Posted by The Shade of Sharaku on February 23, 2003 at 04:40:02:
I've read in several books that part of the decline in the quality of ukiyoe in the 19th century was due to overproduction to meet a rising demand for the nishiki-e print. Part of this expanding market seems to have been the wealthier elements in the countryside, who are generally assumed (though I'm not sure on what evidence) to be less discriminating than the city customer. All of this raises several questions in my mind, and I'm wondering if someone can help me with them.
First, generally, what was the commercial route for getting ukiyo-e from publisher to customer? Were there "ukiyo-e wholesalers" to whom the publishers sold prints in big lots? Or did individual shops pick up prints from the publisher? Or did publishers have their own shops? Were there other means of obtaining a print other than an ukiyo-e shop? Did bearers sell them on the streets? Did theaters sell them at kabuki plays? What happened with an unpopular print that didn't sell? Did the shops take the loss, or did the publisher?
From here, I'm wondering about the means of distribution to the countrysides. Were there peddlars who took them there? Were they private profiteers or connected to a publisher? Were there shops outside of the big cities? Or did the wealthy peasants buy them on trips to Edo or Osaka?
Are there any books that deal with this subject?
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