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An exhibit showcasing the art and craft of East Asian bookbinding is not only the first of its kind at Brown — but also in the nation, according to the exhibit's curator.

Though there have been two exhibits in the past at Brown on East Asian art or historical East Asian books, "East Asian Book Art" is the first exhibit to focus specifically on book design, said Li Wang, curator of Brown's East Asian Collection.

East Asia has had a "long history of human civilization" and a "long tradition of book design and book binding," Wang said.

The exhibit, which will be open at the John Hay Library through the end of February, primarily features recently published books donated by East Asian book venders and from Wang's personal collection. Despite being published recently, the books display a great historical range in content and a wide variety of styles. 

Though the majority of the works in the collection come from China, the exhibit also contains Japanese children's books featuring traditional woodblock prints, and a Korean text that shows the development of the Korean vernacular. Also on display are Chairman Mao's "Little Red Book" and the Chinese Yongle Encyclopedia.

Some of the featured Chinese books' covers incorporated elements of their subject matter, including silk, bamboo slats, embroidery and porcelain. A book on coins from the Song Dynasty was shaped as a circle and featured ancient coins.

The exhibit is especially relevant as China is experiencing rapid development and economic growth, said Toshiyuki Minami, senior library specialist. As most of the books displayed were published in China one "can see how prosperous China has become," he said. "It costs money" to create elaborately designed books, Minami added.

Wang said the exhibit would be a good introduction to "students who might be interested in East Asian cultures and civilization."

Mengfei Xue '12, who assisted Wang in putting together the exhibit, called it "very impressive."

After visiting the exhibit, Professor of History Cynthia Brokaw said it "beautifully showed the variety and the invention, the creativity and also just the beauty of recent publications."
Wang said the exhibit is a good way to promote Brown and show its more "global thinking." It's important for people to know that Brown has "treasure," he added.


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