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Rare and Manuscript Collections

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Asian History & Culture

Photograph Album of Shanghai and Environs, c. 1890.

The Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections has numerous collections documenting the history and cultures of East Asia. These describe life in China, Japan, and Korea during the last hundred years. Personal papers of diplomats, scientists, business people, and educators document life in East Asia from the late nineteenth century to the present. Many resulted from the experiences of Cornell students, faculty, and staff living and working in China. Cornell alumni including Willard D. Straight (’01), F. R. Newman (’14), and Leslie Severinghaus (’21) documented their experiences are in China by papers and photographs.

Other notable collections include the papers of Cornell University President Jacob Gould Schurman documenting his service as United States Minister to China in the 1920s; of James M. McHugh, intelligence officer and naval attaché in China in the 1930s and 1940s; papers of Cornell agricultural economist Gerow D. Brill pertaining chiefly to his work at the Hupeh Agricultural College and Experimental Farm, 1897-1901; and papers of Harry Houser Love, Professor of Plant Breeding at Cornell, and special consultant in plant breeding at the University of Nanking in the 1930s.

There are also a number of oral histories pertaining to the experience of Cornell faculty members in China, including Leonard Maynard, John Lossing Buck, Glenn W. Hedlund, John H. Reisser, and Stanley Warren, as well as Evelyn Claassen, wife of entomologist Peter Walter Claassen.

Rare books and manuscripts from the Wason Collection on East Asia are also housed in the Division. The core of the collection was acquired from Charles William Wason, an 1876 Cornell engineering graduate. Although Wason’s collection was primarily in English, there are several rare sixteenth and seventeenth century books and manuscripts in Latin, Portuguese, Spanish, and French. Among the most notable treasures are five original manuscript volumes of the great fifteenth century Chinese encyclopedia Yung lo ta tien, manuscripts relating to Lord Macartney’s 1792 embassy to China, and a Jade Book of the second Manchu emperor, inscribed in Chinese and Manchu, on ten solid jade tablets. Rare materials in Japanese on Japan were donated in 1914 by William Eliot Griffis.

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Supplementing the holdings of the Echols Collection on Southeast Asia, the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections contains substantial manuscript collections. Because of Cornell’s predominance in Southeast Asian area studies, the Division has significant holdings relating to Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, and Burma. Jacob Gould Schurman, third president of Cornell, was appointed to head the first Philippine Commission in 1898. His papers include extensive correspondence about the situation there, documenting his continuing advocacy of Philippine independence. After World War II Cornell participated in assistance programs in agricultural research and education at the Colleges of Agriculture and Forestry, University of the Philippines, under the sponsorship of the International Cooperation Administration, documented in collections including the Cornell Los Banos Records, Department of Plant Breeding Records, and the records of deans of the college of Agriculture William I. Myers and Charles Palm. Other collections on the Philippines include two photograph albums compiled by a provincial school superintendent from 1911 to 1923, items from the World War II Santo Thomas Internment Camp, and papers of Gerow D. Brill, an agricultural economist who served with the Department of Public instruction of the Philippine Islands, 1901-1902.

In the papers of anthropologist Lauriston Sharp, the Division also holds records from the Cornell-in-Thailand project, one of the Cross-Cultural Methodology projects conducted by the Department of Anthropology during the 1950s and 1960s. Additionally, the papers of Hazel M. Hauck, a nutrition specialist, and Harry Hauser Love, who served as an advisor in rice breeding, document Cornell activities in Thailand.

There are also significant collections from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. The papers of Francois-Jules Harman, a French physician, natural scientist, and diplomat contain extensive diplomatic, archaeological, botanical, and ethnographic information. There are also records of the Governor of Cochin-china and its rule by the French. The photographs of Niels Douwes Dekker, a Dutch photographer, document Indonesia during the 1940s. This extensive collection is complemented by a number of other photograph albums documenting Dutch colonial life in Indonesia. The Division holds the papers of Professor John M. Echols on linguistics and Indonesian languages and literature.

Since 1982 the Division has collected papers of Vietnam War veterans. Other collections documenting the war include a set of photocopied documents on its origins, acquired through the Freedom of Information act by Cornell professor George McT. Kahin.

Garebeg Maulud. "Scarlet" kraton troops resting after a parade, 1931.

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