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.

A number of architectural plans and drawings of UBC Vancouver Campus are housed in the UBC Archives. They document the evolution and growth of the campus. In this post, we pair a few sketches with the photographs of buildings on campus from the UBC Archives Photograph Collection.

Woodward Library

UBC 3.1/1234-1, Woodward Biomedical architectural sketches, 1963

UBC 41.1/1714-5, P.A. Woodward Instructional Resources Centre, 1974

Woodward Library is connected to the Woodward Instructional Resources Centre (IRC) and can only be accessed from inside the Woodward IRC building. It specializes in Engineering, Forestry, Health & Medicine, Land & Food Systems, and Science. It was originally called Woodward Biomedical Library – the name changed in 2009.

UBC 3.1/1234-3, Woodward Biomedical architectural sketches, 1963

Charles Woodward Memorial Room, 2018

The sketch above depicts the Charles Woodward Memorial Room. On the wall, there is a tapestry showing the Masters of Spirit, and plaques listing pioneer physicians of British Columbia. The room is open for silent study. (Source: UBC Wiki)

Museum of Anthropology

UBC 1.1/15690, Artist’s sketch of the interior of the Great Hall, Museum of Anthropology, 1974

UBC 41.1/1433-2, Museum of Anthropology, 1978

Place Vanier residences

Place Vanier is a residence for the first and second year students. It consists of 12 houses that were constructed between 1959 (Robson House) and 2003 (Tec de Monterrey-UBC House), with most being built in the 1960s. (Source: UBC Wiki)

UBC 1.1/14220-2, Architectural drawings of Place Vanier residences, 1958

UBC 1.1/14220-3, Architectural drawings of Place Vanier residences, 1958

UBC 41.1/1619-4, Place Vanier residences, 1979

Thea Koerner House (Graduate Student Centre)

The Thea Koerner House was donated to UBC by Leon J. Koerner in 1961 in memory of his wife. It won the Massey Gold Medals for Architecture in 1961 as an outstanding piece of Canadian architecture. (Source: University Archives)

UBC 41.1/2571, Thea Koerner House sketch, [date unknown]

UBC 128.1/210, Plaza and “Transcendence” sculpture in front of Graduate Student Centre, [between 1990 and 1999]

Neville Scarfe Building

The Neville Scarfe Building is located at the south-west corner of Main and University Boulevard. The Faculty of Education and the Education Library are in this building. It was built in 1962.

UBC 1.1/2489, Artist’s sketch of Scarfe building, [between 1960 and 1969]

UBC 1.1/1433, Scarfe building, [between 1960 and 1969]

Old Student Union Building

The Old Student Union Building (SUB) is located in the Campus Heart on East Mall between Student Union Boulevard and University Boulevard. It opened in 1968. After the AMS moved to the Nest in 2015, the Old SUB was renovated and reused as the Life Building. (Source: Campus + Community Planning)

UBC 1.1/1644, Sketch of proposed Student Union Building, 1966

UBC 105.1/175, Student Union Building, [between 1970 and 1979]

This photo above was taken from the south of the life building, now the NEST.

UBC 41.1/2299, Students on lawn outside Student Union Building [between 1970 and 1979]

We hope you enjoyed the post! To explore more architectural drawings and plans of the Vancouver Campus, please check out Campus Plans and Main Library Architectural Drawings in UBC Archives.

Happy holidays everyone!

In the spirit of the holiday season, enjoy some festive images from Open Collections.

Check out these holiday greeting cards:

Calling cards and greeting cards, 1918-1924, p.78

This is Yip Sang’s personal greeting card from the Chung collection

[Card depicting girl playing croquet], 1919

[Christmas card from Igor Stravinsky with quotation from The Star-Spangled Banner], 1941

Here are more paintings of this season:

[Wintry Scene]

Winter in the Laurentians, [1950]

Coming in for Christmas, [between 1874 and 1880?]

Finally, here are photographs of a wintery UBC campus from the UBC Archives Photograph collection:

Redwood tree in front of Main Library with Christmas lights, [1960]

UBC Library in the snow, [1948?]


Main Library in snow, Jan 1, 2002

Happy holidays from all of us at the UBC Digitization Centre. We’ll see you in the new year!

In this two-part series, we compile images of winter activities and attractions from Open Collections. You can view Part I here.

Winter destinations

Banff National Park is a signature travel destination both in summer and winter. This menu from the Canadian Pacific Railway in the Chung Collection advertises winter sports in Banff on the cover.

