Books about Chinese Ceramics

Being around and collecting Ceramics is often about more then just the love for the object. It's the story the object tells us, the journey it went on. A Fingerprint of a person which story needs to be told. To understand the story of the object and to be able to place in the time it was made is part of the thrill of finding a treasure. There are a great selection of books which can help us to understand the history of the Porcelain.I would like to share some of the books I often use as a reference.

He who asks a question is a fool for five minutes.
He who does not asks a question remains a fool forever

- Chinese Proverb

Books about Blanc de Chine Porcelain

Introduction

The porcelain known in the West as Blanc de Chine was produced 300 miles south of the main Chinese kiln complex of Jingdezhen. The term refers to the fine grain white porcelain made at the kilns situated near Dehua in the coastal province of Fujian, these kilns also produced other types of porcelain. A rather freely painted blue and white ware, porcelain with brightly coloured `Swatow` type enamels as well as pieces with a brown iron-rich glaze. However it is the white blanc de Chine wares that have made these kilns famous. The quality and colour achieved by the Dehua potters was partly due to the local porcelain stone, it was unusually pure and was used without kaolin being added. This, combined with a low iron content and other chemical factors within the body as well as the glaze, enabled the potters to produce superb ivory-white porcelain.

Books

BLANC DE CHINE
Written by John Ayres / Richard Marchant.
Published by S.Marchant and Son, 2006

A very well produced catalogue of Marchant’s exhibition. Very good captions, large colour photographs. These are very good but against a very strong blue ground. There largest catalogue of Blanc de Chine, 120 pieces.
Highly Recommended

EXHIBITION OF BLANC DE CHINE
Forward D. S. Freedman.
Published by S.Marchant and Son, 1985.

A much smaller catalogue than Marchant’s excellent later ones but well worth having. Black and white with some colour photographs.
Recommended


BLANC DE CHINE: THE GREAT PORCELAIN OF DEHUA

Written by Robert H. Blumenfield
Published by Ten Speed Press, 2002.

A well illustrated book but I can not recommend it as I disagree with the dating of a large number of pieces shown.


WHITE GOLD

The influence and inspiration of Blanc de Chine porcelain on English and Continental porcelain.
Published by Ceramics and Glass Circle of Australia , 2004

An interesting catalogue comparing Blanc de Chine with it’s European imitators.
Recommended

EXHIBITION OF BLANC DE CHINE
Forward D. S. Freedman
Published by S.Marchant and Son, 1994

A very well produced catalogue of Marchant’s exhibition, 119 items shown. Very good captions, many pieces shown in good colour.
Recommended

 

BLANC DE CHINE
by P.J. Donnelly
Published by Faber and Faber 1969

The was the first book published about Blanc de Chine porcelain. A ground braking book with a lot of important information, however we can now see there are a lot of mistakes. Some pieces illustrated as being early Blanc de Chine are, in fact, late 19th/ 20th Century or not even Blanc de Chine at all, but later Japanese white porcelain. Many black and white illustrations. Hard back, sadly very expensive. This is a difficult book if you are not familiar with Blanc de Chine porcelain but despite it’s faults it is a very useful and interesting book.

Recommended with reservations.

Books about Shipwreck porcelain

Introduction

From a modern perspective, it is not easy fully to understand the terrible loss in terms of money, valuable resources and lives that the sinking of a single ship would cause. Each journey represented a very important financial commitment to the merchants involved. In a world without insurance and without rescue services, each journey was an all-or-nothing matter. If a ship sank, there would be few survivors and the remains of the passengers and crew, and some of their personal belongings together with an immensely valuable but now ruined cargo, would all be lying at the bottom of the sea.

For the last twenty years, I have been following the market in shipwreck ceramics with increasing interest. As in all markets there are highs and lows depending on fashion and availability. In this case there has been another factor and that is publicity.

Christie’s Auctioneers launched a huge advertising campaign to promote the sale of the Nanking Cargo. Shipwreck ceramics became the “must have” for ceramic collectors.

Books

THE HATCHER PORCELAIN CARGOES: The Complete Record
by Colin Sheaf and Richard Kilburn
Published by Phaidon 1988 (ISBN 0-7148-80469)

This is possibly the best publication available on shipwreck ceramics, and the only book about the Hatcher Cargo. It is better in its coverage of the Nanking Cargo, than others dedicated to the subject.
Highly recommended.

