Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Book Arts Tuesday/International Dunhuang Project

The Bookbinding section of the International Dunhuang Project is a wonderful resource. Here is a little bit of background about the project from the website:

Little was known of the remarkable heritage of the Silk Road until explorers and archaeologists of the early twentieth century uncovered the ruins of ancient cities in the desert sands, revealing astonishing sculptures, murals and manuscripts. One of the most notable discoveries was the Buddhist cave library near the oasis town of Dunhuang on the edge of the Gobi desert in western China. The cave had been sealed and hidden at the end of the first millennium AD and only re-discovered in 1900. Forty thousand manuscripts, paintings and printed documents on paper and silk were found in the cave itself. Tens of thousands more items were excavated from other Silk Road archaeological sites. These unique items have fascinating stories to tell of life on this great trade route from 100 BC to AD 1400. Yet most were dispersed to institutions worldwide in the early 1900s, making access difficult.

Rightfully they pride themselves on sharing the book structures of which there are many forms as well as the texts. There are photographs, diagrams, and thorough descriptions and explanations. This is from the section on Stitched binding (xian zhuang).

There are a number of booklets in the Dunhuang collection that have been bound with thread. The most striking aspect of these books is the fact that they appeared at such an early period. The colophons on some of the booklets tell us that they were copied and bound during the Tang dynasty (AD 618-907), some six hundred years before the emergence of mature thread binding books in the Ming. What is also surprising is that there was a whole variety of stitching techniques already being applied. It would be interesting, therefore, to have a look at some of these different techniques in order to understand the nature of this development in bookbinding.

The information is also available as a downloadable pdf. Thanks to Colin Chinnery for the text and Li Yi and Colin Chinnery for the diagrams.

International Dunhuang Project/Bookbinding

1 comment:

Irene said...

It's amazing indeed. Love the diagrams. Must try one. What covers were they and were the spines exposed.

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