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Collection Japanese Rare Book Digital Collection

About this Collection

The Japanese Rare Book Digital Collection features materials from the Asian Division at the Library of Congress. The division’s Japanese Rare Book Collection comprises some 6,000 titles that span diverse genres and cover all manner of subjects. The vast majority of these items are books, but the collection also includes atlases, manuscripts, scrolls, and three-dimensional objects. In principle, the rare book designation for Japanese materials refers to works produced prior to 1868, though some items of exceptional rarity or value published after this date are also included in the collection.

At present, the digital collection consists of three types of rare books from the Japanese Rare Book Collection. These include 16-17th century illustrated and manuscript editions of Genji monogatari (The Tale of Genji), a work written primarily by Murasaki Shikibu in the early 11th century and widely considered the world’s first novel; four titles of Nara ehon (“Nara picture books”), a style of manuscript book with hand-painted color illustrations produced between the 16th and 17th centuries; and some thirty titles of Chinese-language works that were reprinted or hand-copied in Japan, some of which contain prefaces or annotations by Japanese scholars.

The Japanese Rare Book Digital Collection will continue to grow as more titles are digitized in the future.