DRAGON SEA
A True Story of Intrigue, Treasure and Adventure Beneath The Waves.
By Frank Pope.
Published by Penguin Books, 2008. ISBN 978-0-141-02921-4.

This well written book is of an entirely different nature to the other books listed here. It is not a book about oriental ceramics and contains no illustrations of pottery or porcelain but is a fascinating account of the discovery, excavation and marketing of the Hoi An shipwreck written but one of the members of the excavation team. It shows the joys and problems of marine archaeological work and the difficulties of marketing the ceramic finds.

Ca Mau Department of Culture and Information and The National Museum of Vietnamese History
Various Authors, 2002

For those interested in the dating of 18th century Chinese Export Porcelain this book is especially interesting. For many years porcelain from the Yongzheng period (1723-1735) was rather lost between the more well known Kangxi and Qianlong periods. Indeed we frequently had people questioning our dating when we described pieces as Yongzheng, what evidence did we have ? Well now this very well illustrated book provides that evidence. The Chinese export porcelain illustrated can be securely dated to the Yongzheng period because of some blue and white Yongzheng mark and period porcelain bowls recovered from this shipwreck. Also illustrated and again very useful for dating are pieces of Famille Verte Biscuit Porcelain and Copper Red.

A 15th or Early 16th Century Vietnamese Blue and White Pottery Dish.

VIETNAMESE BLUE AND WHITE CERAMICS
Bui Minh Tri, Social Sciences Publishing house 2001

An excellent, well-written and large book, which illustrates items from the Hoi An Hoard, as well as other Blue and White of the period. Written by Vietnamese scholars, it dates the Hoi An Hoard to the 15th century.

PORCELAIN FROM THE VUNG TAU WRECK
The Hallstrom Excavation.
written by Christian J.A. Jörg and Michael Fletcher
Published by Sun Tree Publishing Ltd, U.K. ISBN 981-04-5208-X

This excellent book is the only one on the subject and one of the few about Kangxi Blue and White porcelain. As is the case always with Christian Jörg, it is both very well researched and written.
Highly recommended

A Yaozhou Celadon Bowl, Northern Song or Jin c.12th Century

LOST AT SEA, THE STRANGE ROUTE OF THE LEAN SHOAL JUNK
witten by Franck Goddio, Monique Crick, Peter Lam, Stacey Pierson, Rosemary Scott
Published by Periplus Press,2002. ISBN 1-902699-13-0. 285 Pages/Hard-Back and Soft-Back.

A very good book about the Ming Blue and White Porcelain, Celadon, bronze and artefacts from this important shipwreck.

SUNKEN TREASURE: FIFTEENTH-CENTURY CHINESE CERAMICS FROM THE LENA CARGO
Franck Goddio, Stacey Pierson, Monique Crick
Periplus, London, 2000, (ISBN 1-902699-22-x)
Highly recommended

THE SUNKEN TREASURE OF BRUNAI DURUSAALAM
an Underwater Archaeological Adventure
Editions Textuel, 2001, (ISBN 2-84597-040-4).
An interesting cargo, from a 15th century shipwreck, that included both Chinese and Thai ceramics.
Recommended

THAI 14th – 16th CENTURY Si Satchanalai Kilns

LE SAN DIEGO, un trésor sous la mer
Dominique Carre, Jean-Paul Desroches and Franck Gaddio
Réunion des musées nationaux 1994, (ISBN 2-7118-3135-3)
The ship sank in 1600 with a cargo containing many items including some Chinese ceramics. The book is written in the French language, no translation is available.
Recommended

A Kangxi or Yongzheng Porcelain Teapot from a Shipwreck Cargo c.1715 – 1730

THE CERAMIC LOAD OF THE WITTELEEUW 1613
Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, 1982, (ISBN 90-9309-6)
The book is very well researched, well illustrated and contains a certain amount of information about Kraakware. Photographs are in black and white.
Recommended

THE LEGACY OF THE TEK SING: China’s Titanic, its Tragedy and Treasure

Nigel Pickford and Michael Hatcher

Granta Editions, 2000 (ISBN 85757-069-3)

This is a detailed account of the ship, which sank in 1822. It contains little about its cargo of ceramics.

