Kōbunsō: a bookstore without a door

Kōbunsō Taika Koshomoku (弘文荘待賈古書目) is a set of antiquarian book catalogues published by Shigeo Sorimachi (反町 茂雄) owner of Kōbunsō (弘文荘), an early version of amazon.com. It was a bookstore without a physical shop.

These catalogues were given to collectors and sales were made through the listings. Most feature Japanese and Chinese literature although European rare books appear in several sales. We are fortunate to have even a partial set of the Kōbunsō catalogues issued between June 1933 (Showa 8) and February 1984 (Showa 59).

According to the Samurai Archives of pre-20th-century Japanese history, Sorimachi Shigeo (1901-1991) was a book dealer and a scholar of book history. “He first began working for Isseidô Bookstore in the Kanda district of Tokyo in 1927. Five years later, he established his own operation, Kôbunshô (弘文荘), selling books by catalog. Through his efforts in the book world, he helped uncover a number of manuscripts and other old books which had not been known to be extant, including a copy of Matsuo Bashô’s Kai ôi, and a copy of the Tameie version of Tosa nikki.”



Sorimachi also wrote several books on graphic arts, book history, and an autobiography: Shigeo Sorimachi (1901-1991), Ichi koshoshi no omoide (Memories of an Old Bookshop) (Tokyo: Heibonsha, 1986). East Asian Library (Gest) Z463.3 .S67 S67


Thanks to Tara McGowan for her help organizing these volumes.