Winter sports at Banff, Jun 29, 1928

Be sure to check out Lake Louise. This scenic lake is especially nice in the snow.

[Lake Louise], [between 1925 and 1935?]

Lake Louise, [between 1910 and 1919?]

Home of the Quebec Winter Carnival, Quebec City is known for its European feel. This pamphlet from the Chung Collection profiles the picturesque city in summer and winter.

Quebec: summer and winter, 1924

Quebec: summer and winter, 1897, p. 19

This Canadian Pacific Railway Company pamphlet promotes winter sports in Quebec City:

Chateau Frontenac: the wintersport capital of wintersport land, 1924

Located to the north-east of Quebec City, Montmorency Falls are also a must-see.

Canadian pictures: drawn with pen and pencil, 1884, p. 144

These two illustrations depict Niagara Falls in winter:

Our own country, Canada: scenic and descriptive, 1889, p. 8

Our own country, Canada: scenic and descriptive, 1889, p. 349

Montreal also had winter carnivals in the 1880s (Source: Wikipedia). These carnivals featured Ice Palaces, which were described in an illustrated book:

In the evening of the inauguration of the Ice Palace, everybody came to Dominion Square, where there was every sort of light but sunlight. The Ice Palace looked like glass; and I never saw anything so beautiful as when they burned blue, green, crimson and purple fires inside.

Our own country, Canada: scenic and descriptive, 1889, p.253

Our own country, Canada: scenic and descriptive, 1889, p. 246

Canada: a memorial volume. General reference book on Canada; describing the dominion at large, and its various provinces and territories; with statistics relating to its commerce and the development of its resources. Maps and illustrations, 1889, p. 222

We hope you have a warm and wonderful holiday season!

The holiday season is fast approaching! Are you looking for vacation ideas? In this two-part series, we compile images of winter activities and attractions from Open Collections. Enjoy!

Winter sports

Canada is a playground for winter sports lovers. Snowshoeing, sledding, and tobogganing as recreational activities can date back to 19th century. Check out these engravings in Canadian pictures: drawn with pen and pencil from the Chung collection:

Canadian pictures: drawn with pen and pencil, 1884, p.47

Canadian pictures: drawn with pen and pencil, 1884, p.48

Here are more illustrations of winter sports from the book Our own country, Canada: scenic and descriptive. Being an account of the extent, resources, physical aspect, industries, cities and chief towns of the provinces of Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, the North-west Territory, and British Columbia. With sketches of travel and adventure. Illustrated with three hundred and sixty engravings in the BC Historical Books Collection. The book was published in 1889.

Do not try it at home!

These postcards from the Uno Langmann Family Collection of British Columbia Photographs show winter leisure in Vancouver.

Skating on Trout Lake, Vancouver, B.C., [between 1915 and 1925?]

Winter sports, Grouse Mountain Park, North Vancouver, B.C., [between 1922 and 1941?]

This book from the BC Historical Books Collection has detailed information on the development of curling in British Columbia.

Manual 1907-8 of the British Columbia (formerly Kootenay) Curling Association in affiliation with the Royal Caledonian Curling Club, 1908

Finally, if none of the above strikes your fancy, there are also some unconventional games. This cartoon from Tremaine Arkley Croquet Collection depicts fictional winter sports that “suit all tastes”.

New games for Christmas, 1911

In a previous blog post, we discussed John Gerard’s The herball, or, Generall historie of plants (1597), a book that features lists of plants with accompanying descriptions of their properties. For this blog, we will introduce more illustrations of plants in our Open Collections.

Botanical and ethnological appendix to Menzies’ journal of Vancouver’s voyage, April to October, 1792

Archibald Menzies was a Scottish surgeon, botanist and naturalist. He joined Captain George Vancouver’s voyage around the world in 1790 and kept a journal (source: Wikipedia). In 1923, part of Menzies’ journal that related to Vancouver Island and Puget Sound was published in Victoria, BC.

British botanist and ethnographic researcher Charles F. Newcombe made this appendix, introducing plants collected by Menzies on the north-west coast of America. It contains 5 illustrations, 3 of which were drawn by Menzies.

Alpine flora of the Canadian Rocky Mountains

Written by American botanist Stewardson Brown, this book is a guide to the rich and interesting flora of the Canadian Rockies and Selkirks. It is illustrated with plenty of water-colour drawings and photographs – here are some of our favorites.

What’s up buttercup?

These orchids have a funny name, lady’s slipper.

