Vietnam Documented: The British Library’s Vietnamese Collection
Vietnam has a strong literary and book culture that reflects a deep-seated Confucian influence, but which has remained important through the 20th century and up until today. Vietnamese books, documents and manuscripts in the collection of the British Library give a window on to that rich heritage, and represent key incidents in Vietnamese social, cultural and political history. They also highlight the visual sophistication of Vietnamese design, drawing on Chinese models, French art deco stylings that shaped the growth of modern design education in Vietnam, and the influence of socialist styles in art and design. This engaging, fully-illustrated book introduces us to Vietnam's design, literary and book history, through the window of the British Library collection, with an informative text by the long-time curator of the Vietnamese collection, Sud Chonchirdsin.
Among the earliest documents in the Library's collection are a 17th-century royal letter to the English East India Company, and two royal edicts of Emperor Cảnh Thịnh (r. 1792–1802) to Britain's Lord McCartney. Other highlights include a travel diary of a member of one of the last of Vietnam's tribute missions to the Imperial court in China (1880), and a beautifully illustrated manuscript of the classic Tale of Kiều. French colonial efforts to codify knowledge of their protectorate are well represented. But the strength of the collection lies in materials collected during the Vietnam's 20th century struggle for independence, with newspapers, books and magazines – including rare periodicals from North Vietnam – showing how artists were mobilized in wartime, by all sides of the conflict, to form the visual narratives of struggle. This highly accessible, full-colour introduction to an under-appreciated design heritage is welcome view into a rich culture.
Sud Chonchirdsin received his PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, and taught Vietnamese history and language at Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok. He then taught Thai language at SOAS and from 2005 also served as Curator for Vietnamese at the British Library, until retiring in 2019.
Publication Year: 2023
136pp / 255 x 190mm
80 full colour images
Published with the British Library