STARTED OFFICIALLY IN 1918 with a donation of around 9,500 books, 1600 pamphlets and 550 manuscripts, the Charles W. Wason Collection on East Asia is among the top East Asian library collections in the country. Originally named the Charles W. Wason Library on China and the Chinese, the backbone of the collection began as the private library of the late Charles W. Wason (Cornell class of 1876), a railroad magnate based in Cleveland. Over the years, the Wason Collection, now consisting of over 550,000 items in many formats, has expanded its focus to include materials from Japan, Tibet, Manchuria and Korea, offering superb and often unique resources for research and teaching.
The China collection is the historical foundation of the Wason Collection. It is the oldest and largest component, comprising over 330,000 items. Of particular interest are the highly regarded European-language materials on China, including 17th-century travelogues and maps, 18th-century ship logs of merchant vessels plying the oriental seas, 19th-century mission papers and photograph albums, and a huge array of recent publications on China by public and private publishers. Among the many important English-language materials are the manuscripts of Lord Macartney, British Ambassador to the Imperial Court in the 1790's.
Balancing these rich western holdings are Chinese-language materials which include a multitude of primary sources,
such as a complete reprint of the Ming dynasty imperial archives; local routebooks and gazetteers;
ancient and modern military treatises; extensive archaeological reports of excavations along the fabled Silk Road;
and every conceivable type of publication on popular Chinese culture.
Unique pieces among the Chinese collection are five
manuscript volumes of the Encyclopedia Maxima (dated 1547), the famous Jade Book (1661) of emperor Kangxi,
and 328 original letters by Qing dynasty literati and government officials, collected by Dr. Hu Shi, Cornell class of 1914.
The Japan collection is among the fastest growing such collections in the country. Its 120,000 volumes lend considerable
assistance especially to the study of medieval Japan. Development began within the Wason Collection around 1975. The collection now includes the well-known Griffis collection of early Japanese books, as well as the
unique Maeda collection related to late 19th- and early 20th-century Japanese thought,
literature, social history and journalism.
A much smaller but rapidly growing Korea collection and 9,000 volumes of Tibetan materials complete the overall picture.
The Wason Collection is housed in the Kroch Asia Library, a state-of-the-art building featuring
wireless reading and instruction rooms, student study carrells, exhibit spaces,
offices and easily accessible book stacks. It is the one of the very few East Asian collections in the country where
original language materials
are shelved side by side with western materials on the same subject. This greatly facilitates research and teaching efforts
by reducing time spent searching around various campus locations for related materials in different languages.
Begin with a gallery of the China Collection...