Special Exhibition on Qun Bi Lou Collection
Exhibition date2018/10/03 - 2018/12/30
Exhibition roomRoom 202 Rare Texts
Deng Bangshu, courtesy name Xiaoxian, sobriquet Zhengan and Qunbiweng, received his jinshi title in 1898. In 1901 he became a staff of Duan Fang (1861-1911), whose abundant collection at his library inspired Deng’s appreciation to rare books. Deng then started his acquisition in 1904, at when he named his studio Shuang Ou Ju. Two years later, Deng bought his first two Song prints, Qun Yu Ji and Bi Yun Ji. He then took one character from each book title, changed the studio name to Qun Bi Lou. Falling into financial destitute in 1927, Deng had no choice but to sell off the collections in Qun Bi Lou, and his studio was again renamed as Han Shou Shan Fang.
This exhibition is divided into 12 sections, namely: 1. Deng Bangshu Collection, 2. Qun Bi Lou, San Li An, Pi Yu Yun Zhai, 3. Journey to the Library, 4. Song Block-printed Editions, 5. Yuan Block-printed Editions, 6. Ming Block-printed Editions, 7. Jiajing Block-printed Editions, 8. Manuscripts, 9. Hand-copied Editions, 10. Siku Editions, 11. Handwritten Colophons, 12. Connoisseurship and Collection Seals. Through the showcased items, readers will be able to fully understand the history of Deng Bangshu’s collection, as well as how rare books are appreciated and passed down through time.
01 Deng Bangshu Collection
Deng Bangshu (1868-1939), courtesy name Xiaoxian, sobriquet Zhengan and Qunbiweng, was born in Jiangning, Jiangsu province. He received his jinshi title in 1898 and had held several positions in the Qing dynasty, such as Junior Compiler of the Hanlin Academy and Provincial Administration Commissioner of Jilin. During the Republican era, he served as Salt Distribution Commissioner of the Three Northeastern Provinces and later Senator in the Anfu Congress. Shuang Ou Ju, Qun Bi Lou, Bai Jing Zhai and Han Shou Shan Fang were all names he gave to his studios. His literary works included Qun Bi Lou Shi Chao, Ou Meng Ci and Zhui Yu Yin. He also compiled catalogues for his collections, namely Shuang Ou Ju Cang Shu Mu Chu Bian, Qun Bi Lou Shu Mu Chu Bian, Qun Bi Lou Shan Ben Shu Lu and Han Shou Shan Fang Yu Cun Shan Ben Shu Mu.
In 1906, when he acquired the Song edition of Qun Yu Ji and Bi Yun Ji, Deng completed his first manuscript catalogue, Shuang Ou Ju Cang Shu Mu Chu Bian, within which he catalogued his collection of Song-Yuan editions, Ming editions, other hand-copied editions, and Qing woodblock editions. He then began to expand his collections. In Qun Bi Lou Shu Mu Chu Bian, published in 1911, Deng excluded Qing woodblock editions and set up a special volume on Jiajing woodblock editions to highlight the splendid editing, fine quality and unique style of books printed in the Jiajing reign of the Ming dynasty.
In 1927, facing serious financial difficulties, Deng had to sell off most of his rare books to the newly established Ministry of Education (Daxue Yuan), including Qun Yu Ji, Bi Yun Ji and Pi Sha Ji with which he was planning to take into grave. As he believed that the new owners of his books would better know the history and condition of his rare collections if there was a catalogue and since he had already written many colophons for these collections, he decided to compile two annotated catalogues: Qun Bi Lou Shan Ben Shu Lu for his entire old collection and Han Shou Shan Fang Yu Cun Shan Ben Shu Mu for the books he managed to keep after the sale.He did this in the hope that the enormous efforts he put on collation would not go to waste and the other antiquarians could evaluate his merits on this ground.
The books sold off by Deng, now housed in the Fu Ssu-nien Library of the Institute of History and Philology, were mostly Ming woodblock editions and revised hand-copied editions, with a majority of them being works of literary anthologies. Deng also focused on gathering Song-Yuan editions. More than two thirds of the Song and Yuan rare books in the Library are from Deng. Amongst these collections, 57 seal imprints were affixed by Deng himself. These included seals of his personal names, studio names and proofs of collation, which are all common practices among collectors. (Tang Man-yuan)
02 Qun Bi Lou, San Li An, Pi Yu Yun Zhai
Qun Bi Lou was the name of Deng Bangshu’s library, and it was also alternatively known as San Li An and Pi Yu Yun Zhai.
