cover image The White Road: Journey into an Obsession

The White Road: Journey into an Obsession

Edmund de Waal. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $27 (416p) ISBN 978-0-374-28926-3

Artist de Waal (The Hare with Amber Eyes), a potter by trade, blends art history and personal travelogue in this immersive hands-on study of porcelain and its commercial and artistic appeal over the centuries. Beginning in Jingdezhen, China, where porcelain was first fired 1,000 years ago, de Waal gradually works his way west to 18th-century Europe—specifically the German city of Dresden, and Plymouth on the South Coast of England—and eventually to Ayoree Mountain in what is now North Carolina. He enlivens his account with portraits of the people whose quirky personalities and entrepreneurial zeal advanced the manufacture of porcelain across Europe, among them mathematician Ehrenfried von Tschirnhaus, who partnered with alchemist Johann Friedrich Böttger to develop “a porcelain body for a pure white clay through which light can pass.” De Waal punctuates his chronicle with descriptions of his own work in the medium and poetic reflections on the art form: for example, he describes the cobalt used in designs on porcelain pots as a pigment “that allows the world to be turned into stories,” and the quest for a porcelain “so white and true and perfect, that the world around it is thrown into shadows.” The book transforms an otherwise esoteric subject into a truly remarkable story. [em]Agent: Felicity Bryan, Felicity Bryan Agency. (Nov.) [/em]