February 1, 2012

The Great Ming Gazetteer of Xinghua Prefecture

This manuscript edition of the gazetteer of Xinghua Prefecture, Fujian Province, is in 54 juan in 12 volumes. It was compiled jointly by Zhou Ying (1430–1518) and Huang Zhongzhao (1435–1508), both from Fujian. Xinghua became a prefecture in the second year (1369) of the reign of the first Ming emperor, Hongwu. The town with its seaport was important for the local economy and overseas trade. Both Zhou Ying and Huang Zhongzhao received the prestigious jin shi (doctoral degree). A follower of Zhu Xi’s Neo-Confucianism, Zhou Ying held various official positions for many years, including serving as magistrate of several prefectures and as provincial administrative commissioner of Sichuan. Huang Zhongzhao was the author of literary works, a member of the imperial Hanlin Academy, and was known as a writer of local histories. In 1501, Huang Zhongzhao was invited by Chen Xiao, the then-magistrate of Xinghua Prefecture, to join Zhou Ying in compiling this gazetteer, but Huang died soon after completing the part on local personalities. The work was organized in six parts, following the six government administrative divisions of civil office, revenue, rites, military, justice, and public works. The original edition no longer exists; it is believed to have been destroyed in a fire not long after its issuance. Thus the words chong xiu (new edition) were added to this Tian yi ge (Tianyi Pavilion Library) manuscript edition. It included the names of the two original editors, Zhang Yuanshen and Hong Yongshao, and of the two printers, Zhang Hao and Liu Chengqing. The two prefaces were written by Zhou Ying and by Chen Xiao, the magistrate of the prefecture. A postscript is dated 1503. As a gazetteer, it provides in-depth information on the history, geography, local economy, culture, language and dialects, biographies of notable people, and the administration of the prefecture as well as of Fujian Province.

Guide to the Great Siberian Railway

The 8,000-kilometer Trans-Siberian Railway linking Ekaterinburg in the Ural Mountains with the Pacific port of Vladivostok is the world’s longest railroad. Construction began in 1891 and was completed in 1916. By 1900, much of the line was finished and open for traffic. In that year, the Russian Ministry of Ways of Communication issued, in identical English and Russian editions, this illustrated guide to the railway. It includes a history of Siberia, an account of the construction, and a detailed listing of the towns and cities along the route.

Gulzar Calligraphic Panel

This calligraphic panel executed in black and red on a white ground decorated in gold contains a number of prayers (du'a's) directed to God, the Prophet Muhammad, and his son-in-law 'Ali. The letters of the larger words are executed in nasta'liq script and are filled with decorative motifs, animals, and human figures. This style of script, filled with various motifs, is called gulzar, which literally means 'rose garden' or 'full of flowers.' It usually is applied to the interior of inscriptions executed in nasta'liq, such as this one. The gulzar script was popular in Iran during the late 18th and 19th centuries. This piece, written by the calligrapher Husayn Zarrin Qalam ('Husayn of the Golden Pen') for Husayn Khan Sultan in 1797-98, dates from the early period of Qajar rule in Iran (1785-1925). All around the larger letters composed in the nasta'liq style and filled with motifs are smaller Shi'i prayers executed in a number of different scripts. These include thuluth, naskh, nasta'liq, shikasta, tawqi', and kufi. One inscription is even written in reverse, as if executed with the help of a mirror. The sheer variety of these scripts, along with the larger central gulzar composition, was intended to showcase Husayn Zarrin Qalam's mastery of the major calligraphic scripts.

Gusinoe Ozero (Town), Datsan, Main Temple (1858-70), West Facade, Gusinoe Ozero, Russia

This photograph of the main temple at the Gusinoozersk Buddhist monastery (datsan) was taken in 2000 by Dr. William Brumfield, American photographer and historian of Russian architecture, as part of the "Meeting of Frontiers" project at the Library of Congress. Located near Gusinoe Ozero (Goose lake) in the southwestern part of the Republic of Buriatiia (Russian Federation), the Gusinoozersk, or Tamchinskii, datsan was founded in the mid-18th century and in 1809 became the center of Buddhism in eastern Siberia, a position it held until 1930. In 1858 work began on a new main temple to replace the previous wooden temple dating from 1750. In a pattern typical for large Buddhist temples in this area, the main part was built of brick and the upper two stories of wood. The primary entrance (south façade) is contained within a portico with six large masonry columns. Although 1870 usually is given as the date of completion, work continued on the richly decorated interior until the end of the 19th century. As a result of the monastery's closure in the 1930s, the temple was ransacked, and its interior fell into ruin. The temple is now undergoing restoration as part of the revival of the Buddhist cultural and spiritual legacy in Buriatiia.

A Modern Depiction of Ireland, One of the British Isles

Abraham Ortelius (1527-98) was a Flemish engraver and businessman who traveled widely to pursue his commercial interests. In 1560 he became interested in scientific geography during a voyage with Gerardus Mercator. Ortelius’s major work, Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theater of the world), was published in Antwerp in 1570, at the threshold of the golden age of Dutch cartography. Theatrum presented the world in its component parts and reflected an age of exploration, broadened commercial connections, and scientific inquiry. Now considered the world’s first atlas, the original Theatrum was enhanced by frequent updates and reprintings to incorporate the latest scientific and geographical information. Ortelius’s map of Ireland shown here exemplifies the most modern mapmaking techniques of the period: precise geographic detail, beautifully rendered topographical symbols, and an abundance of place names. Significant landholdings are represented by renderings of estate buildings.

His Excellency: George Washington Esq: L.L.D. Late Commander in Chief of the Armies of the U.S. of America and President of the Convention of 1787

In 1787, the confederation of the 13 American states was descending into disarray. The coffers were empty, New York and New Jersey were in a dispute over duties charged on goods crossing state lines, farmers in Massachusetts were rebelling, and Spain and Britain were encroaching on American territories in the west. The Federal Convention was called to address the problems of governing the young republic under the existing Articles of Confederation. The convention responded by framing the document that became the United States Constitution. The convention delegates elected George Washington, the hero of the Revolutionary War, to be the convention's president. The artist Charles Willson Peale decided to use the convention to sell printed engravings of a new portrait of the general as part of his portrait series of the authors of the Revolution. Peale’s previous attempts to sell prints of the nation’s leaders had proved disappointing and this one fared no better. Although it was not a commercial success, this portrait is considered historically important. Depicting the leader of a nation in crisis, it is one of the few portraits of Washington that bears no trace of a smile.