Here are more orchids in Canadian Rockies.Here are some berries from the rose family.

Finally, here are some anemone flowers:


The Chung Collection has thousands of photographs and related material on CPR steamships with a particular emphasis on the Empress class ships. Some of the related material includes pamphlets, menus, world cruise photograph albums, clippings, diaries, and correspondence from both passengers and employees of these vessels.

In this two-part series, we will explore some advertisements issued by CPR steamships. To view the first part, please click here.

Here is a letter card featuring images of the SS Duchess of Richmond’s interiors. A letter card consists of a folded card with a prepaid imprinted stamp. The letter is written on the inside, and the card is then folded and sealed.

S.S. Duchess of Richmond letter card, [1937?]

Unlike a postcard, a letter card can contain multiple photographs. The unfolded letter card of the SS Duchess of Richmond contains photos of the dining saloon, the observation lounge and drawing room, the smoking room, the shop and promenade deck entrance, and a two-berth room with bathroom adjoining.

S.S. Duchess of Richmond letter card, [1937?]

SS Duchess of Richmond was an ocean liner built in 1928 for Canadian Pacific. In 1947 she was renamed as SS Empress of Canada (source: Great Ships).

Canadian Pacific to Canada Duchess of Richmond, 1929

This is a booklet promoting the S.S. Melita, Minnedosa and Metagama steamships.

The three M’s : S.S. Minnedosa, Melita, Metagama, [1919?]

The three Ms were steamships carrying one-class cabin and third class. Many passengers who couldn’t afford the first class also didn’t like the second class because of the difference of service between the first and second classes, such as the dividing line on the decks and different food. By combining first and second classes, the three Ms provided one-class-cabin service at a more affordable price.

The three M’s : S.S. Minnedosa, Melita, Metagama, [1919?], p. 14-15

This pamphlet was issued to passengers on the Montroyal‘s 7 Sept. 1929 sailing from Southampton and Cherbourg to Quebec.

Steamship Montroyal, 1929

Along with railway, steamships, and hotels, the CPR also had telegraph operations and trucking operations as part of its travel system. This pamphlet provides Montroyal’s passengers detailed information about where to buy railway tickets, where to get money orders and travelers’ cheques, and where to stay, all through the CPR’s services.

Steamship Montroyal, 1929, p. 27

Here is an interesting comparison between the CPR steamships and buildings. The Royal York, Toronto, is a luxuy hotel built by the CPR. After its completion in 1929, it was the tallest building in Canada and the British Empire (source: Wikipedia). When the pamphlet was published in 1929, the RMS Empress of Britain was still under construction. She was launched in 1930 and became the largest, fastest, and most luxurious ship between England and Canada in her time (source: Wikipedia).

We hope you enjoyed the post. To find out more about the CPR steamships, please explore the Chung Collection!

In 1887, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) started a Trans-Pacific service from Vancouver to Asia. With the success of this new venture, the CPR adopted a new name for the steamship services, calling it the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company (CPSC). In 1915, the CPR decided to make the division into a separate entity, the Canadian Pacific Steamships Ocean Services Ltd. It became a major international cargo carrier, also known globally for providing luxurious around-the-world tours.

The Chung Collection has thousands of photographs and related material on CPR steamships with a particular emphasis on the Empress class ships. Some of the related material includes pamphlets, menus, world cruise photograph albums, clippings, diaries, and correspondence from both passengers and employees of these vessels. In this two-part series, we will explore some advertisements issued by CPR steamships.

Canadian Pacific spans the world, [between 1930 and 1939?].

Here is a poster advertising Canadian Pacific Steamships with a starboard-bow view of the Empress of Australia (1921).

“Canadian Pacific spans the world” was one of CP’s advertising slogans. It is written on posters, maps, souvenirs, and even laundry bags.

Here is a laundry bag with a print of a globe with routes of Canadian Pacific Ocean routes marked in red ink, and a print of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company’s steamship fleets on the other side, printed in brown ink.

Canadian Pacific Railway spans the world, [between 1910 and 1919?].

Canadian Pacific Railway’s business ranged from railways to steamships to hotels. To promote its business, CPR issued a variety of pamphlets. Some pamphlets are in very interesting forms, such as diaries.

There are a series of pamphlets entitled “Diary of my voyage to Canada” issued by Canadian Pacific Steamships Company in the Chung collection. With one blank page for the diary entries at the beginning, these pamphlets feature brief articles and illustrations relating to places and life in Canada, with an emphasis on CPR services, such as trains, hotels, and summer camps.

