Index: Multum in Parvo

Multum in Parvo

The compact power of this beautifully rendered instance of Chinese calligraphy, and it’s accompanying description, is breathtaking. Underneath the seaming simplicity of the rendering and the relationships of brushstrokes lies a mechanism as precise and interdependent as a timepiece.

It’s emblematic of the profound pleasures of its source – an essay called Multum in Parvo, by Carl Zigrosser, the Curator of Prints and Drawings at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the 50’s and 60’s. The phrase means “Much in little” – where “a multiplicity of detail is concentrated into a unified principle, the particular is transformed into the universal, a largeness of meaning is conveyed with the utmost economy of means.” The essay was published in a elegant, carefully crafted, hardbound edition in 1965. Out of print, copies are plentiful and cheap, and can be found here.