In 1905, prior to Deng’s departure for a diplomatic voyage to Europe and the United States with Duan Fang (1861-1911), Liu Rongcun, a bookseller, offered him a deal on two Song shupeng editions, Li Qunyu’s Qun Yu Ji and Li Zhong’s Bi Yun Ji, both owned previously by Huang Pilie (1763-1825). However, the deal did not go through, for the time was too rush for Deng to consider it further. Later the next year, Deng returned home and bought both books at the price offered by Liu in appreciation of Liu’s patience in reserving the books for him.Since then, Deng named his library Qun Bi Lou and also carved a seal with this name.
In 1911, Fu Zengxiang (1872-1949) bought a Song shupeng edition of Li Xianyong’s Pi Sha Ji, which was brought back from Japan by Yang Shoujing (1839-1915), and then he transferred the book to Zhang Yuanji’s (1867-1959) Han Fen Lou library. Being informed the news about Pi Sha Ji, Deng decided to make it his own collection so that the three books authored by three Li could be united. His wish was fulfilled at last with the help of Fu Zengxiang’s recommendation letter. Thus, he claimed, “the term ‘The Three Li’s’ is my own invention and it proves that my collection is better than my predecessor’s.” Since the authorship of Pi Sha Ji was identified to be earlier than that of Qun Yu Ji, Deng carved a seal with the inscription of Pi Yu Yun Zhai to commemorate this fortunate occasion and was rather contented that he had exceeded Huang Pilie’s collection with the inscription of Bi Yun Qun Yu Zhi Ju.
Shupeng (literally meaning bookshelf) edition refers to the Southern Song editions published in Lin’an, Southern Song’s capital, by the bookshop opened by Chen Qi and his son, and often had the typical one-line colophon from the publisher, either being “Printed by the bookstore of Cheng’s residence on Pengbei Avenue in Lin’an Fu” or “Printed by the bookstore at Cheng Jieyuan’s residence located at the south of Muqin Fang district on Pengbei Avenue in Lin’an Fu”.Shupeng editions play an important part in the history of publishing in ancient China, and most of them were of poetry and prose collections from the Tang and Song dynasties.Being the earliest of their kind known so far, these three rarities have been designated by the Ministry of Culture as Significant Antiquities. (Tang Man-yuan)
03 Journey to the Library
In the beginning of the Republican era, Deng did not succeed in his official career as he did in the Qing dynasty. Falling into financial destitute, he had no choice but to sell off his collections, and his interest in book collection went down significantly. In 1927, Deng publicly announced his decision in selling off his collection of rare books by distributing Deng Shi Suo Cang Shang Ben Shu Mu, a book sale flyer listing books he intended to sell. In his Xin Hai Yi Lai Cang Shu Ji Shi Shi, Lun Ming (1875-1944) once lamented for Deng, “Spending half of his life as a bureaucrat but ending up not saving a penny because of books, yet the books were at last also gone with the debts”, which perfectly illustrated Deng’s passion about collecting rare books and reflected how he felt when he had to forgo his books.
When the news of sale came out, Zhang Yuanji (1867-1959) was deeply regretting for not being able to keep Lu Xingyuan’s (1834-1894) Bi Song Lou collection in China. Therefore, Zhang spared no effort, hoping to find a proper home for Deng’s collection. Zhang first tried to persuade Liang Qichao (1873-1929), hoping Liang would exert his influence on the National Peking Library. However, his efforts were in vain. He then turned to Cai Yuanpei (1868-1940) for help, who was then the President of Daxue Yuan (predecessor of the Ministry of Education), and finally they found a solution.
