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Rare and Special Collections, EAL: Japanese Special Collections

Japanese Copperplate Print Collection

Among the Mitsui items purchased in the mid-20th century were over 470 Japanese copperplate prints (as well as a small number of copperplates), ranging in date from 1855 to 1920. Most of the prints are small in size and mounted in albums. Subject matter includes a handful of Western subjects but is largely Japanese —landscapes and famous sites, historical and religious figures, festivals and ceremonies, Buddhist texts and images, maps, and brief texts on a variety of topics. The prints can be found in Oski under the collective title Dōhanga korekushon.

The Japanese Historical Maps Collection

The Japanese Historical Maps Collection contains roughly 2,300 manuscript, woodblock, and copperplate maps of Japan and the world, ranging in date from the seventeenth century into the modern era, with the majority predating 1890. The collection originally bore the name of Mitsui Takakata (Sōken), ninth head of the Shinmachi branch of the influential Mitsui clan. The East Asian Library acquired the collection as part of a larger acquisition from the clan in 1950.

The collection is noted for its large number of maps of Edo and Tokyo (420/Rumsey: 492), Kyoto (193/Rumsey: 191), and Osaka (115/Rumsey: 129). David Rumsey and Cartography Associates have digitized the greater part of the collection and made them available online. Individual maps can also be located through OskiCat.

The Japanese Manuscripts Collection

The East Asian Library holds over 2,800 Japanese manuscripts in some 7,000 volumes, dating from the 16th into the 20th century. The collection includes personal records, literary manuscripts, and handwritten copies of works on a variety of topics, with a concentration on tea ceremony and flower arrangement.

Researchers wanting an overview of the collection are referred to Kariforunia Daigaku Bākurē-kō kyū Mitsui Bunko shahon mokuroku kō, in the East Asian Library’s reference collection.


Meiji shoka

The East Asian Library has 110 Meiji era songbooks (and more in the Murakami Collection). Many of the songbooks were intended for classroom use, reflecting an effort at the time to teach children practical lessons through song. Others reflect the Meiji emphasis on loyalty to the state and martial culture. The covers of many of the songbooks are strikingly illustrated.

The collection is fully cataloged in OskiCat.

Mitsui Tiny Books

The East Asian Library’s Mitsui tinies collection is comprised of 574 titles in many more volumes, most published during the Meiji era (1868–1912). Some of the tinies are written for younger learners—juvenile biographies, moral tales, elementary word books. Others are intended as vade mecums for older readers—collections of verse and dictionaries of rhyme words, calendars and chronologies, compilations of statistics and commodities prices, works on law and legal procedure, works on calligraphy and painting, Buddhism, the Confucian classics, and travel.

Researchers wanting an overview of the collection are referred to the Librarian for the Japanese Collection.

The Murakami Library

Assembled by Murakami Hamakichi and based on his Meiji bungaku shomoku, the 9,100-volume Murakami Library was intended as a source for the study of the Meiji era. Consequently, although rich in literature, it encompasses fields beyond belles-lettres—the social sciences, philosophy and religion—and includes Meiji translations of Western works.

For the linguist and literary historian, these early editions are notable for preserving variant kana, glosses permitting definitive readings of kanji, front matter and back matter that never found its way into print with the appearance of subsequent editions of the works with which they were associated. Artistically, the collection contains hundreds of hand-pressed kuchi-e as well as scores of volumes whose illustrations and cover art have become icons of Meiji aesthetics and sensibility.

Researchers wanting an overview of the collection are referred to Murakami’s Meiji bungaku shomoku, in the East Asian Library’s reference collection. Individual items in the collection can also be located though OskiCat.

The Sugoroku Collection

Commonly compared to the board game chutes and ladders, e-sugoroku is said in origin to have demonstrated the uncertain path to enlightenment. By the late Tokugawa, the game incorporated more secular themes, such as the stages of the Tokaido or the journey from childhood to adulthood. The game sheets were printed by woodblock (or lithography in the modern age) and therefore extremely ephemeral.

The East Asian Library acquired 155 sugoroku sheets (and 27 original wrappers) with the Mitsui acquisition of 1950. In recent years, Ritsumeikan University, Kyoto, has digitized the collection, and David Rumsey and Cartography Associates have made the images available online. Individual items can also be located through OskiCat.