Newsletter No. 388

No. 388, 4.12.2011 3 prints of Yuan Dynasty, hand-written copies from the Ming Dynasty, authentic transcriptions of Complete Library of Four Branches of Books , and manuscripts of Qing poet Wang Shizhen, are the cream of the crop,’ said Lam Chun-kwong. The life of a book is similar to mankind; both have their ups and downs, and must experience all kinds of life’s intricacies. Most of the books in the Rare Book Room are Chinese stitch-bound books. The most ancient are two woodblock print titles dating back to the Yuan Dynasty. The Annotations to the Book of Changes is over 700 years old, and once belonged to one of the four major private libraries, Tower of the Eight Thousand Fascicles built by the Ding brothers in the late Qing Dynasty. The first page of the book had a rectangular seal indicating its ownership. Later when Ding’s collection was scattered, this book was supposed to be moved to Jiangnan Library in Nanjing, but it was mysteriously removed. The seal’s bottom right hand corner was cut and the book was resold. Now it is in Hong Kong. Literary Works of Mr. Zongyuan , a hand-written copy from the Ming Dynasty also had a rugged fate. Originally kept in Qunbi Tower owned by modern bibliophile Deng Bangshu, the collection was scattered when Japan invaded China, and quite a number of books were rescued by the famous scholar and book admirer Cheng Chen-tou. The ancient books Cheng acquired were kept in Taiwan’s Central Library, and this book was one of them. However it was lost during transfers and came into the collection of movements. Apart from that, books related to China studies and Sino-western relations, especially those printed in foreign languages, are given priority. Although 500 titles of rare books have been converted to digital files, full-scale digitization is still pending. Never Ending Passion for Ancient Books ‘The happiest moment is to receive books. If there’s a piece published before the 60th year of Qianlong, I’d feel great. If I found a book that had been soiled or worm- eaten, I’d feel upset. Recently, we’ve received a volume of Yongle Canon which was a reprint to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the PRC government, but sadly the borders were destroyed by worms,’ Mr. Lam recalled with regret. ‘Deng Bangshu of Qunbi Tower is fascinating. Whatever he wanted to acquire, he just bought it even if it cost him a fortune or incur a huge debt. Now, when I hold one of his books in my palms, reading his remarks, I’d feel excited. It seems that Deng is right in front of me. Rare books of this kind are full of feelings. They have a life of their own. Book admirers of all periods in time and from different countries have one thing in common—they don’t see books as mere books, but human beings. A book is a reflection of the past, and links us to our roots. When we vow to preserve our historical and cultural heritage, we are actually preserving the fountains of life. 何謂善本書? 在中國,善本書在版本學上有不同涵義,或指無訛文 脫字,或精校精印,或傳世舊本。到現代,主要以學術 資料性、歷史文物性和藝術代表性來衡量。中大主要 根據歷史文物性,以乾隆六十年(1795)為分水嶺, 之前刊印的均列為善本,嘉慶至宣統年間(1796 – 1911)的屬於普通古籍。但亦有例外,乾嘉時有許多 印刷良好、內容精審、學術價值高的著作,故嘉慶以後 有些書也屬於善本。在外國,藏書家較重書籍的稀罕 程度,稱之為「珍本」,在1900年以前刊印的西文書, 中大圖書館都視為善本。 善本書庫的緣起 建校之初,崇基、新亞、 聯合三所書院已各有珍藏。 大學圖書館成立後,首任館 長兼古籍專家 裘開明 博士四 出訪求徵集,藏量得以充實。 當時,線裝書只存放在普通閉 架書庫內。到1999年《古籍善 本書錄》編纂完成,館方覺得這批文化遺產應要好好 保護,遂於2002年在田家炳樓三樓設立善本書庫。 潮濕、翳熱、陽光和蟲蛀,一向是書的大敵。因此,書 庫的溫度、濕度、照明、防火、空氣質素和保安設施, 均有嚴密監控。書庫內一塵不染,地方清爽,每本書 都處於上佳狀態。「不少人知道有這麼一個地方,所 以樂意把書送過來,」林進光說。「我們吸引之處,是 有較好的保存環境,而且入藏的善本書不會再散佚, 有人慷慨捐贈,我們一定接受,永久保存。」 近十幾年來,善本書主要從捐贈得來,如2008年獲 北山堂送出利榮森博士的藏書,是數量最多和比較 珍貴的中文善本書。 善本書庫現有中文善本書約八百九十種(共計一萬 五千冊),西文善本一千八百種。 Bei Shan Tang which later donated it to CUHK. The beautifully transcribed Book Shadow is an authentic and invaluable title of the imperial library, i.e., Wenlange’s edition of Complete Library of Four Branches of Books . Since another book by the same author, Zhou Lianggong, was accused of spreading anti-Qing sentiments, all his works must be withdrawn, banned and burned. This book is extremely fortunate to have escaped burning and survived to this day. Mission in Preserving Cultural Heritage The Rare Book Room aims to provide an ideal place to store antiquarian books, and if possible acquire new collections. In the meantime, since it lacks funding and repairing skills, if a donated book is inherently damaged, there is no way to mend it. Mr. Lam said the University Library is now collecting books published from 1911 to 1949, i.e., the early days of the Republic of China. But preservation of such books is very difficult because they were printed on acidic paper which makes the book brittle. Works published from 1949 to 1977, i.e., from the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to the end of the Cultural Revolution, are now regarded as ‘new rare titles’ because numerous books and archives were eradicated following waves of political What Makes a Book ‘Rare’? In Chinese bibliology, books that have been closely scrutinized, finely printed with no misprint or omission, or ancient editions that survived the ages, are called shanben (fine text). Nowadays, shanben is expanded to include those that have scholarship value, historical and cultural relics, or works with high artistic value. For CUHK, books printed before the end of the Qianlong period (1795) are classified as shanben , those printed between Jiaqing and Xuantong periods (1796–1911) are ancient books. In foreign countries, book collectors tend to value a book’s preciousness in terms of scarcity. In CUHK libraries, foreign books printed before 1900 are classified as ‘rare’. Beginning of the Rare Book Room CUHK libraries’ Chinese rare book collection originally comprised two parts. One part was the collection of Chung Chi College, New Asia College and United College. The other part was built up during the 1960s through the extraordinary efforts of Dr. Chiu Kai-ming , the founding librarian. At that time, all stitch- bound books were stored as closed stack items without special care. In 1999, after the publishing of Annotated Bibliography of Chinese Rare Books in the CHUK Libraries , CHUK libraries decided to establish in 2002 a permanent home to house these cultural gems at 3/F, Tin Ka Ping Building. Books are vulnerable to changes in the environment, especially ancient books. The environmental controls of the Rare Book Room is carefully planned, particularly the temperature, relative humidity, air quality, lighting controls and security measures. ‘People are aware that we have this facility so they’re willing to donate books to us,’ Mr. Lam said. ‘Here, the charm is that all rare books acquired will never be scattered or lost again. If anyone wishes to donate their book collection, we’d gladly accept and put them here for good.’ In the past decade or so, new entries have been acquired solely through donations. For example, in 2008, Bei Shan Tang donated the private collections of the late Dr. Lee Jung-sen. Currently, the Chinese rare book collection consists of about 890 classical titles in more than 15,000 volumes in traditional stitch-bound fascicles, and the western rare book collection has 1,800 titles.