T.A.O.C.I. Revue annuelle de la Société Francaise d’Etude de la Céramique Orientale No 2 Decembre 2001

Transactions of the French Oriental Ceramic Society. Bilingual version, it is written in both English and French. This volume is entirely devoted to shipwreck ceramics and includes an article about the Hoi An Hoard by Mensun Bound.

Highly recommended

ANTIQUE COLLECTING (the magazine of the Antique Collectors Club), Volume 36, Number 9, March 2002.

This volume contains an article about shipwrecks written by Patricia Hunter (page 22 to 27).

ENCYCLOPEDIA OF UNDERWATER AND MARITIME ARCHAEOLOGY

The British Museum Press, 1997 (ISBN 0-7141-2758-2). This large (and inexpensive) book is extremely well researched and very well illustrated. As it covers a broad spectrum of subjects, ranging from ship construction to the conservation of artefacts, the book probably has a lesser appeal to anyone solely interested in shipwreck ceramics.

Auction Catalogues

THE HATCHER CARGO

Christie’s Amsterdam, Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 June 1984. 97 Pages, 1166 Lots
Hatcher Cargo Auction Catalogue : Sale of Fine and Important Late Ming and Transitional Porcelain, The Second and Final Part of the Hatcher Collection, Recently Recovered from an Asian Vessel in the South China Sea. Christie’s Amsterdam, Tuesday 12 and Wednesday 13 June 1984. 97 Pages, 1166 Lots.

THE PRIVATE COLLECTION OF CAPTAIN M.HATCHER

Christie’s Amsterdam, 14 February 1985. 51 Pages 226 Lots
Auction Catalogue : Sale of Fine and Important Late Ming and Transitional Porcelain, The Private Collection of Captain M.Hatcher, Selected from the Contents of an Asiatic Vessel, Which Went Down in the South China Sea Circa 1640.

Hatcher Cargo Kraakware Ming Porcelain Kendi, Transitional Period c.1643.

THE HATCHER CARGO

Christie’s Amsterdam 14th March 1984. 82 Pages. 587 Lots
Auction Catalogue : Fine And Important Late Ming And Transitional Porcelain, Recently Recovered from an Asian Vessel in the South China Sea. Property of Captain Michael Hatcher.

TREASURES FROM THE HOI AN HOARD

Important Vietnamese Ceramics from a Late 15th/Early 16th Century Cargo.
Various Authors.

Published by Butterfield’s Auctions, October 11 – 13th 2000.

This two volume auction catalogue is the only published work on the ceramics from the highly important Hoi An shipwreck. It contains a very good text by Mensum Bound and others. It illustrates so many pieces that have never been seen before and indeed can be said to totally change the way we see Vietnamese ceramics. We hope Mensun Bound will one day publish his book about this fascinating subject.

Highly recommended but difficult to find.

THE FORT SAN SEBASTIAN WRECK

A 16th century Portuguese Porcelain Wreck off the Island of Mozambique.
A Rare Auction Catalogue of the Sale of The Fort San Sebastian Wreck at Christie’s Amsterdam,

19th of May 2004. 29 pages, 645 lots.

The Fort San Sebastian Wreck dates to the Ming dynasty and is mostly comprised of Ming blue and white Porcelain dating to c.1560, this important early shipwreck also contained gold.

Tell me, I Forget.
Show me, I remember
Involve me, I understand

- Chinese Proverb

Books about Blue and White Porcelain

Introduction

BLUE and WHITE

Books

 YUAN AND MING DYNASTIES

CATALOGUE OF LATE YUAN AND MING CERAMICS IN THE BRITISH MUSEUM
written by Jessica Harrison-Hall.
Published by The British Museum Press, 2001. ISBN 0-7141-1488-X. 640 Pages. Hard-Back.

This book, while not specifically about Blue and White Porcelain, is I believe the best book about Ming Blue and White Porcelain available. It is extensively researched and what is so useful to a collector or scholar is that the commentary about each piece is so full. The layout is clear and the photographs are very good as well. It is somewhat expensive but it is a very good investment.

Very highly recommended

 

YUAN AND MING BLUE AND WHITE WARE FROM JIANGXI
Various Authors.

