The C. V. Starr East Asian Library
History of the Library
In 1872, Edward Tompkins, a San Francisco attorney, endowed the first chair at the University of California, Berkeley, the Agassiz Professorship of Oriental Languages and Literature. Tompkins had seen trade developing between the port of San Francisco and countries across the Pacific; if that trade was to continue, he reasoned, the residents of the state had to be educated in the languages and cultures of Asia. The first occupant of the Agassiz chair, John Fryer, established what is now known as the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and seeded the East Asian collections at Berkeley with his own library of over 2,000 volumes of Chinese classics, histories, and compendia.
Now, over a hundred years after Fryer's arrival in Berkeley, the East Asian studies program has been ranked the finest in the nation by the U.S. Department of Education, and the East Asian Library holds well over 1,070,000 items. In January 2008 the Library moved into the first building ever constructed on an American university campus to house an East Asian collection.
The East Asian Library collects print and non-print materials primarily in the Chinese, Japanese, and Korean languages. It also has modest holdings in Mongolian, Manchu, and Tibetan. While the Library's mission is to support teaching and research across all departments and professional schools on the Berkeley campus, it has traditionally focused on the humanities and social sciences. And while its primary constituency is the Berkeley academic community, the breadth and richness of its collections regularly draw researchers from across the nation and from overseas.
The Chinese Collection
Historically, the Chinese collection focused on humanities, especially literature, history, Confucian classics, religion, and fine arts. Since merging with the Center for Chinese Studies Library in 2008, it has expanded its scope to include the Chinese social sciences, especially the fields of political science, sociology, and economics. The shift in academic interests and course offerings has led the Library to acquire more non-print media and electronic resources.
The Library's rare Chinese holdings are surprisingly rich for a collection begun only a century ago. The Starr holds more Song and Yuan editions than any other academic library in North America; 2,700 rubbings of stone and bronze inscriptions and reliefs; and over 500 political posters. The Library also possesses draft manuscripts by such eminent figures as Qian Qianyi, Weng Fanggang, and Wang Tao; and books and rubbings once in the collections of celebrated bibliophiles and scholars such as Liu Chenggan, Jiang Ruzao, and Chen Jieqi.
The Japanese Collection
Berkeley's Japanese collection is considered the finest among American university collections. This ranking that was ensured in the middle of the twentieth century, when Berkeley purchased 100,000 items once in the private library of the Mitsui clan, founders of one of the largest corporations in the history of Japanese commerce and finance. The acquisition brought to the Library a number of smaller collections, among them the Gakken and Motoori collections of Japanese classical literature, and the Sōshin collection of books, Japanese historical maps, and ephemera. The library also owns the 8,850-volume Murakami collection dedicated to writings of the Meiji era (1868–1912). Modern holdings have been enhanced with a gift of 3,800 volumes from the private library of novelist Endō Shūsaku. Since the early 1950s, the East Asian Library has been one of only two depositories in the U.S. for Japanese government publications.
The Korean Collection
The Library's Korean holdings now exceed 102,000 volumes. Outstanding among these are the 4,000+ volumes of the Asami library, assembled by Asami Rintarō in the early decades of the twentieth century and purchased by Berkeley thirty years later. The collection includes a number of manuscript diaries and memoirs, hand-copied works, and about sixty examples of moveable-type printing dating to as early as the seventeenth century.
The general Korean collection extends to all fields of the humanities and social sciences but is particularly strong in history, political science, and sociology. Some of its resources are seldom encountered in North American libraries, including Korean-language materials published by ethnic Korean communities in Japan, Chinese Manchuria and Jilin, and the former Soviet republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan.
Korean Collection Librarian:
Chang, Jae-yong 장재용