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Japanese Special Collections at Yale: YAJ and Japanese Manuscript Collection

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Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library
121 Wall Street New Haven, CT
(203) 432-2977

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Collections Overview

Yale Association of Japan (YAJ) Collection
The Yale Association of Japan Collection was assembled in the 1930s by University of Tokyo historian Katsumi Kuroita and presented to Yale by the Association in 1934. It contains approximately 356 titles ranging from manuscripts, sutras, calligraphy, and books to maps and art objects and was selected with the goal of illustrating the development of Japanese culture. It includes materials dating from the 8th century to the 20th century. The collection includes original documents from Tōdaiji dating from 1055, original records of the cadastral survey of Nishi Kamo compiled by order of Hideyoshi in 1586 and 1589, a collection of Tekagami, containing calligraphy samples from famous people produced between the 8th and 17th centuries, three copies of Ise monogatari dating from the 15th to the 17th centuries, and 12th century copies of the Hokekyō written in gold on indigo paper. It also includes examples of ōraibon (including a 17th century Teikin ōrai), meisho zue, Nara ehon, and many other genres.


Japanese Manuscript Collection
The Japanese Manuscript Collection was acquired by Kan'ichi Asakawa, the first curator of the Yale East Asian collection, during a buying trip in 1906-1907. In certain respects, these materials complement the collection of manuscripts in the Library of Congress since Asakawa was purchasing materials for LC during the same trip. All of the works pertaining to Buddhism and the history of Japanese thought were allocated to LC, while Yale's purchases related to the study of medieval history including such topics as the legal system, military and commercial law, martial arts, and foreign affairs. While many of the manuscripts in the collection are originals, approximately sixty works were transcribed for Yale from originals or good copies. The entire collection consists of over 558 titles in 1,200 volumes and dates from the 17th to the early 20th century.


The Cary Collection of Playing Cards
Acquired by Melbert B. Cary, Jr, this distinguished collection contains playing cards, card sheets, wood blocks, metal plates, ephemera, and prints from all over the world. In the collection, there are some different types of Japanese playing cards such as Hyakunin isshu awase and hanafuda.


Chirimen-bon Collection
Chirimen-bon is a book made of chirimen paper (crepe paper), usually illustrated by colored woodblock prints. Produced from the Meiji to early Showa period as souvenirs for foreigners visiting Japan, chirimen books were usually picture books of Japanese folk stories like “Momotaro,” “Hanasaka jiji” and “Kachi-kachi yama,” translated into Western languages such as English, German and French.


Collection Guides

Special Collections Orbis Search

Yale Association of Japan 

Japanese Manuscript Collection 

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