“NO DESCRIPTION IS EQUAL TO AN ACTUAL LEAF”: FOLIOPHILES’ SUMPTUOUS ORIENTAL COLLECTION OF MANUSCRIPT LEAVES, A LANDMARK SURVEY OF ASIAN WRITING FORMS
BROWN, G.M.L. Oriental Collection. New York: Foliophiles, 1928. Folio, 24 folders with descriptive text containing 39 leaves (1 scroll leaf in separate box), housed in original cloth box. $11,000.
First edition of this classic Foliophiles leaf book, number 1 of only 45 copies, with 39 individual leaves from the 12th to the 19th centuries, representing all the major Asian writing systems.
"In its usual form, a leaf book contains an original leaf from a significant manuscript or printed book, accompanied by an essay written by a knowledgeable, or at least prominent, author… Although many private collectors tipped in leaves from other books as part of the process of 'extra-illustration,' these individually created books are not considered to be leaf books. Standard sources on book collecting and leaf books trace the true beginning of the genre to 1865, with the publication of Francis Fry's A Description of the Great Bible… [which] included 14 original leaves, which were taken from incomplete or defective 16th- and 17th-century English Bibles. Fry, a businessman who spent much of his later life collecting and studying Bibles, believed, as he wrote in his introduction, that 'no description is equal to an actual leaf.' Reading about a book can be educational and rewarding, but seeing and handling the book—whether the complete object, or a single leaf extracted from it—is a completely different, and potentially much richer, experience. A belief in the power of the original object has been one of the main motivations for the production of leaf books ever since… The book collecting boom of the 1920s brought with it significantly increased production of leaf books of all kinds… Organizations such as the Society of Foliophiles created and marketed several different portfolios of leaves, including Specimens of Oriental Mss. and Printing (1928)" (Silver).
In his brief introduction, Brown notes: "The Oriental manuscripts and printed books represented in this portfolio are fairly representative of the progress of the art of writing, and to a lesser degree of printing, throughout Asia. In my comments attached to these examples there has been an attempt to describe the development of the various languages represented." The collection consists of 24 folders and 1 box, containing a total of 39 individual leaves:
1.Nestorian Syriac manuscript (16th-century book of prayers, worming to margins) and printed leaf from a New Testament in Syriac (1843).
2.Armenian manuscript (catechism and book of prayers, 1741) and printed leaf from an Armenian book of rituals (1831).
3.Arabic manuscript in Cufic characters (12th-century Koran).
4.Arabic manuscript (15th-century book of devotions) and modern Arabic manuscript (Koran).
5.Arabic manuscript (17th-century Koran, probably Egyptian, light worming to margins) and printed leaf from an Arabic book (1833 work of French authorship on health and hygiene).
6.Arabic manuscript written in Persia (early 19th-century suras).
7.Turkish manuscript (late 18th-century book of travels with miniature view of Mecca on verso) and printed leaf from a Turkish dictionary (1841).
8.Persian manuscript (biographies of noted Sufis, 1478, worming and edge restoration).
9.Persian manuscript (the Gulistan of Sa'di, 1563) and printed leaf from a Persian textbook (1827).
10.Persian manuscript (the Shahnama of Firdausi, 17th century) and Persian manuscript (the Kamsah of Nizami, 17th century).
11.Persian manuscript with miniature (1520, edge restoration).
12.Kashmir manuscript in Persian (1848).
13.Sanskrit manuscript (end of 18th century) and printed leaf from a New Testament in Sanskrit (1844).
14.Sanskrit manuscript (18th-century puranas) and illuminated Sanskrit manuscript (early 19th-century Mahabarata).
15.Rajput miniature painting (early 19th-century Mahabarata).
16.Hindi manuscript (the Chronicles of Rajputana, 1839) and printed leaf from Sakuntala in Hindi (1876).
17.Tibetan Buddist manuscript (1662-1722; scroll manuscript in separate box).
18.Mongol manuscript (late 17th-/early 18th-century Buddhist text, embrowning of edges).
19.Burmese palm leaf manuscript (18th century) and Sinhalese palm leaf manuscript (18th century).
20.Siamese manuscript (alphabet and spelling book handwritten by the second king of Siam, early 19th century).
21.Javanese manuscript (19th-century history of the Indian god Rama).
22.Chinese rubbing (scholar Tung Chung-Shu, 1827).
23.Chinese block printing (17th-century Buddhist work) and Japanese block printing (Buddhist charm, 770, worming to margins).
24.Japanese Buddhist manuscript (Ise Monogatari, 1395, worming affecting text) and Japanese manuscript (17th-century Ise Monogatari).
25.Japanese color print by Hokusai (1802, extensive worming affecting images) and modern Japanese illustration (text on hawks and hawking). Not listed in Borden, Magee & Olmsted.
Brief pencil annotations, expert repairs to box. A highly desirable collection in near-fine condition.