an average size of around 270 square centimeters. However, beginning in the 1720s, a new class of small-format texts became increasingly popular. This is visible in the growth of the small shoulder when focusing on the latter part of the 18th century. The significance of these small works offers a valuable area for new research. Which books were produced in small sizes? Who was writing them? Who was printing them? Do they come from a specific region? Are there historical factors that might explain their increased prevalence?

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