Jointly Presented by Jiangxi Provincial Museum and the Art Museum/ The Chinese University of Hong Kong 2002. ISBN 962-7101-61-3.

This well illustrated catalogue is most useful as it includes many pieces of Ming and Yuan Blue and White Porcelain not normally found in the west. Yuan ans Ming ‘Provincial Wares’ from Jingdezhen, ‘Ming Blue and White Found from a Shipwreck in the Philippines’ are among the subjects covered. Highly recommended.

A Kangxi Blue and White Porcelain Jar and Cover

BLUE AND WHITE FOR CHINA, PORCELAIN TREASURES IN THE PERCIVAL DAVID COLLECTION
By Stacey Pierson

University of London, Percival David Foundation of Chinese Art, Clifford Press 2004

ISBN 0-7286-0358-6. Hard and Soft-Back. 142 Pages.

This attractively produced small book consists mainly of Yuan and Ming Blue and White Porcelain. As well as the major pieces there are some less well know objects. A good but short introductory text. The Percival David Foundation’s important collection of Chinese Ceramics can now be seen at the British Museum or on-line on the British Museums website, see our ‘Links’ section.

xKangxi Blue and White Porcelain Bowl. Robert McPherson Antiques - 25249
Kangxi Blue and White Porcelain Bowl. Robert McPherson Antiques – 25249

BLUE AND WHITE, CHINESE PORCELAIN AROUND THE WORLD
By John Carswell.
A very good well illustrated book. The Chinese Porcelain covered in depth is primarily from the Yuan and Early Ming dynasties, concentrating on the finest pieces from museums.

Recommended

CHINESE BLUE AND WHITE PORCELAIN
Written by S.T. Yeo & Jean Martin

Published by Southeast Asian Ceramics Society, Arts Orientalis, Singapore 1978. 313 Pages, Hard Back.

This catalogue to the Southeast Asian Ceramics Society’s exhibition is very well illustrated and although it contains 18th century Chinese blue and white porcelain has a much larger section of Yuan and Ming. As it is bast on private collections it shows the types of blue and white collectors will find available on the market today rather that the most important pieces from museums.

Highly recommended

Late Ming Blue and White Porcelain Bowl. Robert McPherson Antiques – 25229.

CHINESE CERAMICS IN THE TOPKAPI SARAY MUSEUM ISTANBUL, A COMPLETE CATALOGUE. VOLUME II. YUAN AND MING PORCELAIN
Written by Regina Krahl, in collaboration with Nurdan Erbahar

Published by Sotheby’s Publications. ISBN 0-85667-184-3. From the Set of Three Volumes. Pages from 381-899.
This massive book is extremely useful, it illustrates an enormous amount of Ming and some Yuan Blue and White Porcelain. Nearly all is shown in black and white but the photographs are good as are the captions. It is a very useful dating tool. Most of the pieces are either dishes or bowls so it is most useful for dating painting styles and patterns. This book is normally sold with the other two volumes of the set which makes it very expensive.

Highly recommended

CHINESE PORCELAIN COLLECTIONS IN THE NEAR EAST, TOPKAPI AND ARDEBIL. THREE VOLUMES
Written by T. Misugi.
Published by Hong Kong University Press,1981. Vol. 1 ISBN 962-209-004-4. Hard-Back.
This is book is poorly illustrated but is still a useful set of books and is much cheaper than the complete collection at the Topkapi (above) it does not have a commentary about each piece.

EXHIBITION OF MING BLUE AND WHITE PORCELAIN

THE DRs. A. M. SENGERS COLLECTION.
S. Marchant & Son 2001. 108 Pages, Hard-Back.
This small but beautifully produced catalogue is well worth having.

EXHIBITION OF MING BLUE AND WHITE : JIAJING-CHONGZHEN INCLUDING DATED EXAMPLES
S. Marchant & Son.
2004. 117 Pages, Hard-Back.
Again a beautiful catalogue and very useful.

Unsual Hatcher Cargo Bowl, Transitional Porcelain c.1643. Robert McPherson Antiques - 25257.
Unsual Hatcher Cargo Bowl, Transitional Porcelain c.1643. Robert McPherson Antiques – 25257.

