Japanese Manuscript Collection

Over 700 Japanese manuscripts assembled by Asakawa Kan'ichi 朝河貫一 (1873-1948), the first Japanese professor of History and Curator of the East Asian collections in the Yale Library.

The Japanese Manuscript Collection 日本文書コレクション was assembled by Asakawa Kan’ichi  朝河貫一 (1873-1948), the eminent historian of Japan who taught at Yale from 1907 to 1942 and concurrently served as Curator of the East Asian collections in the Yale Library. Prior to taking up his appointment in 1907, Asakawa spent 18 months in Japan engaged in a grand project to obtain for Yale the nucleus of a comprehensive Japanese collection. The Japanese manuscripts, over 700 works, were collected as part of this effort; they were purchased or solicited as donations from book-sellers, individual collectors, temples, and other institutions.  Many were hand-copied by teams of young scholars, partly because Asakawa was sensitive to cultural patrimony issues and felt that some works should not be removed from Japan. Asakawa acquired manuscripts for the Library of Congress during his stay in Japan as well, and the two collections complement each other in terms of subject coverage.

The Collection

Over one third of the collection relates to Japanese history but a broad range of other subjects are included, with works on religion, law, and literature prominent.  It is known to contain a number of works not found in Japan and many unique variants of works held in Japanese collections.  The collection was surveyed by scholars from the National Institute of Japanese Literature in the 1990s and the holdings are listed in a published bibliography (cited below).  The manuscript volumes are bound in leather in the western style, a decision made by Asakawa, and the binding was done in Japan before shipment. 

Searching for Catalog Records

The majority of the works have been cataloged in Orbis.  Records can be found with a search for “Japanese Manuscript Collection” in the “Special Collections Subject” field.  To replicate this search in Orbis, click here.  A small number of works from this Collection have recently been identified in Sterling Memorial Library and will be transferred to the Beinecke after cataloging.


The citation to the published bibliography follows.   

“Iēru Daigaku zō, Nihon Monjo Korekushon Mokuroku イエール大学蔵・日本文書コレクション目録,” Kokubungaku Kenkyū Shiryōkan Chōsa Kenkyū Hōkoku  国文学研究資料館調査研究報告 11 (1990): 31-93.

A number of books and academic articles have been published about Asakawa and his collecting activities.  For a bibliography of these works, click here.

A related collection in the Beinecke is the Yale Association of Japan Collection, received by Yale in 1934.  Asakawa conceived of this project and was involved in some of the collection development.  All other works (books, maps, pamphlets, and other printed works) collected by Asakawa in 1906-1907 are held in East Asia Library Special Collections or the general collection in Sterling Memorial Library and the Library Shelving Facility.