In June 1928, Daxue Yuan spent 55,000 dollars, under the title of “contingency expense”, to take over Deng’s Qun Bi Lou collection. In September, Daxue Yuan’s work on international publication exchange and its collection were transferred to the Central Office of Administration in Academia Sinica. In 1934, the Academia Sinica’s Bureau of International Exchange of Publications was planned to be transferred to the preparatory office of the National Central Library of Ministry of Education. Noting books such as Deng’s collections would have impact on the research work of the Institute of History and Philology, Fu Ssu-nien (1896-1950), then director of the institute, made a request to President Cai for keeping Deng’s collection in the institute’s library, and his request was then approved immediately. The addition of Deng’s collection remarkably enriched both the quality and quantity of the IHP library’s rare book collections. (Tang Man-yuan)
04 Song Block-printed Editions
Thanks to the established technologies of engraving, printing and papermaking, as well as the highly-developed culture, art and economics at that time, the block-printing industry thrived in the Song dynasty, which then promoted the massive circulation of books and the dispersal of culture. The attributes, such as the calligraphy, carving, paper, ink and binding, of a Song printed book are in themselves worth appreciating and of significant aesthetic values. With the gradual perishing of the originals, the literati were more and more interested in the Song editions.
Deng Bangshu began to collect Song-Yuan rare books in 1906, and within that year he had already acquired twelve such titles, including Li Fu Kan Wu. According to Deng, the then price of a Song edition “was no higher than that of a Ming edition printed in the Chenghua and Hongchi reigns.” From the records in Qun Bi Lou Shu Mu Chu Bian, the number of Song editions in Deng’s collections went up to 32 titles by 1911. He did not give up investigating Song editions in his difficult time during the Republican era, even though he began to experience financial constraints while the price of Song editions soared almost to heaven. According to his own catalogues Qun Bi Lou Shan Ben Shu Lu and Han Shou Shan Fang Yu Cun Shan Ben Shu Mu, by 1930 the number of Song editions in his collection even further rose to 45. Most of the Song editions recorded in Shu Lu are now housed in the Fu Ssu-nien Library.
This section introduces four precious Song woodblock editions. 1) Shuo Yuan, published by Zhenjiang Prefectural School (Fu Hsueh) in 1265 and later revised in the Yuan-Ming period. Its later editions in the Yuan, Ming and Qing were greatly influenced by this Song edition. 2) Li Fu Kan Wu, a volume from Bai Chuan Xue Hai, the earliest existing Chinese book series, is showcased next. This was one of Deng’s earliest Song edition collections. 3) Da Xue Zhang Ju, a book with finely carved blockprints and relatively error-free contents. Its only existing copy is housed here at the Fu Ssu-nien Library. 4) Yi Shou, in which plenty of lost texts of the lost books before the Song are preserved. For instance, there are 35 articles from the now-lost Yi Jian Zhi. (Tseng Kuan-hsiung)
05 Yuan Block-printed Editions
As many of the bookshops and woodblock artisans of the Southern Song continued their business in the early years of the Yuan dynasty, Yuan block-printed editions, especially those published in the Jiangnan area, showed strong resemblances to the books from the Southern Song period. People were therefore often mistaken in identifying between books from these two periods. The Yuan edition gradually showed its own attributes over time, namely having more black margins, using more Zhao Mengfu fonts, showing less taboo against the Emperor’s names and lastly, more frequent usage of vulgar and common characters.
Deng Bangshu claimed to begin collecting Song-Yuan editions in 1906, the year when he returned to the capital city of Peking. From the records in Shuang Ou Ju Cang Shu Mu Chu Bian, Deng devoted entirely to gathering books, so in just one year he had acquired twelve Song-Yuan editions.The years between 1906 and 1911 were the heyday of his quest in collecting Song-Yuan editions, during which time his collection of Yuan editions went up to 65 titles, as shown in Qun Bi Lou Shu Mu Chu Bian. Following the birth of the new Republic, he started to sell books to make ends meet. According to the records in both Qun Bi Lou Shan Ben Shu Lu and Han Shou Shan Fang Yu Cun Shan Ben Shu Mu, by 1930 only 45 titles of Yuan editions were left in his collection. Most of the Yuan editions recorded in Shu Lu are now housed in the Fu Ssu-nien Library, though some of these have now been dated differently.