TRANSITIONAL PERIOD

SEVENTEENTH CENTURY JINGDEZHEN PORCELAIN FROM SHANGHAI AND THE BUTLER COLLECTIONS, BEAUTY’S ENCHANTMENT
Written by Sir Michael Butler, Professor Wang Qingzheng.
The Shanghai Museum in Collaboration with London Editions, Hong Kong. Scala Publishers, London. 2006. ISBN 1-85759-417-7. 365 Pages, Soft-Back.
An excellent book covering 17th century, the majority of which is Blue and White Porcelain. Many photographs with an excellent text.

Highly recommended

SHUNZHI PORCELAIN, TREASURES FROM AN UNKNOWN REIGN
Written by Michael Butler, Julia B. Curtis, Stephen Little.
Art Services International, 2002. ISBN 0-295-98213-6. 251 Pages. Available in Hard or Soft-back.

Another excellent book, each piece has a long entry and is very well photographed. Again this book is not just about Transitional Blue and White porcelain but includes polychrome and monochrome porcelain as well.

Highly recommended

TRANSITIONAL PORCELAIN DISH
From a Private English Collection of 17th and 18th Century Chinese and Japanese Porcelain.

CHINESE PORCELAIN OF THE SEVENTEENTH CENTURY

LANDSCAPES, SCHOLARS’ MOTIFS AND NARRATIVES
Written by Julia B. Curtis.
China Institute Gallery, China Institute 1995. ISBN 0-295-97467-2. 167 Pages, Soft-Back.
This book is again very good, it is different in that it put the pieces into their artistic context.

Highly recommended

Surveys

General Surveys

A HANDBOOK OF CHINESE CERAMICS
Written by Suzanne G. Valenstein
Published by The Metropolitan Museum of Art New York, 1989 (first published 1975)

A very good book which covers the early period of Chinese pottery and stoneware with less about the Qing period. This book has a most excellent text and is very clearly set out. There are many photographs in black and white as well as colour.

Blue and White Daoguang Porcelain Plate. 24264

ART IN CHINA
Written by Craig Clunas
Published by Oxford History of Art, Oxford University Press, 1997

This is a imaginative, very well written book, that looks at art in China. It explores the social, economic and religious influences on art in China. It dispels the 19th century invention of ‘Chinese art’ as a unified entity. It is NOT a book about Chinese ceramics but a wide ranging look at Chinese culture and art. It is a very inexpensive, well illustrated paperback.

Song Qingbai Porcelain. 25207
A Song Qingbai Porcelain Model of a Bird c.12th or 13th Century

CHINESE CERAMICS FROM THE MEIYINTANG COLLECTION
Written by Regina Krahl
Published by Azimuth Editions (Two Volumes)

Although this book consists of two volumes, it is I find, the first volume which I go back to again and again. The first volume deals with early Chinese ceramics, the descriptions are second to none and the dating is backed up with many references. The second volume covers Ming and Qing porcelain, this again is excellent, but I use it far less. This book is expensive but worth having for the first volume alone. A third volume has been published recently but I have yet to see this.

 

CHINESE CERAMICS, THE NEW STANDARD GUIDE
Written by He Li
Published by Thames and Hudson, 1996.

A very good and inexpensive survey of Chinese ceramics from the Neolithic period until the 18th century. Well laid out with 850 illustrations including the bases of objects. A good book for the beginner

BOOKS ABOUT EXPORT PORCELAIN

CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN : GENERAL SURVEYS

THE CHOICE OF THE PRIVATE TRADER

The Private Market in Chinese Export Porcelain Illustrated from the Hodroff Collection.

Written by David S. Howard
Published by Zwemmer, the Minneapolis Institute of Art 1994. ISBN 0-302-00642-7. Hard-Back. 298 Pages.

This very well illustrated catalogue is a good general book about Chinese Export Porcelain. As with all David Howard’s books about Chinese Export Porcelain it is very well written and extensively researched. The information provided is detailed and carefully compiled. The illustrations are of very good quality and are numerous.

Highly recommended

London Decorated Chinese Export Porcelain Coffee Cup. Robert McPherson Antiques-24717

CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN Chine de Commande

Written by D. F. Lunsingh Scheurleer
Published by Faber and Faber. 1966 and Re-Printed 1974. ISBN 0-571-08787-6. 255 Pages.

