Announcing Gokyō Shūmyō: Special Edition

Published 2 Mar 2023 by antti (last edited 11 Mar 2023)
tags: announcement

Edit, March 11 2023: 10€ fee added to shipments to the United States due to higher shipping costs

TL;DR: I’m now selling author’s handmade special editions of the English Gokyō Shūmyō, as visible above! One copy costs €80 including worldwide shipping; except, for shipments to the United States, the price is €90 (due to higher shipping costs). When ordering multiple copies, the price is €70 for each copy after the first.

Specifics include:

  • a5 size, 334 pages, 520 problems, weight 400g (as opposed to over 800g with the standard version)
  • Laser-printed on Japanese ivory-coloured fine paper with near-offset print quality
  • Hand-bound in the traditional Japanese way, similarly to the original 19th-century book
  • Dozens of small typesetting errors corrected compared to the standard version
  • Includes author’s Japanese calligraphy signature
  • An exclusive version of what is still basically the best tsumego collection out there

To order, please send email to nordicgodojo [at] gmail [dot] com, including the number of copies you wish to order as well as your shipping address. Payment is possible by eu bank transfer or PayPal – although in the latter case the price of each copy increases by 5€ to make up for PayPal’s processing fees. The book(s) will be shipped within a few days from ordering, unless I get swamped with orders.

The longer story: as some readers may remember, in 2017 I published a small batch of special edition books of Invisible: The Games of AlphaGo to celebrate my first published go book. At the time I had just gotten my hands on some traditionally-bound Japanese books and was thoroughly fascinated with them; I ended up commissioning fifty traditionally-bound copies of Invisible from a printing company in Tokyo. Although the special-edition books ended up being considerably more expensive than the regular copies sold by Hebsacker Verlag, they were well received by everybody; I especially liked the high-quality materials and the general feeling of the end product.

Later, in 2019, I also got a number of requests to publish a special edition for Rational Endgame in the same fashion, but in the end I decided against it. The Invisible project was worth it because there was a lot of general interest in the book at the time (thanks to the AlphaGo hype); but with an endgame theory book, doing a similarly large printing seemed like a considerably bigger financial risk, and a smaller printing would have gotten too expensive per book. Now, a few years later, this still feels like a missed opportunity.

Last summer I published the English edition of Gokyō Shūmyō, one of the most famous classic problem collections. Immediately afterwards I realised that this book, if any, needs a traditional Japanese-bound special version. However, since 2020 I no longer live anywhere near Tokyo, and dealing with the previous printing company has become considerably harder. Therefore, I had to find a different way.

After a little research, I found out that traditional Japanese bookbinding isn’t all that difficult to do by oneself; the reason it is ‘traditional’ is that it is possible to do with simple and cheap equipment. Add to this the fact that modern printers are capable of near-offset printing quality, and I had quickly devised a way I could print and bind good-looking copies of the book by myself.

A high-quality Canon laser printer, to save on running costs
Signing the first copy of the book. The Chinese character is in cursive script, meaning ‘tranquility’.
A Japanese bookbinding press handmade by a 80-year-old hobbyist-turned-pro
A traditional Japanese tool for opening holes in the book for binding (originally this was done with an awl and a hammer)
After drilling the holes, the book is bound with needle and thread. Even if the thread happened to get cut, it can be easily replaced!

I rather like the end result, visible at the start of this post. Most importantly, it is light to hold and easy on the eyes thanks to the coloured paper I used, but I also like the feeling of the thread binding (which, incidentally, I’ve done with silk thread). Unlike Invisible, this book does not stay open on the table on its own – I would have had to split it into two volumes to do that – but I decided that is not an issue, since most readers of a problem book will be holding the book in their hands when reading it.

A close-up photo on the print quality; the result looks a bit blurry because of my mobile phone camera, not because of the text (which is crisp to the human eye). Text and diagrams on the next page are slightly visible through the paper if one looks carefully, but in my opinion this does not become an issue.

Comments (2)

ElomElom wrote 4 months, 1 week ago:

Wow, this is epic! Very nice!

ElomElom wrote 4 months, 1 week ago:

Maybe you could consider taking up traditional Japanese bookbinding as a hobby. That way you'd be sure not to miss any opportunities when you're good enough to do it rather quickly!