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Have you ever wanted to chop up a bunch of ancient books? In 1928, George M.L. Brown cut up a bunch of rare manuscripts from Asia and published them into a book, which was just a box of folders containing scattered pages. He called this book, Specimens of Oriental Manuscripts. This research uses Brown and Specimens of Oriental Manuscripts to explore the history of “Orientalism,” examining how traces of Brown’s racist views of these specimens and their origins are left behind, both in his introductory descriptions and the treatment of the manuscripts. This project also compares Brown and this book with other instances of infamous “book breaking,” exploring the tension between making a rare book accessible to many people and the entitlement of sellers who feel they have the power to destroy Asian rare books in the name of education. Ultimately, this research hopes to provide a better understanding of the complexities of these debates and the histories behind this book.



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The Controversies of Specimens of Oriental Manuscripts