This section features four rare Yuan editions. 1) Chong Kan Chao Shi Chu Bing Yuan Hou Zong Lun, the earliest existing monograph of Chinese medicine on the causes and symptoms of the diseases. This book is well preserved, showing exquisite binding and clear ink. 2) Xin Bian Zheng Lei Tu Zhu Ben Cao, a medical work collated on the basis of the abridged Jing Shi Zheng Lei Da Guan Ben Cao and added with excerpts from Ben Cao Yian Yi for easier reference. 3) Yu Zhang Luo Xian Sheng Wen Ji, an anthology of Luo Congyan (1072-1135), a key Confucian figure in the southward transmission of Neo-Confucianism. This is the essential ancestral edition of Lou’s works, from which most of the Ming-Qing editions were derived. 4) Zeng Ru Zhu Ru Yi Lun Du Shi Tong Dian Xiang Jie, a reference book for the imperial examination in the Southern Song, with quotations from and references to works by Ouyang Xiu (1007-1072) and 31 other prominent scholars in the Song dynasty. The originals of some of these works are now lost and their contents can only be found through this book instead. (Tseng Kuan-hsiung)
06 Ming Block-printed Editions
In every one of his catalogues from the different periods, Deng Bangshu had always compiled special volumes for the Ming block-printed editions; however, his Ming collection varied between periods. His Qun Bi Lou Shu Mu Chu Bian, published in 1911, only listed books published during the pre-Jiajing, Wanli and Longqing periods, while none from the Tianqi and Chongzhen reigns were included. He pronounced then that “the Tianqi and Chongzhen editions are excluded because of my fear that I would be scorned by my peers for accepting even the substandard works.” This was also the time when Deng enthusiastically engaged in acquiring ancient rare books for his library, and therefore, he was being quite selective and proud of his taste. However, in his later catalogues published in 1930, namely Qun Bi Lou Shan Ben Shu Lu and Han Shou Shan Fang Yu Cun Shan Ben Shu Mu, Tianqi and Chongzhen editions were then included, which obviously was against Deng’s original intention.
In his Jin San Bai Nian Gu Ji Mu Lu Ju Yiao, Yen Zuozhi considered that the reason Deng had to include the less valuable Ming printed editions into his collection was that the Song and Yuan editions were extremely rare. This could be an important factor to Deng’s emphasis on his Ming collection, but it was also undeniable that he did think some finely printed Ming editions were surely worthy of appreciation.In the seventh chapter of his Qun Bi Lou Shu Mu Chu Bian, Deng said, “The printing style of Ming editions changes over time. When it was in the early period of the Ming, being right after the Yuan and still not far from the Song, the block-prints were often similar to the Song-Yuan editions. Some of the Ming publishers intentionally manufactured forgeries of the earlier editions by removing the prefaces, postscripts and colophons of their books and so it sometimes became difficult for the buyers to know the actual publishing date of these latter (Ming) editions.”
This section presents four rare Ming editions amongst Deng’s collection, namely Su Wen Zhong Gong Ji, Yang Ming Xian Sheng Wen Lu, Liang Jin Nan Bei Qi Tan and Jia Shu Zhai Gao. Su Wen Zhong Gong Ji, the earliest existing “catalogued and amalgamated edition” of the comprehensive collection of Su Shi’s (1037-1101) works, is one of the only two remaining copies of its kind in the world. Yang Ming Xian Sheng Wen Lu at the Fu Ssu-nien Library is the only known edition that is supplemented with Yang Ming Xian Sheng Yi Yian Lu and Ji Shang Cheng Yu, from which 82 quotes that had not been seen in the existing edition of Yangming’s quotations were recovered. Liang Jin Nan Bei Qi Tan housed at the library is the only complete edition known so far. Jia Shu Zhai Gao only exists in the Fu Ssu-nien Library according to the record. Its author was a member of the Wu family in Shangshan, one of the Hui merchants.He was also one of the major founders of the Zhuxi Society. (Tseng Kuan-hsiung)
07 Jiajing Block-printed Editions
Ming editions are usually unfaithful to the original works. The original contents could be meddled or even made over, with false adding or omission. Only books published in the Jiajing period were mostly printed inheriting the font and format of the Song-Yuan editions and accordingly kept the essential style of the Song-Yuan imprints. In his Jin Dai Cang Shu San Shi Jia (30 Contemporary Bibliophiles), Su Jing said, “As the Song-Yuan editions are so rare and hard to be acquired, bibliophiles would collect Ming editions but would especially prefer the Jiajing editions.”