Somewhat out of date, the photographs are black and white and rather small. However it is a useful book with a good text extensive text.

Recommended

CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN

ORIENTAL EXPORT MARKET PORCELAIN, and its Influence on European Wares.
Written by Geoffrey A. Godden.
Published by Granada Publishing Limited 1979. ISBN 0-246-11057-0. 382 Pages. Hard-Back.

This important book puts Chinese Export Porcelain into a European context. The excellent research includes many references to the import of Chinese Export Porcelain via the East India Company. It also shows pieces often not shown in other books and very unusually for the period contains a section on European decoration on Oriental Porcelain. Unfortunately this book is now rather expensive.

Recommended

A Chinese Export Porcelain Figure, Qianlong c.1780

ANCIENT CHINESE TRADE CERAMICS, From the British Museum, London.Ming and Qing Porcelain for the West.

Written by Regina Krahl, Jessica Harrison-Hall

Published by National Museum of History 1994. ISBN 957-00-3623-0. 363 Pages. Hard-Back.

When ones reads the title it appears at first glance as if this book is about ancient Chinese ceramics. However nearly all the pieces are from the 18th century.Most of the designs and shapes shown in large clear colour photographs are of pieces after European designs or in European taste. A very good book that includes 161 objects.

Recommended

25104 Chinese export porcelain Cadogan
A Rare 18th Century Chinese Porcelain Cadogan Teapot Decorated in Holland

CHINESE CERAMICS IN THE COLLECTION OF THE RIJKSMUSEUM, AMSTERDAM. The Ming and Qing Dynasties.
Written by Christiaan J. A. Jorg in Collaboration with Jan van Campen.Philip Wilson in association with The Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam 1997. ISBN 0-85667-489-3. 351 Pages. Hard-Back, Soft-Back.

This general book about Chinese Porcelain at the Rijksmuseum has an excellent section on 18th Century Blue and White Porcelain but also has many pieces of Blanc de Chine Porcelain, Famille Verte, Famille Rose and Powder Blue.

Highly recommended

Chinese Export Porcelain Famille Rose Teabowl and Saucer. Robert McPherson Antiques -25134
Chinese Export Porcelain Famille Rose Teabowl and Saucer. Robert McPherson

CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN in the Reeves Center Collection at Washington and Lee University.
Written by Thomas V. Litzenburg Jr in collaboration with Ann T. Bailey.
Published by Third Millennium Publishing 2003. ISBN 1-903942-19-5. 288 Pages. Hard-Back.

A useful well illustrated book

Qianlong Famille Rose Porcealin Hunting Scene Plate. Robert McPherson Antiques - 25224
Qianlong Famille Rose Porcealin Hunting Scene Plate. Robert McPherson Antiques – 25224

CHINA FOR THE WEST, Chinese Porcelain and other Decorative Arts for Export illustrated from the Mottahedeh Collection.
Written by David Howard and John Ayres.
Published by Sotheby Park Bernet 1978. ISBN 0-85667-035-9. 698 Pages in Very Large Two Volumes with a Slip-Case.

Any reading list of books about Chinese Export Porcelain has to have this land mark book. It is, I believe, the best and by far the most complete book on the subject illustrating nearly 700 objects. Many of the photographs are in black and white but they are large, there are a large number of colour photographs for the period. The book has been out of print for many years, is now very expensive.

Highly recommended

An 18th Century Chinese Export Porcelain Armorial Tea Canister – 10

COLLECTING CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN
Written by Elinor Gordon.
Published by John Murray 1978. ISBN 0-7195-3460-7. 158 Pages. Hard-Back.

Quite a useful little introductory book. Nearly all in black and white.

An 18th Century London Decorated Chinese Export Porcelain Tea Canister

CHINESE EXPORT PORCELAIN, Chine de Commande from the Royal Museum of Art and History in Brussels.
Dr. C.J.A Jorg. Flagstaff house museum of Tea Ware, a branch of the Hong Kong Museum of Art 1989. ISBN 962-215-094-2. 303 Pages.

As with every book I have seen by Dr. Jorg this is a most excellent and useful book. Most of the pieces are Famille Rose or Famille Verte.

Recommended