Diary of my voyage to Canada: Friday, 1916.

This is a pamphlet about a Canadian trip issued to passengers of the RMS (Royal Mail Ship) Missanabie. Missanabie was an ocean liner built in 1914. It sailed between England and North America. On Sep. 9, 1918, it was torpedoed and sunk by a German submarine with the loss of 45 lives.

[R.M.S. Missanabie at sail], [1915?].

This page is from “Diary of my voyage to Canada: Tuesday” issued on the Empress of Britain. It promotes trips in the Canadian Rockies.

Diary of my voyage to Canada: Tuesday, June 18, 1912, p.9-10.

The two central pages of each pamphlet are “Marconigrams”, Marconi Company’s wireless press of global news.

Diary of my voyage to Canada: Tuesday, June 18, 1912, p. 8.

There are 13 pamphlets of this kind in the Chung collection. Click here to explore more.

This pamphlet has a very descriptive name, “A package of post cards and a ‘wireless’: a bride’s story.” It was published in 1907 by Canadian Pacific Steamships to promote sister ships RMS Empress of Ireland and RMS Empress of Britain.

A package of post cards and a “wireless”: a bride’s story, 1907.

The story is told in the forms of postcards and a wireless message sent by the bride Kate to her mother during her honeymoon. The first postcard was sent from Place Viger Hotel, a combination of a hotel and railway station built by the CPR in Montreal.

A package of post cards and a “wireless”: a bride’s story, 1907, p. 3.

After staying three days at the Chateau Frontenac, which was built and operated by the CPR, the couple took the RMS Empress of Ireland to Liverpool.

A package of post cards and a “wireless”: a bride’s story, 1907, p. 4-5.

The RMS Empress of Ireland was an ocean liner that sank near the mouth of the Saint Lawrence River following a collision in thick fog on May 29, 1914. It took 1,012 lives and was the worst peacetime marine disaster in Canadian history.

Empress of Ireland, [1910?].

The Chung collection also contains some objects salvaged from the wreckage of the Empress of Ireland. Click here to explore these objects.


SS Missanabie (The wreck site)

RMS Empress of Ireland (Wikipedia)

The UBC Library Digitization Centre Special Projects collection is a variety of smaller projects from the UBC Library Rare Books & Special Collections or University Archives divisions.

There are 106 items in this collection, including maps, books, albums, and other miscellaneous documents. These projects emphasize the depth and breadth of the Library’s rare materials holdings and give visitors a glimpse into some unique materials.


The Special Project collection contains some bibliographies about the Puban Collection(蒲坂藏書) and the Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era Collection.

The Puban Collection is one of the most distinguished Chinese rare book collections in North America. It contains some 3,200 Chinese titles in about 45,000 volumes, including numerous rare books in many subject fields such as history, literature, philology and philosophy. As mentioned in this tweet, the oldest book in Open Collections, Shang shu tong kao 尚書通考, is from the Puban Collection.

A descriptive Catalogue of Valuable Manuscripts and Rare Books from China (1959)

This catalogue is about books in the Puban Collection issued during the Sung, Yuan, and Ming Dynasties (960-1644) in China. The author, Yi-t’ung Wang (王伊同, 1914-2016), was a professor at UBC History Department in 1957-l962. Professor Wang picked the most valuable items in this collection and composed a descriptive catalogue.

A descriptive Catalogue of Valuable Manuscripts and Rare Books from China (1959)

The Puban Collection has not been fully digitized, which makes the bibliography especially informative.  With the help of Professor Wang’s work, we can have a preview of the most precious items in this collection.


There are 68 maps in the Special Projects collection, the oldest of which dates back to approximately 1587. A lot of these maps are nautical charts, mine maps, and geological maps that are quite different from the maps most people are familiar with.

Vancouver, B.C., 1890

Have you seen a map of Vancouver like this? It is a bird’s-eye view map printed in 1890. It depicts Vancouver in an artistic style, with drawings of 38 city buildings in margins of map, and index to points of interest in the bottom. Downtown Vancouver is in the foreground, while the rest of the city stands at the far end.

Vancouver, B.C., 1890

On the left-hand side, there is a bridge across the False Creek. It was the Westminster Avenue Bridge. In 1910, the avenue was renamed as Main Street. The eastern part of False Creek was filled for railway lands in the 1910s and 1920s. As a result, the bridge no longer exists. Another bridge on the False Creek, the Cambie Street Bridge, was opened in 1891, the year after this map was printed.


