The treasures of Cambridge University Library’s Chinese collections added to the Digital Library

The Cambridge Digital Library website http://cudl.lib.cam.ac.uk/collections/chinese) already hosts the works of Charles Darwin, Isaac Newton and Siegfried Sassoon, as well as unique collections on the Board of Longitude and the Royal Commonwealth Society. The oracle bones (ox shoulder blades and turtle shells) are one of the Library’s most important collections and are the earliest surviving examples of Chinese writing anywhere in the world. They record questions to which answers were sought by divination at the court of the royal house of Shang, which ruled central China between the 16th and 11th centuries BCE. The bones record information on a wide range of matters including warfare, agriculture, hunting and medical problems, as well as genealogical, meteorological and astronomical data, such as the earliest records of eclipses and comets. Never before displayed, three of the 800 oracle bones held in the Library can now be viewed in exquisite detail, alongside a 17th-century book which has been described as 'perhaps the most beautiful set of prints ever made'. The ‘Manual of Calligraphy and Painting’ was made in 1633 in Nanjing. Charles Aylmer, Head of the Chinese Department at Cambridge University Library, said: “This is the earliest and finest example of multi-colour printing anywhere in the world, comprising 138 paintings and sketches with associated texts by fifty different artists and calligraphers”. Other highlights of the digitization include one of the world’s earliest printed books, a Buddhist text dated between 1127 and 1175.

Cambridge University Library acquired its first Chinese book in 1632 as part of the collection of the Duke of Buckingham, but the first substantial holdings of Chinese books came with the donation of 4,304 volumes by Sir Thomas Wade (1818–1895), first Professor of Chinese in the University from 1888 until his death. The Chinese collections at Cambridge University Library now number about half a million individual titles, including monographs, reprinted materials, archival documents, epigraphical rubbings and 200,000 Chinese e-books (donated by Premier Wen Jiabao in 2009).


The treasures of Cambridge University Library’s Chinese collections added to the Digital Library

Source: www.cam.ac.uk

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