concept to publication

Category: asian.culture

Seven Junipers

It’s premature to announce this but I’m impatient so I’ll go ahead and do it anyway. The empire is expanding with another website/blog. It’s, and it will be my place for comment on Asian art and culture.

The title alludes to the seven junipers of Zhidao Guan, a Taoist temple in the city of Changshu in China’s Yangzi delta, as well as to a famous 16th-century painting of them by Wen Zhengming. The junipers, which apparently still stand on the site, were planted in the year 500. For more on the significance of the seven junipers, see the site’s “about” page.

Some of my Asian material is among the most popular on this website, including pages on Taoism, Chinese jades, and the Daode jing, for example. I confess I do hesitate a bit to move pages that are drawing a lot of traffic, so I might proceed cautiously — but sooner or later I expect to move all of this material over to 7 junipers.

Book Design: Persian Ceramics

I’m in the beginning stages of designing a new book about Persian ceramics. It will be a small book (for an art book), at 9.5 x 10 inches the closest to square I have ever done. This is the proportion known as the “turned pentagram” because it is the shape of a rectangle drawn around the five corners of an equal-sided pentagram. I still have a bunch of work to do, but an essay spread will probably look something like this:

persian ceramics essay spread

For entry pages I’m planning on putting the tombstone information at the bottom facing the large recto images. The chat retains the decorative initial (from the Poetica font set; the main text is a form of Garamond). Does this look okay?

persian ceramics entry spread

Here are the underlying page guides. The magenta area is the main text block — a four column block, although I may only use two columns for text.

persian ceramics design guides

The cover would use the same page design elements.

persian ceramics cover

Here’s a closer view of the type treatment.

title type treatment

Again, this is all a little preliminary, but it reflects my plans at this stage. I am trying, of course, to match the design to the content. You may be able to see from the first couple of spreads the sort of proportions that are typical of Persian ceramics. If anyone has any suggestions I would be happy to hear them.

Bertelsmann continues to expand

Bertelsmann is continuing its quest to be the print version of Google and control all the world’s paper-based information (all of it that’s profitable, that is) by expanding into China. It see China potentially generating 10 percent of its global sales revenue.

Pandas Are Getting into Publishing

pandas by tom

Publishers have been accused of pandering to an ignorant public. The time has come to panda to them instead. And researchers at a giant panda reserve in southern China are helping to make it happen.

The thing about giant pandas is they’re not just cute they’re also big. And they eat a lot of bamboo. Enough to produce about a hundred pounds of dung daily. That will fertilize a pretty big bamboo grove, which will support more pandas, which …. Anyway, I image the panda reserve researchers were getting a little tired of pulling on their hip boots every time they headed into the grove.

That’s where the story comes back to publishing. They are turning the panda poop into “high-quality paper.” In fact, according to Liu Jun, a researcher at the Chengdu Giant Panda Breeding Base in Sichuan province, the panda poop should be even better for making paper than elephant dung.

So soon you may be able to help to save the environment by buying books printed on panda dung. And help those idlers the pandas to be gainfully employed.


(panda drawing by tom)

From Manuscript to Finished Art Book in Four Weeks

MASTER OF BAMBOO coverI’m writing this from yet another press check. Yes, I put this 144-page full-color, complicated art book together in a single month. I received materials in January and I’ll have finished books next week.

While the speed of this job is remarkable (museum art books often take a year or more to put together), what I wanted to talk about was the design of the book. In the spaces between checking forms here at the plant, I’ve put together an overview of the book’s elements and their design. (This is a fairly extensive piece.) Check it out!

(BTW, I’m too tired of this to give it another round of proofing. Please let me know if you find broken links, missing images, typos, etc.)

Disrespecting Asia?

Are the San Francisco travel guide books dissing Asia?

That’s what Frisco Vista says.

The Indonesian Curse Is Working

Ki Gendeng Pamungkas

I don’t know much about Ki Gendeng Pamungkas’s curse on GWB, except that it required the blood of a snake, a goat, and a crow and, according to the shaman, “will make him bloat like broccoli.” The image (from the Daily Kos) shows Ki Gendeng Pamungkas drinking sheep’s blood during an anti-Bush rally.

But I can report this: In Buenos Aires first daughter Barbara Bush had her purse and cell phone snatched at a restaurant, despite being guarded by a contingent of Secret Service agents at the time. And, in a separate incident, once of the agents got mugged. Plus, the director of the White House travel office was robbed in a nightclub.

Meanwhile, in Honolulu, three of the Uniter’s motorcyble escorts were involved in an accident at Hickam Air Force Base, and two were transported by ambulance to Queen’s medical center.

Bush and blood: maybe there’s some potent connection there after all.

It’s official

There’s no internet censorship in China. A Chinese official, at a United Nations internet summit in Athens, explained:

I don’t think we should be using different standards to judge China. In China, we don’t have software blocking Internet sites. Sometimes we have trouble accessing them. But that’s a different problem. I know that some colleagues listen to the BBC in their offices from the Webcast. And I’ve heard people say that the BBC is not available in China or that it’s blocked. I’m sure I don’t know why people say this kind of thing. We do not have restrictions at all.

So this is, I guess, a mirage. And that study by researchers at Harvard Law School that found 19,032 Web sites that were inaccessible inside China? All caused, apparently, by temporary server failures.

Comments on “Gutenberg and the Koreans”

I’ve posted, in beta, my new essay on Asian influences on European printing. This essay is intended for print, but I’d like to get some feedback from knowledgable folks first (or even afterwards, for that matter). So this is the space for that. This was a pretty big project, so I hope someone might want to comment.

Some rights reserved 2021 Right Reading. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons (attribution, noncommercial, no derivs: 3.0) License (US), although some of the work this blog incorporates may be separately licensed. Text and images by Thomas Christensen unless otherwise noted. For print permissions or other inquiries please request via