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A translation of a unique 17th-century compendium of samurai heraldry, annotated with the symbolism and stories behind the banners.
A translation of a unique 17th-century compendium of samurai heraldry, annotated with the symbolism and stories behind the banners.
A translation of a unique 17th-century compendium of samurai heraldry, annotated with the symbolism and stories behind the banners.
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389 backers pledged $14,101 to help bring this project to life.

The Final Stretch!

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24 hours to go!  We've been getting an influx of new pledges at the end that have pushed us past $12,000.  How many books will we donate?

Last time, I said that O-umajirushi wasn't actually called that.  You may think that rather strange: I build up a whole massive Kickstarter campaign around a book, only to reveal that it has a secret true name?

Well, you see, kanji are logographic, not phonetic.  This means that each kanji has a particular meaning, but can have a number of pronunciations.  So, when O-umajirushi's title is written in Japanese, it's not written with that specific pronunciation.  It's written 御馬印.  These characters mean, respectively, "honorable", "horse", and "symbol".

Each of these characters has multiple pronunciations; for example, 馬 can be pronounced "uma", "ba", or "ma".  A Japanese dictionary, or a reference work about the book I'm translating, will tell you that together this title is pronounced "O-umajirushi", but this is reflecting how these three kanji are read in modern Japanese.  Language changes over time, and kanji readings are no exception.

So how can we tell how it would've been pronounced at the time?  In the book itself, the title is written in kanji, specifying no particular pronunciation:

However, "O-umajirushi" isn't just an arbitrary name: it means "honorable battle standards".  As you might expect, the content of the book has many examples of battle standards.  Conveniently, the captions in O-umajirushi are often written phonetically.  Sometimes the word "umajirushi" is written with the kanji that today reads "uma":

But sometimes, it's written phonetically, with hiragana.  And when it is, the pronunciation given is consistently not "uma", but "muma":

So you see, at the time it was published, it seems O-umajirushi would have been actually called "O-mumajirushi".

As for my translation?  I'll probably keep "O-umajirushi" on the cover; it's more likely to be what people are searching for when looking for information, and it's how the work has come to be known.  But in my heart of hearts?  I call it "O-mumajirushi".  And I'll talk about this and other sound changes in my introduction.

By the time I talk to you again, this Kickstarter will be funded, raising more than eight times my initial goal!  This far exceeds what I thought was at all possible when I started this project.  I truly can't thank you enough for all your support!

Chris Olsen, Brandon Bradley, and 2 more people like this update.

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