Yale Association of Japan Collection

A collection of Japanese rare books, scrolls, manuscripts, documents, calligraphy, and artifacts donated by Japanese Yale alumni group, the Yale Association of Japan (YAJ).

The idea for the Yale Association of Japan Collection 日本イエール協会コレクション arose from discussions in 1920 between Asakawa Kan’ichi  朝河貫一 (1873-1948), Yale historian and Curator of the Yale Library East Asian collections, and an elite group of Yale alumni who were members of the Yale Association of Japan (YAJ). A prominent historian at the University of Tokyo, Kuroita Katsumi  黒板勝美 (1874-1946), was chosen to assemble the collection, which was presented as a donation to Yale by the YAJ in 1934.  The texts were chosen to highlight the rich cultural history of East Asia and are from China, Korea, and Japan. 

The Collection

The Japanese portion of the collection is the largest, consisting of books (194 titles in 591 volumes), scrolls, manuscripts (117 in a variety of formats), documents, calligraphy, and artifacts.  Korea is represented by 44 works and China by 15.  Some of the highlights include:

  • Three examples of the one of the earliest extant works of printing in the world, sutras dating to the 8th century (hyakumantō darani  百万塔陀羅尼)
  • Some of Yale’s most significant Chinese rare books, including Song period editions.
  • Approximately 100 historical documents that represent the only substantial holdings of pre-1600 works outside of Japan.
  • Artistic works on paper by luminaries such as Yamamoto Soken (山本素軒) and a number of prominent Japanese calligraphers.
  • A range of excellent examples of artistic production, hangul manuscripts, and printing in a variety of typefaces and fonts, all from Chŏson period Korea.
  • Japanese wood-block printed books on a wide range of subjects and representing an overview of publishing history and the arts of the book during the Tokugawa period (1600-1868)

The Japanese works in the YAJ were surveyed by scholars from the National Institute of Japanese literature in the 1990s.  The Korean materials were surveyed by the Korean National Institute for the Cultural Heritage (NRICH) in 2008 and were digitized for the National Library of Korea (2010-2011).  The Chinese works in the YAJ were cataloged by rare book expert Yang Guanghui (Fudan University Library).

Searching for Catalog Records

The Japanese materials in the YAJ have been cataloged in Orbis and the records can be found with a search for “Yale Association of Japan Collection” in the “Special Collections Subject” field. To replicate this search in Orbis, click here. A small number of the Japanese works, primarily realia such as sutra rollers, calligraphy brushes, etc. are not cataloged online but are described in the printed catalogs cited below. Chinese rare books in the YAJ (works published prior to 1797) have been cataloged in Orbis.    


The YAJ Collection has been extensively described, first in English language pamphlets that accompanied the donation (1, below) and then in a Japanese illustrated catalogue (2). Later, Asakawa prepared a detailed analytic bibliography (3). The full text is available here. The only complete list of titles in Japanese can be found in the National Institute of Japanese Literature 国文学研究資料館 bibliography (4). A complete bibliography of the Korean works is available in a volume from NRICH (5). 

1) Catalogue of Books, Manuscripts and other Articles of Literary, Artistic and Historical Interest, Illustrative of the Culture and Civilization of Old Japan, presented to Yale University, U.S.A. by Yale Association of Japan, Tokyo. Tokyo: Taiheiyōsha, 1934.  [Click here for a catalog record.] 

2) Ōkubo, Toshitake 大久保利武. Nihon Bunka Zuroku 日本文化図録. Tokyo, 1935. [Click here for a catalog record.]

3) Asakawa, Kan’ichi. Gifts of the Yale Association.  New Haven, 1945.  A detailed analytic bibliography of the YAJ collection. [Click here for a catalog record and here for the full text.] 

4) “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.

5) Korean Rare Books and Manuscripts at Yale University: Korean Cultural Heritage in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library 미국 예일대학교 도서관 소장 한국문화재.  Taejŏn Kwangyŏksi : Kungnip Munhwajae Yŏnʼguso, 2011. [Click here for a catalog record.]

A related collection in the Beinecke is the Japanese Manuscript Collection, assembled by Asakawa in 1906-1907. East Asia Library Special Collections in Sterling Memorial Library also has holdings of East Asian rare books.