Brown University and Japan

Library Resources and Collections

The Brown library sponsored the East Asian Art Exhibition in the North Gallery of the John Hay Library from December 2009 through March 15, 2010. The exhibition represented the development of book design and binding art of China, Japan, and Korea. Items on display were selected from the East Asian Collection in the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Library.

The East Asian Collection (EAC), which was developed from "the Gardner Collection," is located in the third floor of the Rockefeller Library. The library began building a major Chinese resource in 1961 when noted Harvard Sinologist Charles Sidney Gardner donated to Brown approximately 30,000 volumes, the majority in Chinese. In 1965, a Federal grant led to the formal establishment of the East Asia Language and Area Center, which has since become the East Asian Studies Department. Library acquisitions for the Chinese collection supplemented the Gardner Collection, and in 1980, a grant from the Japan Foundation funded the beginnings of the Japanese Collection. A Korean Collection, built through special donations and a memorial fund, has since been added. With the introduction of Japanese and Korean holdings into the Gardner Collection in the early 1980s, the collection was renamed the East Asian Collection. As of June 2008, the Collection holds 113,898 volumes in Chinese, 21,444 volumes in Japanese, and 4,856 volumes in Korean, in addition to 288 current serials and other materials. The total book holdings are 140,198 volumes in East Asian languages that cover numerous subject areas.

In recent years, as the teaching and research interests in the area have grown, the Library has sought to balance social sciences and humanities acquisitions, while covering from ancient through contemporary times. Collection priority has also been given to basic reference resources and key journals. Moreover, the Library has attempted to make more material accessible for the users by acquiring electronic resources. With the national conversion of bibliographic records from the Wade-Giles system to the Pinyin romanization scheme for Chinese characters, which started on October 1, 2000, users can more easily access the Asian resources in the online catalog. In particular, the Millennium upgrade of Josiah (Brown’s online library catalog) will enable library patrons to input and display Chinese, Japanese and Korean vernacular fonts. So, as one of two major collections in the Boston Library Consortium, Brown’s EAC will be more open to resource sharing with other libraries.

The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 — Materials from the Dana and Vera Reynolds Collection. In August 1923, William Dana Reynolds, with his wife, Vera Hunt Reynolds, and their young daughter Helen embarked from Honolulu on the Japanese steamship Taiyo Maru, bound for Yokohama. While at sea, the ship experienced and survived a tsunami only to arrive, badly damaged, in Yokohama Bay on September 8th as witness to the destruction caused by the Great Kanto Earthquake. Fully aware of the risks involved, eight of the male passengers decided to leave the ship and enter the city. Dana Reynolds was among them. For the next few hours, and later, upon his return several days after the initial quake, he recorded a series of compelling images of the horror and devastation. These photographic images had been compiled into an album, and in early 2005, Lee Stewart, granddaughter of Dana and Vera Reynolds, offered her grandparent's photo album as a donation to any institution that would take care of the artifact itself, as well as make it available to scholars. Containing the photographic record of their encounter with the Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, the album includes some of the earliest photographs of the destruction taken by Americans, and consists of over 100 original photographs taken in Yokohama, Kyoto, Shanghai, and Hawaii, as well as many photographs purchased in Japan that document the devastation. The collection also serves as a unique glimpse into the culture of Americans traveling to Asia in the early 20th Century, including newspaper clippings (describing what the Reynolds witnessed in great detail, being transcribed from letters written home from Mrs. Reynolds herself), photographic portraits of the Reynolds family, telegrams, postcards, and travel keepsakes, including ship passenger lists, itineraries, programs and menus.

The John Hay Library at Brown holds a fascinating Japanese scroll that beautifully illustrates Commodore Matthew Perry's landing in Japan, the first official contact between Americans and Japanese. This work of an anonymous Japanese artist depicts events that took place in 1854 and was painted sometime between then and 1906 when the Chinese scholar, Wang Zhiben, titled the scroll and wrote a commentary on the last panel. Mirroring the scroll, the Hay also holds a set of lithographs by William Heine, the official artist of the Perry expedition. These lithographs depict an American view of the same events shown in the scroll and were published on Heine's return to the United States in 1855.