Collotype
SERICA
by David Helliwell
5M ago
It was only following the appointment of Joshua Seufert in 2012 that I was able to devote all my time to the Bodleian Library’s so-called “special” collections of Chinese materials; before that I worked mostly on acquiring modern materials, both printed and later electronic. Our principal supplier was CIBTC (China International Book Trading Corporation 中国国际图书贸易集团公司), who hosted most of my visits to China. I was usually looked after by Wang Tong 汪彤 and later Zhu Min 朱敏, who both developed a very good sense of what interested me, and took me to places that would have been inaccessible without t ..read more
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A missionary treasure box
SERICA
by David Helliwell
1y ago
In April 2015 the Bodleian received one of the most interesting donations of Chinese materials to have been made during my time as Curator of Chinese Collections. It was small in size, and fitted entirely into a single cardboard box. Of scrappy appearance, the materials were of the sort that many people would throw out following the death of their owner. This alone would ensure that they were rare once a few decades had elapsed. The donor was the distinguished constitutional lawyer Anthony Bradley who was living in retirement near Oxford, and the materials were the nachlass of his maternal gra ..read more
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Lists and Chungking publications
SERICA
by David Helliwell
1y ago
At the forty-second EASL conference in Ghent at the beginning of September, I gave a short talk which was simply called “Lists”. Increasingly, especially during the later years of my employment, scholars – mostly Chinese – were not asking to see specific books which could easily be found in our online catalogue without reference to me or any other librarian. They were asking the question “what have you got”. It would have been pointless, and even unhelpful, for me to tell them to go and have a look in the online catalogue, as online catalogues are not designed to answer this question. Online c ..read more
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Popular literature
SERICA
by David Helliwell
2y ago
Since ceasing to be employed by the Bodleian some four and a half years ago, I’ve been trying my best to complete the cataloguing of the Library’s pre-modern and so-called “special” Chinese collections as a private scholar. Inevitably I’ve left the most difficult things until last. These are some very down-market works of popular literature made by Piet van der Loon. I remember seeing some of them in his study in his house on Boars Hill on my frequent visits there, but never paid much attention to them. I think that he, too, had put them aside for dealing with one day in the future, which of c ..read more
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Salt and a woodblock
SERICA
by David Helliwell
2y ago
During the course of my work at the Bodleian, I was occasionally asked to give talks on how traditional Chinese books were produced. That is, how they were printed and bound. To demonstrate this I used a Japanese block that had been given to me by Christer von der Burg – I didn’t have a Chinese one – together with a disbound duplicate copy of one of the modern impressions from old blocks that are issued by Chinese publishers from time to time. We acquired a Chinese woodblock in October 2013, and in the following January I wrote a blog entry about it. As a printing block it is typical, but its ..read more
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Douce – postscript on Shixue
SERICA
by David Helliwell
2y ago
Almost a year ago I posted an entry on the small but choice collection of Chinese books bequeathed to the Bodleian Library by Francis Douce (1757-1834). The following day, Zheng Cheng posted a reply drawing my attention to an article by Elisabetta Corsi on Shixue 視學, the most valuable among them. Following Corsi’s leads, I’ve been able to establish or at least make an informed guess of the provenance of this and a couple of other items in the collection, and have re-written the entry (where her article is referenced) to reflect these findings. The purpose of this postscript is to make some obs ..read more
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Yongle dadian – 4
SERICA
by David Helliwell
3y ago
Between December 2014 and May 2015, I posted three blog entries on the subject of Yongle dadian 永樂大典. It was always my intention to post a fourth one in which I would discuss the relocation of roughly half the volumes that survived the burning of Hanlin Yuan 翰林院 on Saturday 23 June 1900 during the Siege of the Legations. In the meantime, the sale of two newly discovered volumes in Paris last year has provided some new and quite unexpected food for thought, which I now throw into the mix. The Paris volumes contain juan 2268-2269 and 7391-7392, and are explained fully in articles by Weng Lianxi ..read more
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Douce
SERICA
by David Helliwell
3y ago
An article I read in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago has made me think of Francis Douce. Douce (1757-1834) has already been mentioned twice in my blog as the donor of the Bodleian’s copy of the Red Decree and the small volume which contains what may be the first example of Chinese lithography. He is the subject of a brief article in Wikipedia, and here it is only necessary to point out that he built up an enormous collection of printed books and manuscripts that he bequeathed to the Bodleian, and that this bequest is one of the greatest gifts the Library ever received. In 1984 its sesquicen ..read more
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More seventeenth-century finds
SERICA
by David Helliwell
3y ago
Most of my latest blog entries have been concerned with the Chinese books that came to Europe in the 17th century, and so is this one. It’s beyond my control. People keep finding them, and when they do, if I can I like to provide some background information about them that it would be inappropriate to put in my simple list. Pembroke College Cambridge News of the first one came from Will Poole. Noel Malcolm had drawn his attention to an entry in the Benefactors’ Book of Pembroke College, Cambridge recording the donation of a Qu’ran by the London merchant Edward Tines, probably in the early 1630 ..read more
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Four Great Song Stelae of Suzhou
SERICA
by David Helliwell
3y ago
It’s well over a year since I last posted a blog entry. This is not an indication that I’ve finally lost interest in old Chinese books. Quite the contrary. I’m in the process of preparing a catalogue of the Bodleian’s pre-1912 Chinese holdings for publication, and have been going through the entire collection to check for any uncatalogued or overlooked material. This is taking quite some time – or at least, it was until March, when the Library closed because of the coronavirus pandemic. Fortunately, I’d completed the work just in time, and am now preparing my final draft for the publisher. An ..read more
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