Deng Bangshu, as one of the many Jiajing edition lovers among modern bibliophiles, carved a seal with the inscription of “Bai Jing Zhai”, setting his goal to accumulate one hundred titles of the Jiajing editions. He once said that he prefers collecting Jiajing editions and would like to imprint his seals of “Bai Jing Zhai” and “Qun Bi Lou” on them, hoping that some decades later other collectors would remember the stories about him and his books. Moreover, Deng set up a single volume titled “Jiajing block-printed editions” in every one of his catalogues. In Qun Bi Lou Shu Mu Chu Bian, he said, “The Jiajing editions were all finely printed rarities. Although not being as refined as the Song editions, which were noted for using Ouyang Xun and Yu Shinan’s font style, they were stylish per se and outstanding from others.” He also said that his fond of Jiajing editions easily resulted in a collection of more than one hundred titles, and so a space entitled “Bai Jing Zhai” was made to store them. Deng was so passionate about Jiajing editions that he continued purchasing them even when he could barely afford his own living.In 1921, he bought Nan Tang Shu and said, “These six books are worth a hundred taels of gold in the old times. After holding them in my hands for a whole day, I feel like buying them no matter how much they cost, as they further refine my Bai Jing Zhai collection.”
This section presents four Jiajing editions, including Bai Hu Tong De Lun, Xiao Xue Ju Dou, Ying Jiang Man Gao and Fang Shan Xian Sheng Wen Lu. The Bai Hu Tong De Lun showcased here, published by Fu Yiao in 1522, is of the earliest and also a more widely available Ming edition of the book. Fu Ssu-nien Library’s copy of Xiao Xue Ju Dou and Ying Jiang Man Gao displayed here are both the world’s only remaining copy. Compared with the books of the same edition housed in other libraries, Fu Ssu-nien Library’s Fang Shan Xian Sheng Wen Lu shows two distinguishing features: being the first printed edition (chu yin ben) and being printed on the papers of official document (gong du zhi yin ben). The printed scripts were clearer in the chu yin ben than those in the subsequent editions, since this was when the woodblock was freshly made and first used. Gong du zhi was usually thicker than papers sold in the market, and that was the main reason why the ancients used the backside of these papers for printing other books. Gong du zhi yin ben also shows that ancient people's spirit of economizing resources and environmental protection. (Tseng Kuan-hsiung)
Manuscripts refer to unpublished drafts written by authors, and generally can be divided into several kinds: 1) drafts in author’s handwriting with traces of corrections, which also maintained the earliest and the most original look; 2) fair copies transcribed either by the authors or by others, where the authors’ emendations are commonly seen; 3) transcript copies for collating purpose before actual publishing (in Chinese: jiao yang gao or xie yang ben), often hand-copied in the format, layout, and fonts of the final version.
The manuscripts are the first-hand materials by the authors, so that the value of them is obvious. Unpublished manuscripts are precious for their own rarity, while those with published editions are valuable as well. Besides of being antiquities, manuscripts can also be utilized in textual criticism to compare against the errors in later printed editions, as contents of the two may vary. It also helps us, sometimes, to better understand the thoughts of the author by comparing the differences between the manuscripts and the published editions.
This section presents four manuscripts, including Li Men Tan Zhui collated by Chen Zhishen (1588-1671), Er Shi Yi Shi Tan Ci Ji Zhu collated and annotated by Sun Dewei, Yu Tai Guang Yong collated by Zhu Ermai (1632-1693) and Ban Guan Shi Ji authored by Jiang Tinghong (1663-1729). Corrections and collation marks written in red and black inks can be seen throughout these manuscripts. Each had on its leaves a private seal of the respective author and collection seals of renowned bibliophiles. (Lai Hui-chuan)
09 Hand-copied Editions
Hand-copied editions refer to books copied by hand. By the end of the Tang dynasty, books were produced and circulated in the form of handwritten copies. With the spread of the block printing, hand-copying was getting replaced by woodblocks, though the hand-copied books were still large in number. Due to the lack of financial resource or the exceedingly large amount of the volumes, some works had never been printed, only circulating with hand-copied editions.In some cases, books would be circulated with both block-printed and hand-copied editions, because the hand-copied edition was distributed first before the printed one was made available.Sometimes, it was because the printed edition was unable to be acquired so that bibliophiles had to transcribe the book from others.