Kanada no sakae 金田之栄 [Prosperity in Canada]

This is an album of Japanese Canadian children published in 1921. According to the preface, the album was in commemoration of Prince Hirohito’s tour of Europe. It contains photos of 545 children from 259 families. Most of the families lived in B.C.

These two boys were living in 10th Avenue, Vancouver. Their family was from Kagoshima, Japan.

These children were living in Powell Street, Vancouver. Their families were from Hiroshima, Japan. The Powell Street area was once a Japanese neighborhood until World War II when Japanese Canadians within 100 miles of the British Columbia coast were forced to relocate east to the B.C. interior and other provinces.

The album lists the children’s addresses, names, dates of birth, and hometowns in Japan. It is especially valuable for Japanese immigration history and genealogy research.

In 2017, Professor Norifumi Kawahara from Ritsumeikan University in Kyoto, Japan, re-edited and published the album. An alphabetical list of the children’s names in English is attached to the album as well as maps showing where they lived. The re-edited album is available at UBC Asian Library.

If you enjoyed this post, please visit UBC Library Digitization Centre Special Projects and explore more!

In a previous post, we introduced some maps from the Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era Collection. UBC Library’s Rare Books and Special Collections holds one of the world’s largest collections of maps and guidebooks of the Japanese Tokugawa period, ca. 1600-1868. This collection does not consist simply of maps of Japan. It also has maps and books about various peoples and countries of the world.

In this post, we will explore a few guidebooks in the collection that depict the outside world. Despite the isolationist foreign policy during the Edo period, the Japanese people were fascinated by different peoples and cultures and were keen to know more.

Amerika shinwa 亜墨新話 [New story of America]

This work is about a Japanese sailor’s adventure. Hatsutarō was working on Eiju Maru, a Japanese shipping vessel. In 1841, he and twelve other members of the crew were blown out to sea. After months of drifting, they were rescued by a Spanish ship and brought to Lower California. Hatsutarō lived and worked there for seven months, and went back to Japan in 1843. As soon as he arrived, the local lord ordered two scholars and a painter to write down his journey in America.

The book is a four-volume manuscript with numerous coloured drawings, covering American people’s appearances, social customs, clothing, houses, and so on, from a Japanese sailor’s perspective.

[Spanish vessel rescuing shipwreck survivors], vol. 1, p. 78.

[Women’s outwear], vol. 2, p. 20

[Wedding ceremony], vol. 2, p.44

Notice that the drawings were done by Tsurana Morizumi (守住 貫魚), a painter who never traveled abroad. Like many other images about foreigners in the Edo period, these drawings are a mix of imagination, creativity, hearsay, and observation.

Gaiban yōbō zuga 外蕃容貌圖画 [Pictures of foreigners’ features]

This is a book of drawings, edited by Tagawa Harumichi (田川 春道) and illustrated by Kurata Tōgaku (倉田 東岳). There are two volumes, consisting of illustrations and brief explanations of people from 42 countries in Asia, Europe, Africa, and North and South America. It reveals a Japanese view of foreign people of that period. It was published in 1855, two years after the American Black Ships forced the opening of Japan to America and the end of National Isolation policy in 1853.

Below are two leaves from the second volume of the book. Can you tell they are people from Nova Scotia and Italy?

[People from Nova Scotia, North America], vol. 2, p. 48

[People from Italy, Europe], vol. 2, p. 8

Meriken shinshi 米利幹新誌 [New account of America]  

This may be the first printed Japanese book exclusively about the geography and history of North and South America and consists of five volumes. In volume 1, there are four maps showing the Eastern and Western hemispheres and North and South America. In volume 2, there is a map of the then-existing 31 states of the United States. There are also illustrations through the five volumes. This book was also published in 1855.

南北亜墨利加全圖 Nanboku Amerika zenzu [Map of South and North America]. Vol. 1, p. 8.

Left: [Portrait of George Washington]. Right: [Portrait of Amerigo Vespucci]. Vol. 1, p.12.

The author, Shigenobu Tsurumine(鶴峯 戊申, 1788-1859), was a well-known scholar of Japanese classics who was also interested in western technology. His work Gogaku shinsho  語学新書 [New Book on the Study of Language ] was the first book of Japanese grammar based on western grammatical rules and conceptions.

To learn more about the Japanese Maps of the Tokugawa Era Collection, please check out our previous post, and the website of ASIA453, a course on Japanese Travel Literature held by UBC’s Asian Studies Department.

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