In 7th--8th century, Many books (religional and secular) were imported
from China. Temples had libraries. In some large temples(e.g. Todaiji),
proffesional calligraphers were copying many Buddhism sutras. All were
manuscripts and scrolls.
Since many buddhist book( handscrolls) copied in 8th century have survived until now, a large quantities should have been copied.
Ambasador trip to Tang Empire were executed in , staffs collected books in china and brought to Japan.
At the last of 10th century, a official scholar [Fujiwara Sukeyo] made a list of an imperial library. Most are chinese secular bokks. LAW, Astronomy, Technology, Litterature, Medicin, Confuctus Philosohy, etc. A copy of the list survives.
In 11--12th century, records are found in comtemporary romans and essaies.
All nobles didn't have libraries, but some noble scholars had,
and the other had practical books to undertake their work as clerks.
A sort of book was made as a deluxe gift. The embellishment is muchless throughout japanese book history. Some have survived. The "Collected Works of 36 poets in 'Nishi-Hongann-ji'" is the most dainty treasure in early 12th century. Not to say NATIONAL TRESURE in Japan. They bring the western illuminated books(e. g. Tres rich hours of Jean Duc Berry; Conde Chantilly Museum ) in 14th--15th century in my mind.
In the noble mansion, scholar lectured on the literature and classics. It was a sort of music performance. Listners sometimes play instruments accompanied to the lecture. The roman "Tale of Utu-ho" in 11th century describes the scene. As noble men and ladies should make and read verses, ghost writers(extinct for love-letter) appeared.
Since general sociael security declined, many libraries were burned, looted, and scattered.
In about 1260, an empress collected over 200 romans and contes in her library. She edited an anthology of poems("FUH-YO WAKASYU") extracted from the romans and contes.
From about 1200--1300, many chinese printed books were imported and it continued to 19th century. A minister's collection(ca. 1250) survived, near Kamakura, i.e "Kanazawa Bunko". Most books in it are chinese. Woodblock printing started (transfered from China or Korea). Although before 16th century religional books and chinese books were reprinted. Many important japanese books were copied by hands.
OHNIN-civilwar(1467--ca. 1477) destroyed most libraries in Kyoto-city (Capital). Then a noble collector [Ichijyo Kanera] lost his library[TOU-KA-BO]. Thousands books were scattered in the streets of Kyoto city.
Warring States Periods (mid15--early 17th), many temples, marchants, and some knights supported libraries. Then, only temples were culutur-centers and their libraries contains many secular books.
In the invatation war to Korea(1597), a knight collected old books in Korea. Especially 10--12century's precious chinese books were transfered to Japan. In 17th century, rich marchants, lords, governours supported printing many classics. These are often fine editions. Then japanese classics are printed and published at first.
In 18--19th century (mid, late Edo period,and early Meiji period)
Commercial publishing flourished. local loads, private schools, scholars(
often doctors, simultanously) had their libraries.
An educated marchants had hundreds thousand volumes. After his death, the goverment bought it by 500 gold tarels. A load collected 20 thousands volumes in his life. A load collected western books, too.
UKIYOE(woodblock prints) was often sold in the bookshops. A sort of UKIYOE was a delux book. Many coarse illustrated small books were published as chapbooks. Then, people in cities read books on the wondering rental bookshops.
In 1960s, some rental bookshops were vivid, I experienced.
In 18--early 19th centuries, poor scholars copied precious books for booksellers. The income support his family. Their copies were cheaper and more popular than the printed ones.
Also, in 18--19th century, many chinese books were imported through Nagasaki Port. A document show an extinct case that all bagage of a tradeship were books.
In 1870, nationalistic riots happened against buddhists, many temples
libraries were scattered into markets and dustbox.
A chinese scholar collected many books scattered in Japan and took them to China, and published important ones among them.
From later 19th century Western style books are common. By 20th century, numerous private libraries were build and disappeard. In 1912, the big earthquark attacked Tokyo, over half of books in Tokyo were lost.
Nowadays, public libraries have absorbed most old and rare books.