There is generally a base text for copying or collating. The quality of a hand-copied edition is determined by the choosing of the base text and the calligraphy of the copyist. Finely copied and carefully collated texts are called accurate hand-copied editions (jing chao ben). Facsimile copies of rare books made with the original format and layout are called traced editions (ying chao ben). Hand-copied editions that were accurately transcribed and finely proofread had always been treasured by bibliophiles. Some books were so rare and hard to procure that duplicates were to be made for the sake of collecting. A jing chao ben would be exceptionally valuable if it was transcribed by renowned scholars, especially if it also came with the bibliophile’s marks of the collating, colophons and seal imprints on the leaves. In some cases, the editions hand-copied on the basis of Song-Yuan rare editions, and their contents were more accurate and complete than the printed editions that were made available later, would be deemed by scholars as precious editions for textual criticism.
This section features four items, which are: Wang Su Min Gong Ji, Ming edition, authored by Wang Tingxiang (1474-1544); Li Du Shi Tong, Qing edition, commented and annotated by Hu Zhenheng (1569-1645); Shang Han Lun Ji Zhu, Qing edition, annotated by Wu Qian (1689-1748). All these three above are rare and precious handwritten copies. The fourth item, being titled Tai Cang Ti Mi Ji Hou Ji and put on with a compiler’s name Zou Zizhi (1082-1155), is an example of forgery. Its real identity should have been Huang Yuan Feng Ya Hou Ji, a book compiled by Sun Cunwu in the Yuan dynasty. (Lai Hui-chuan)
10 Siku Editions
The Imperial compilation project of Siku Quanshu was launched and accomplished in the reign of Emperor Gaozong (1711-1799), undergoing several setbacks from the beginning and during the process. At first, the imperial edict of collecting lost ancient books was announced in 1772. Liu Yong (1719-1805) and his colleagues were commissioned to look through, record and sort all master copies submitted by the provinces. These books, totaling to 13,501 titles, were collectively referred to as Siku jin cheng ben or Siku cai jin ben, and were either purchased by the provincial officials, hand-copied from old texts or submitted to the emperor by their owners. These jin cheng books and the other books from the Imperial Household Department’s collection deemed to be transcribed and included into Siku Quanshu, together made up more than 3,500 titles, and were called Siku di ben, literally meaning source texts for Siku Quanshu.
On the first leaf of every Siku jin cheng ben, there must have been affixed either one or both official seals of Hanlin Yuan yin (Seal of Hanlin Academy) and Hanlin Yuan Dianbu Ting guanfang (Seal of Archive in Hanlin Academy) in Chinese-Manchu bilingual form. A colophon was also affixed on the front cover, keeping records of “what book of how many volumes, stored by whom, submitted by whom (some viceroy, salt commissioner, or provincial education commissioner), on what date in the reign of Qianlong”. On Siku di ben, the Siku Institute collator’s traces of emendation could be seen, and notes affixed with the responsible collator’s or transcriber’s imprints or signatures were also added.
As it was originally planned, Siku jin cheng ben should have all been returned to the owners upon the completion of the Siku Quanshu, but due to various reasons, only some 390 titles were returned. Due to a lack of proper management, followed by the destruction brought by the subsequent Eight-Nation Alliance, the rest of the remaining jin cheng ben unfortunately were now mostly lost. It is reported that only some 300 titles of Siku jin cheng ben are still available today, of which 24 titles, 10 of them being Siku di ben, are now housed in the Fu Ssu-nien Library. Er Miao Ji, Mo An An Xian Sheng Wen Ji, Zheng An Xian Sheng Cun Gao, Sheng Song Wen Xuan Quan Ji and Chen Ke Zhai Xian Sheng Ji at Fu Ssu-nien Library are five Siku jin cheng ben acquired from Deng Bangshu collection, with the first three being Siku di ben.
Wenyuan 文淵 Library copy was the first hand-copied edition of Siku Quanshu, and later the six other copies, namely Wensu, Wenyuan 文源, Wenjin, Wenzong, Wenhui, and Wenlan Library.The copies at Wenyuan 文源, Wenzong and Wenhui are now completely lost, and so is the majority of the Wenlan copy, of which only one fourth remains available today. Dong Mou Ji, showcased in this section, is one of the remained volumes of the Wenlan copy. Zhu You Ji and Wen Zhong Ji, both hand-copied by Deng Bangshu from the Wensu copy when he was a government official in northeastern provinces, interestingly have quite some contents that are not seen in the other Siku Quanshu copies. (Tseng Kuan-hsiung)
11 Handwritten Colophons
Handwritten colophons usually refer to words written on the front or back endpapers of a book. Words written on the front endpapers are called ti, while the ones written on the back endpapers are called ba. Sometimes, there are colophons written elsewhere on the leaves of the book. The writers may be the author himself or his colleagues, but also may be the collectors or the readers.
