RAS Lecture

RAS Library

Virtue by Design: Collecting Images in China and Japan

Speaker: Don Cohn

China’s opening to the world in the 1980s spawned the rebirth of flea markets and the trade in Old Things of every kind, from ancient tomb jade to recently minted Mao badges. Used books and not-so-vintage posters and other forms of printed matter were a modest category in this vast Olde China Shoppe.

Don Cohn will tell the story of this unfolding market for print matter in China, as it moved from nearly naught to great sophistication. He will touch on individuals who evolved from scrap dealers to knowledgeable bibliophiles and others who bought up primary school libraries. He will discuss how it was possible to accumulate an archive of several thousand items devoted to Manchukuo, and another one documenting Chinese hygiene in the 1950s and 1960s. And he’ll show pictures of some of the treasures he found.

Don Cohn has lived and worked in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan for 30 years. Following a brief career as an oboist in New York and Taipei, he worked at the Foreign Language Press in Beijing, Chinese University in Hong Kong, Auckland University, and the Far Eastern Economic Review in Hong Kong. He has translated works of Chinese fiction and non-fiction. As a dealer, Don has sold collections of Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese and Tibetan materials to Harvard, Columbia, Michigan, The Library of Congress, The National Library of Medicine and private collectors.

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