Mirror of the Orient, by Roland and Sabrina Michaud. Foreword by Nadjm Oud-Dine Bammate. Boston: New York Graphic Society/Little, Brown & Co. (Pages not numbered.) $39.95.

You do a double take on almost every page. Which came first, the photograph or the painting? Did the photographers carry copies of 16th-century Persian manuscripts with them and line up subjects and vistas accordingly? Or did they snap their pictures and hustle off to various national libraries in search of complementary miniatures?

Like most Oriental enigmas, there may be no one answer. But no matter. It's enough to sit back and enjoy the feast of detail and panorama that French photographers Roland and Sabrina Michaud have served up after 15 years of travel through central Asia.

A spinner sits at his wheel in Herat Prison, Afghanistan, in November 1964, twining threads of fuchsia and deep cobalt blue. On the opposing page an 18 th-century turbaned tradesman spins a similar tale in a Persian miniature. Mirror images, they reflect the past and present, the ordinary and the universal. Through the Michauds' lenses, we are encouraged to see and understand.

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