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Susan Leiper on Chine book format, Slightly Foxed Issue 3

The Chinese Book II

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In Issue 1, I described the tradition in Chinese books of placing an illustration above a solid block of text on each page, a tradition that I set out to revive in my Chinese cookery manual. In the image above the script is written with a quill. I used a modernized version of the Bastard Gothic hand known as bâtarde or bastarda, which incidentally provided the basis for a number of early typefaces in France and England. It has a cursive quality akin to Chinese calligraphy and is roughly contemporaneous with the golden age of Chinese printed books in the mid to late Ming dynasty. The text runs horizontally and each line is separated by a thin gold rule.

The homogeneity of the Chinese page relies for the most part

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In Issue 1, I described the tradition in Chinese books of placing an illustration above a solid block of text on each page, a tradition that I set out to revive in my Chinese cookery manual. In the image above the script is written with a quill. I used a modernized version of the Bastard Gothic hand known as bâtarde or bastarda, which incidentally provided the basis for a number of early typefaces in France and England. It has a cursive quality akin to Chinese calligraphy and is roughly contemporaneous with the golden age of Chinese printed books in the mid to late Ming dynasty. The text runs horizontally and each line is separated by a thin gold rule.

The homogeneity of the Chinese page relies for the most part on the fact that both text and illustration are made with the same instrument: the brush. In this book the illustrations were executed with a Chinese brush, which has the flexibility to create lines of varying width depending on pressure, in much the same way as a broad-edged quill naturally creates thick and thin strokes. In an attempt to relate the line illustrations to the text, the initial dropped capital on each page reflects the lines or movement of the illustration above.

Extract from Slightly Foxed Issue 3 © Susan Leiper 2004


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