The Simple Way of Lao Tsze: an Analysis of the Tao Têh Canon with Comments by the Editors of the Shrine of Wisdom, The Shrine of Wisdom, London 1924. First edition. Hdbk. 53 pp. Spine torn, blue cloth boards slightly yellowed and faded, with gold lettering.
The translator remains anonymous. But this interesting series of extracts from the Daodejing seems to belong to that early twentieth century movement sometimes called ‘Theosophy’: Madame Blavatsky, Aleister Crowley, W. B. Yeats et al. It has remained in print ever since. A first edition, if not in pristine condition, or anything like it, is still unusual, and may well attract a keen collector’s eye.
‘Laozi’ (as modern pinyin spells his name) may well never have existed; the phrase just means ‘Old Master’. Some scholars believe the Daodejing is a collection of sayings preserved over several centuries. However the book certainly dates back to well before the time of the First Emperor, as the text recently unearthed from the Mawangdui tomb demonstrates. It is a key text (many would say THE key text) within the Daoist tradition, and has been hugely influential, not just in China over two and a half millennia, but here in the West as well, since at least the latter half of the nineteenth century.
Any serious student of Daoism would also need not just one, but several of the more modern complete translations. However much the actual commentary to this much earlier abridged one may have dated, the style is remarkably free of Victorian fustian, and still reads well.