Hokusai Illustration from Furyu gojunin isshu Isuzugawa kyokaguruma. Edo: Tsutaya Juzaburo, 1802.
rown, G. M. L. Oriental Collection. New York: Society of Foliophiles, 1928. Three leaves, 24 folders in box. 36 cm. Number 22 out of 120. Lacks introduction by G.M.L. Brown, and item #17 (Tibetan Buddhist manuscript) as well as its explanatory page. Insert: "Only one hundred and twenty of this Portfolio have been issued, which obviously ends the edition for all time.”
The Oriental Collection is a portfolio of Asian book and manuscript leaves that was compiled and sold by The Society of Foliophiles in 1928. The portfolio was issued in an edition of 120 copies, each of which contained 24 folders as well as a small box holding a Tibetan Buddhist Manuscript. With dates ranging from the 14th to the late 19th centuries, the set is composed of 28 manuscripts and 11 printed leaves, along with a dried specimen of a lotus plant in Folder 23.
Texas Tech University’s copy lacks the Tibetan Buddhist Manuscript (Item #17), although the folder is present. In addition, the G. M. L. Brown introduction is not present. However, the Special Collections & University Archives at the University of Iowa Libraries has kindly provided a copy.
The portfolio was the product of a group of New York book collectors who began to meet in the early to mid 1920’s to discuss various aspects of books and publishing. Attuned to the fact that the prices of rare and historical material often made complete copies beyond the means of most collectors, they decided to form a company to market original leaves of rare books and manuscripts from broken or otherwise damaged examples. They called themselves the Society of Foliophiles (“lovers of pages”).
From 1925 to 1928 the Foliophiles published at least five different portfolio sets, all with a particular focus. Three, Printed Pages from European Literature, Printed Pages from English Literature, and Specimens of Woodcuts and Engravings were made up of leaves from European sources. The remaining two, the Oriental Collection and Specimens of Oriental Mss. and Printing, contained Asian specimens.
The Oriental Collection is a type of a leaf book. Broadly defined, a leaf book is a publication that contains one or more pages from a rare and significant printed book or manuscript. It is accompanied by a text that gives details of the specimen and places it in its historic and cultural context. The practice is less popular now, due to increased sensitivity towards breaking up intact manuscripts and printed books.
Other Foliophile’s Portfolios
The Development of the Printed Page at the Irvin Department of Rare Books and Special Collections of the University of South Carolina comprises of 135 leaves scanned from the Foliophile portfolio History of the Written Word as well as 16 additional leaves.
The Caxton Club’s 2004 exhibit Disbound and Dispersed: The Leaf Book Considered.
An article on leaf books on the Fine Books and Collections Magazine’s site.
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