The Chinese Book

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In the year 2000 the National Museums of Scotland mounted an exhibition entitled ‘Source’. Craftworkers all over Scotland were invited to create a piece of work influenced by any object in any Scottish museum. The pages [accompanying this article] are from a ‘concertina’ book made by the calligrapher Susan Leiper, which she based on a traditional Chinese woodblock-printed almanac in the Royal Museum’s Ivy Wu Gallery.

Following the dictum of the famous German calligrapher Friedrich Neugebauer, that ‘the ideal manuscript book would be made by one person, acting as author, scribe, illuminator and binder’, Susan set out to compose, write, illustrate and bind a Chinese cookery manual, covering the principal ingredients of fish and seafood, meat and poultry, vegetables, carbohydrates and desserts. Each ingredient is illustrated [in] a solid block of text.

In China the concertina format was a development from the long horizontal scroll printed with religious texts.

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