Item ID: 9797 Cao zi lun zhai yao 草字綸摘要 [The Essentials of the Threads of the Cursive Script]. Minxian 梁民憲 LIANG.

A Very Rare Calligraphy Manual

Cao zi lun zhai yao 草字綸摘要 [The Essentials of the Threads of the Cursive Script].

Four vols. 8vo, orig. wrappers, orig. stitching. [China]: Privately Printed by Zhushen hejing zhai 竹深荷淨齋, 1859.

An early edition, most likely the first, of this very rare manual on cursive script calligraphy, or cao shu. This script “received [its] final formulation during the Six Dynasties period” (Ledderose, Mi Fu, 7-8). Liang Minxian wrote in the Preface to our book that since the Han dynasty, calligraphers competent in the cursive script exceeded 200. Yet, “under our Dynasty, the learning of characters flourishes; only the cursive script remains little used.” Liang thus wrote the present manual for readers to learn cursive script forms by juxtaposing them to the standard script forms.

Liang Minxian (courtesy name Xigeng 西庚, style name Zhushen hejing zhai 竹深荷淨齋主人) is said to have been part of the private secretarial staff of He Shaoji 何紹基 (1799-1873), from whom he would have learned cursive script calligraphy.

There were three editions of The Essentials of the Threads of the Cursive Script. Our edition contains only the author’s Preface, dated 1859, and was privately published, with Liang’s studio name listed as the publisher. Another edition was published by Xiaowen tang 效文堂 in Guangdong and a third in 1931 (Li, Zhonghua shufa zhuanke da cidian, 801).

We find no copy in WorldCat.

Nice set in a hantao. First leaf of fourth volume a little defective.


Chen Zhidong 陈滞冬. Yushan tang wenji: Zhongguo shufa xue lunzhu tiyao 玉山堂文集:中国书法学论著提要. Guilin: Guangxi shifan daxue, 2021.

Ledderose, Lothar. Mi Fu and the Classical Tradition of Chinese Calligraphy. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1979.

Li Guojun 李国钧 et al., eds. Zhonghua shufa zhuanke da cidian 中华书法篆刻大辞典. Changsha: Hunan jiaoyu chubanshe, 1990.

Lipu xian defang zhi bianzuan weiyuanhui 荔浦县地方志编纂委员会 ed. Lipu Xianzhi 荔浦县志. Beijing: Sanlian shudian, 1996.

Price: $2,500.00

Item ID: 9797

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