The latest, local version of Xu Bing’s book made of tobacco leaves features one of the oldest surviving English texts on Virginia tobacco, from Ralph Hamor’s 1615 book, A true discourse on the present estate of Virginia:
When British Virginia was just getting started, we suggested the source to Bing and provided the transcript that he copied here with rubber stamps.
William Welby (who also published William Symonds’ 1609 sermon, available to your right) published Hamor’s original as a quarto, probably measuring no more than 20 x 15 cm. Working with tobacco leaves, and in the context of modern art galleries, Bing made his book six or seven times that size.
Xu Bing, Tobacco Book (Virginia version), 2011. Tobacco leaves, paper, cardboard, rubber-stamped with passage from A True Discourse on the Present State of Virginia by Ralph Hamor (1615), 53.75 x 39.75 x 3.875 in. (136.5 x 101 x 9.8 cm). Tobacco leaf courtesy of Marvin Cogshill; fabrication assisted by Jillian Dy, Yi Sheng, Sayaka Suzuki, and Yao Xin.
John B. Ravenal, Xu Bing: Tobacco Project (Richmond: Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, 2011), 74-75.