Contents of colophons vary, ranging from merely records of how the book was procured and the lineage of ownership, a reader’s thoughts and feedbacks, to attempts of authenticating, collating, and evaluating the book. Instead of bibliographical information and textual contents, some writers may record the dates, locations, and prices of purchasing, and also may jot down their daily life events, such as the weather, social trends, and personal matters. Others may leave words with deliberation to show their gratitude for being invited to look at the precious rarity.
Colophons as such are certainly valuable sources for studying the texts or the writer’s academic thoughts and life experiences. Huang Pilie, for instance, was noted for his erudition in bibliological knowledge and anecdotes of the books, so that Huang ba, a term that is named in recognition of the high quality of his colophons, became an important indicator for authentication. Several Huang ba could be seen, for example, in the copies of Qun Yu Ji and Bi Yun Ji housed here at the Fu Ssu-nien Library. In the history of book collecting, it was also not unusual for a book without significant value in its contents and editions became worthy of appreciation only because renowned individuals had left their handwritten colophons on them. Indeed, colophons could add values to the books, but this also gave a reason to forgeries. Thus careful attention has to be paid in examining colophons.Sometimes, unintended misjudgments made by the predecessors might occur due to the limits of information and technology. Therefore, more awareness should be raised when citing those colophons.
This section features several handwritten colophons in four works, namely Lei Bian, Zi Zhi Tong Jian, Zhou Shi, and Shu Xue Hui Bian. Chen Fan’s colophons in Lei Bian explained why he transcribed the book. Wu Yichun’s (1808-?) colophons on the back matter of Zi Zhi Tong Jian recorded his reading schedule, the weather, his social engagement and the current situation at his time. In Zhou Shi, Deng Bangshu wrote a colophon that proved Qiushan, the transcriber's name, to be Sun Yun. In Shu Xue Hui Bian, there is a fabricated colophon given the name of Shen Tong (1688-1752) in the Qing, and a colophon wrote by Deng Bangshu, in which the date of the edition was mistaken by him from Ming to Song. (Tang Man-yuan)
12 Connoisseurship and Collection Seals
Ancient book collectors often stamp their private seals on their collections for the claim of ownership. These seals are generally called collection seals. Another kind of seals, stamped next to the signatures, notes of perusal, or colophons, is commonly seen as well. In that the seals carry multiple meanings as such, we use in this section “connoisseurship and collection seal” rather than “collection seal” to indicate the seals affixed on ancient books.
Connoisseurship and collection seals vary in shape, ranging from square, rectangle, round and oval, to the shape of a gourd, united-beads, ancient relics, or even in irregular shape. The forms of engraving are relief inscribed, intaglio inscribed and a mixture of the two. The engravings also come in different fonts, such as the oracle bone script, bronze inscription, seal script, clerical script, regular script, semi-cursive script, and cursive script. Personal names, studio names, proof of collecting and collating, experiences in the official career, as well as poetry and mottos, are common contents of the seal. In some cases, self-portraits are engraved.
Through the studies of seals, we can understand more about the whole story of the origin and the change of ownership of the ancient books, and this information can then be used to identify and date the books. Some of the imprints are even supplements to the particular individual’s biography, as they may carry critical information of the people.Moreover, seals carved by renowned engravers, being with high quality of engraving, are of values both in the art history and aesthetics.
There are many notable seals affixed on the rare books of the Qun Bi Lou collection, and we feature in this section several seals of such kind. First, there is Cao Qi’s seal with 133 characters of his advice to his descendants. Then, there are the seals carved by Lin Gao (1657-?), a renowned seal engraver in the early Qing, and seals of the Tien Lu Lin Lang collection owned by the Qing royals. Lastly, there are Yao Yuanzhi’s (?-1852) seals with his personal names and a resume of his official career. (Tang Man-yuan)