Contemporary books about jade tend to be museum or collector’s catalogs. Seeking to establish their credibility, and assuming little knowledge on the part of the reader, they typically begin with timelines, material analysis, and the establishment of provenance using comparisons to photographs in other compilations, especially from primary excavations. As a result, they often have all the charm of dental work. Angus Forsyth, among the greatest and most ambitious collectors of Chinese jade, has taken a different tack.
It has been more than three decades since the passing of the great French economic historian, Fernand Braudel, but his adventurous influence runs deep in Angus Forsyth’s remarkable illustrated essay on the Silk Road—the lanes of transport between East and West that linked China, India, Africa and the Mediterranean before the era of motor vehicles. Braudel’s genius was in his ability to highlight the intimate detail against the grand canvas of history, and his approach to storytelling fundamentally shifted the way history is presented, whether in the curating of museum exhibitions or histories of leaders and transformative events. It’s the detail that counts.