EXQUISITE SET OF THREE CHINESE ACCORDION BOOKS ABOUT FAMOUS SCHOLARS, EXCEPTIONAL LADIES, AND YEARLY FESTIVALS, WITH 30 HAND-COLORED ILLUSTRATIONS ON SILK, IN ORIGINAL WOODEN BOARDS
(CHINA). Set of three Chinese accordion books. Fuzhou, China: [Ling Yu Sing Gift Shop, circa 1910-30]. Three volumes. Octavo, accordion-folded as issued, original embossed and green-stamped wooden boards. $1650.
First editions of these Chinese accordion books on famous scholars, notable women, and Chinese festivals, written for the tourist market in both English and Chinese, with 30 mounted, hand-colored plates on silk depicting traditional Chinese life in earlier centuries.
The three books, apparently sold from a gift shop in Fuzhou, China likely catering to Western tourists, are: Biographies of Twelve Chinese Great Scholars, A Book of Famous and Beautiful Chinese Ladies From All Antiquity, and Long-Established Customs at Chinese Festivals. They are all bound in traditional accordion (zhezhuang or sutra) style. During "the period of the Five Dynasties (907-960) paper entirely supplanted silk as writing material… As paper did not come in long pieces like silk, it was pasted together to form one long strip like the Egyptian papyrus. Being thicker than the usual modern Chinese paper, it could be rolled in the same way as silk was rolled. It will be seen that a book thus disposed did not lend itself to convenient reading. That a new method of arrangement was necessary in order to facilitate easy handling was apparent, and folded books subsequently came into existence. This was done by folding the long strip of paper backwards and forwards like an accordion pleating, known as 'whirlwind binding', suggesting the spiral motion of a vortex of air current. Many of the Buddhist sutras were and still are found in [a similar] form, known otherwise as 'sutra binding'" (China Heritage Quarterly). The whirlwind and sutra bindings are, however, distinguishable by folding techniques; sutra bindings were known for the even edges of their pages. While sutra bindings (i.e. accordion bindings) were gradually phased out in most books as more familiar, modern bindings were developed, the earlier form of binding remains a favored option for art books and gift productions such as these works.
Plates generally beautiful and fine, a few small closed tears at hinges where text attaches to boards, small closed tear to Li-Chuan page of Ladies, bindings quite nice with only slight damage to corner of Scholars. A very nearly fine copy.