Before the invention of the printing press, books were produced by hand. You can find examples of such manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries in the collection of Western Manuscripts and Early Printed Books.

[Bible], [between 1200 and 1299]

One of the oldest manuscript books in Open Collections is a Latin Bible from the 13th century. It was written and decorated in England, probably Oxford, by several hands. It includes Old and New Testaments (in 2 columns, 50 lines), Interpretationes Hebraicorum nominum (in 3 columns, 50 lines), and an early owner’s near-contemporary concordance of the Gospels at the end of the volume, listing subjects and chapter numbers in a series of long tables. It also contains numerous 13th to 16th century additions (in margins) in pen or drypoint.

Old and New Testaments

Interpretationes Hebraicorum nominum

Concordance of the Gospels

If you’re interested in learning more about this Bible, please check out this blog post.

[Book of hours], [between 1430 and 1440?]

The book of hours is a book of Christian prayers and devotions popular in the Middle Ages. It is the most common type of surviving medieval illuminated manuscript, decorated with plenty of miniatures, initials, and line-fillers. This manuscript was written and illuminated in Rouen, France, approximately 1430-1440. The leaf numbers made in pencil in the upper-right corner were from a previous owner.

Li dai jun jian  歷代君鑒, [1453]

China has been using woodblock technique for book printing since the 9th century (source: Wikipedia). In Open Collections, the oldest printed Chinese book is Li dai jun jian  歷代君鑒, a book about emperors in Chinese history.

The book was compiled by order of the Jingtai Emperor, the seventh Emperor of the Ming dynasty, China, who reigned from 1449 to 1457. When his elder brother Zhengtong Emperor was captured by Mongols in 1449, he was selected to succeed the throne. Jingtai Emperor asked his officials to compile a book of past emperors, both good and poor, so that he could draw lessons from the history. The book was issued in 1453. But unfortunately for him, only four years later, his elder brother managed to regain power. Jingtai died a month later at the age of 30. (Source: Wikipedia).

Handan 邯鄲, 1621

The oldest Chinese printed book with illustrations is Handan 邯鄲, a play written by Tang Xianzu. In the 17th century, watching plays was such popular entertainment that books of plays were in high demand. This book is a double-colour woodblock print. It has eight illustrations at the beginning, and a lot of comments printed in red and black in the margins.

We hope you enjoyed this blog post! To explore more rare books in Open Collections, please check out Western Manuscripts and Early Printed Books and Chinese Rare Books. You may also be interested in this research guide from UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections: UBC Vancouver Course Guides:  History of the Book.

Our digital collections cover a wide range of topics and disciplines that you can explore through Open Collections. Among our thousands of digital items, you can find materials to support your research, your teaching, and even your imagination. Below, we’ve selected a few of our collections that may be helpful when researching topics related to Asian Studies.

 

Rikuchū no kuni yōsan no zu. 6

 

There are many collections that can be used as a resource for historical Asian Studies, including:

  • Chinese Rare Books Collection: this collection is mainly composed of works from the Puban and Pang Jingtang. You can find census information, literature, as well as historical, political, and military documents from China covering the years 1368 to 1959.
  • Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era: this is the world’s largest collection of maps and guidebooks of the Tokugawa Era. It contains travel maps, guides and stunning woodblock prints. The collection is used as a resource at the ASIA 453: Japanese Travel Literature class. If you are curious to know more, check out our blog post Explore Open Collections: Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era.
  • Meiji at 150: the collection is part of the Meiji at 150 project, which was created to celebrate the 150 years since the start of the Meiji Era in Japan. The collection consists of materials produced during the period, including: woodblock prints, photographs, books, albums, and booklets. Visit the Meiji at 150 website to learn more about planned special events, lecture series, workshop series, podcast, and digital teaching resources.
  • One Hundred Poets: the collection consists of 74 books and 20 sets of cards of the Japanese poetry anthology “Hyakunin Isshu” (One Hundred Poets, One Poem Each). This anthology, edited by Fujiwara no Teika, became the most famous poetry anthology in Japan. Get to know about this collection, more specifically about the card sets, by checking out our blog post Utagaruta: a poetry game.

 

Family wedding portrait, Vancouver, B.C.

 

If you are interested in studying Japanese and Chinese life in Canada, then the following collections will be helpful:

  • Chinese Canadian Stories: composed of several sub-collections and fonds, this collection covers a wide range of topics, including Chinese Canadian military service, businesses, and social life in Canada.
  • The Chung Collection: the collection contains materials that can be comprised into three themes: British Columbia History; Immigration and Settlement; and the Canadian Pacific Railway Company. The collection has several materials relating to the Chinese community in British Columbia.
  • Yip Sang Collection: the collection contains Yip Sang’s personal and business-related materials. Yip Sang was an important businessman in the Chinese community in Vancouver and was often referred to as the “major of Chinatown”. Get to know more about him and his collection in our blog post Explore Open Collections: Yip Sang Collection.
  • Japanese Canadian Photograph Collection: this collection contains materials that registered the life of Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. The collection is a great resource for anyone researching about how Japanese Canadians were treated during the World War II.
  • Tairiku Nippo (Continental Daily News): this publication was an important information source for Japanese Canadians in British Columbia. It was published between 1907 and 1941, and is a valuable resource for studying the history of the Japanese Canadians before the World War II.

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