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Japanese Studies: Special Collections



Tinted photograph of Mount Fuji

The Library’s Special Collections provide a rich resource for East Asian Studies at the University of Manchester.

Our collections provide a unique insight into the great variety of East Asian written and visual cultures. They are an excellent resource for the history and literature of China and Japan from the 17th to the 19th centuries.

This guide will identify collection strengths and help you access relevant material.


Collection strengths

Views of the European Palaces in the Garden of Perfect Brightness

The Library’s Special Collections in this field are of international importance, particularly for the documentation of the relationship between Europe and East Asia from the 17th century onwards, as well as relationships between China, Japan and their geographical neighbours.

The Crawford Chinese Collection comprises an essentially complete Classical Chinese Library (of the 19th century) and is an important resource for research and learning. It includes a rare copy of the set of engravings of the Twenty views of the European Palaces in the Garden of Perfect Brightness, including this unique painting. 

The collections cover areas as diverse as Chinese export watercolours, Chinese and Japanese printing, science, politics etc. The Library also holds East Asian manuscripts in more than ten languages, including eighty-three Pali manuscripts.


Japanese studies

Japanese illustration of a tigerRice locust with pinks and hibiscus

The Japanese Collection contains a number of manuscripts and printed books of great interest and rarity.

The collection comprises over 200 Japanese books dating from the 16th to the 19th century, including wood-blocks, colour printing, manuscripts, drawings and photographs. A number of these were acquired in Japan by notable early Japanologists, including Isaac Titsingh (1745-1812).

The Collection covers a range of subjects including literary, historical, linguistic, geographical, political, scientific and theological works. There are also significant items relating to Japan in our general printed book holdings, and photographs of people and places in Japan dating from the 1870s to the early 20th century across our printed and archive collections.


European interactions with East Asia

The Library holds rare printed books and several collections of papers which record the colonial, trading and missionary activities of Europeans in East Asia.

The Chinese and Japanese Collections hold important printed books and manuscripts relating to European interactions with China and Japan, including autograph manuscripts by Jesuit missionaries and early Sinologists. There are a number of Christian texts printed in Chinese by Jesuit and Protestant missionaries from the early 18thcentury onwards.

The Voyages and Travels Collection features important atlases and first editions of the published accounts of travellers and explorers, while the Booker and Mills Map Collections contain notable examples of French and Dutch maps of Asia and the Far East.

Within the Methodist Archives, the Lewis Court Bible Christian Collection contains material relating to missionary activities in China during the 19th century. The papers of the Methodist missionary Harold Burgoyne Rattenbury, who worked in China from 1902 to 1934, contain a great deal of information on Chinese life and affairs during a momentous period in the country’s history. Twentieth century missionary activity in China is also well represented in the Christian Brethren Collections, particularly in the Echoes of Service Archive.

Photograph of Li Hung Chang, Chinese diplomat

The Bowring Papers are an important source for studies of Anglo-Chinese relations and the opening of Japan. They contain correspondence of Sir John Bowring (1792–1872), mainly concerning political and commercial affairs in the Far East at the time when Sir John was Consul at Canton, Plenipotentiary to China and, from 1854, Governor of Hong Kong. The Carrington Papers include a small quantity of letters and papers relating to Sir Codrington Edmund Carrington's term as Chief Justice of Ceylon (Sri Lanka), 1800–06.

The Library also holds photographs across the archive, printed and visual collections, which provide a fascinating visual record of China from the 1860s onwards.


Using Special Collections

You are welcome to make use of Special Collections in your learning and research.

Due to the special nature of the material, we provide access in a controlled environment and there are some restrictions on use and access, particularly for fragile material or modern archives which may contain sensitive data.

Please read our guidance pages on the web for details.



Search Special Collections

My Learning Essentials

Introducing Special Collections

Using the Library's Special Collections in your studies can enrich your work; they are a valuable source of primary material spanning five millennia and covering a broad spectrum of subjects. This resource introduces the different types of materials found in Special Collections, explaining what they are and how they can be used to support your studies. There are also tips on how to find relevant material and how to get started in using the collections.

View all workshops and online resources in this area on the My Learning Essentials webpages.

Creative Commons Licence This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International Licence.

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