Bookplate Beauty & the Naxi

J F Rock Bookplate

This gorgeous bookplate (with embossed Chinese characters) decorates the inside cover of a copy of The Mikirs, a 1908 book by Edward Stack, held at the University of Washington Libraries. Was the original owner of this book the fascinating and famed geographer, linguist, and botanist Joseph F. Rock? Seems likely.

Rock, born in Austria in 1884, emigrated to Hawaii to work at the university there; he was the territory of Hawaii’s first official botanist. Later, he traveled extensively in western China southeast Asia, making significant contributions to scholarship on the flora and languages of those areas (interesting sites on this here and here). He also published several articles on his expeditions in National Geographic.

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EDIT: Reading more about Joseph Rock, I see he spent more than 2 decades among the Naxi people in Yunnan, documenting their customs and learning their language. The written language looks fascinating and complex–mostly pictographic. What I took for personal drawings in the bookplate above are actually elements of that language. The Library of Congress site has an interesting article, Living Pictographs, that talks about the state of the Nakhi language and manuscripts (LC holds some that belonged to Rock) and  scholars’ efforts to further document and preserve it.

The Mikirs

Sarah Orne Jewett and the First Salt Wind from the East

The hurry of life in a large town, the constant putting aside of preference to yield to a most unsatisfactory activity, began to vex me, and one day I took the train, and only left it for the eastward-bound boat. Carlyle says somewhere that the only happiness a man ought to ask for is happiness enough to get his work done; and against this the complexity and futile ingenuity of social life seems a conspiracy. But the first salt wind from the east, the first sight of a lighthouse set boldly on its outer rock, the flash of a gull, the waiting procession of seaward-bound firs on an island, made me feel solid and definite again, instead of a poor, incoherent being. Life was resumed, and anxious living blew away as if it had not been. I could not breathe deep enough or long enough. It was a return to happiness.

This passage is from Sarah Orne Jewett’s Country of the Pointed Firs, a novella that gently conjures a vision of the women and men living along late-19th-century coastal Maine. Continue reading