Archive: Printed Matter

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“We do not favor overstressing the importance of literature and art, but neither do we favor underestimating their importance. Literature and art are subordinate to politics, but in their turn exert a great influence on politics”
—Mao Zedong, 1942, Yan’an Conference on Literature and Art

After the Communist Revolution in 1949, the centralized party took over control of newspapers and journals. Over the next decades publishing houses were nationalized and print media was used to publicize government policies and ideological campaigns. During the Cultural Revolution, Red Guards created their own newspapers and magazines, which attracted budding artists and writers. The prototype for these publications was the People’s Liberation Army Newspaper. These publications rigidly adhered to the political campaigns sponsored by Chairman Mao and were sometimes used to denounce alleged counterrevolutionaries. Publishing houses that did not conform to the ideology of the party were closed down.

From bottom to top: Little Red Book, first edition with blue cover; Little Red Book, first edition with red cover; Little Red Book, first edition with white cover; 1964
Battledore Collection


Quotations from Chairman Mao, better known as the “Little Red Book,” contains the teachings of Chairman Mao. At the height of the Cultural Revolution, the Little Red Book became an icon of the Red Guards’ loyalty to Chairman Mao. They recited Mao’s quotations on all occasions and held the books at theirs chests or waved them in the air when they were singing or debating with others. The book’s distribution was later extended to the general Chinese population as a powerful tool of communicating Mao’s teachings.

More than 720 million Red Books were produced between 1964 and 1967, and it was translated into over 30 languages including Norwegian, Swahili, Polish, and Hebrew. Trial bindings of the first edition had a blue vinyl cover, like the one shown here, that was later changed to red.