In "Research on the Gest
Library 'Cribbing Garment,' A Very Belated Update," the lead article in
volume XI, no. 2 of the East Asian Library Journal,
Professor Andrew Plaks writes about his
more than two-decade-long interest in one of the unusual non-book
objects in the Gest collection, the
so-called "cribbing garment," more than once on public display in
earlier years of the Gest Library at
Princeton. His inventive research methods invite readers to participate
in his investigation into the origins, utility, contents, and
significance of this elusively sublime and curious object, about which
there remains much to be deciphered.
This short silk jacket, acquired in China by
Irvin Van Gorder Gillis, agent for the Gest Collection, was carried to the United
States in the luggage of William B. Pettus,
head of the North China Language School in Beijing, and late in August
1932 was delivered to Guion M. Gest at the office of Gest's
engineering firm in New York City. Densely packed examination essays
written in "flyhead script," yingtouzi, appear to cover
virtually every inch of the surface area of the jacket. Essays on
topics from the Daxue
(Great Learning) each begin with a red-ink swab, and those on topics
from the Zhongyong
(Doctrine of the Mean) each begin with a black-ink swab. Professor Plaks discovered that text visible under the ink
swabs named the author or indicated something of the source of a given
essay. Norman Muller, conservator of the Princeton University Art
Museum, successfully applied infrared reflectography
to peel away the color of the red-ink swabs to reveal previously
The resulting highly enlarged photographic
images of the 405 red-ink name tabs, some perfectly legible and others
hardly legible, are published here on this page of the website for the East Asian Library Journal with an invitation to journal
readers and those who might stumble onto this site for assistance in
deciphering these names and further in identifying the persons named.
"Appendix One" to Professor Plaks's
lists the names and life dates of authors already identified; "Appendix
Two" lists those names already deciphered, but not yet identified.
When you click on the above header, you will
enter the gallery of all 405 name images numbered in the order of their
appearance in the "Great Learning" portion of the "cribbing garment."
Under each is the identification to date. Our key is the following:
that the character is indecipherable.
A character in parentheses ( ) indicates that the reading is uncertain.
A character in brackets [ ] indicates an alternative to the character
Please send the results of
your own sleuthing—readings of previously undeciphered
characters, corrections to readings offered, and identification of
names—in an email to EALJ@princeton.edu. The results of this
cooperative reading will facilitate in further bracketing the date of
and identifying sources for the making of the Gest
Below schematic drawings of
the robe by Heather Larkin, technical assistant for the East
Asian Library Journal, indicate the direction of the reading layout
of the columns of the text on the jacket.