Miscellaneous Japanese manuscripts, especially picture books and picture scrolls, in the Bodleian Library

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 161 MSS. Jap. a. 1-2, b. 1-2, 3-5 (R), c. 1-3, 4 (R), 5, 6-8 (R), 20 (R), d. 1-6, 7-8 (R), 9-16, 17 (R), 18-22, 24-50, 51-5 (R), 56-70, e. 1, 2-3 (R), 4-6, 7 (R), 8-9, f. 1-4, g. 1 (R)
  • Dates of Creation
      17th-20th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
  • Physical Description
      99 shelfmarks

Scope and Content

The collection contains Nara-ehon (Nara picture books), including a set of Otogi zoshi, a collection of popular medieval tales in 21 parts, mid-17th century; as well as examples of very decorative picture scrolls, such as Urashima and Hinazuru (a great rarity, thought to be the only existing text).

Of quite a different kind is MS. Jap. d. 64, consisting of seventy volumes of Japanese Foreign Office papers, dating from 1867 to 1911. Most deal with relations with foreigners in Japan, and with trade. Among these documents are drafts for laws and regulations, letters, forms, and translations of correspondence with important Westerners.

There is also Shogun Ieyasu's shuinjo (vermillion-seal document) (MSS. Jap. b. 2) of 1613. This was issued by Shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu to grant the East India Company trade privileges in Japan. The Bodleian's shuinjo is believed to be one of two copies given to John Saris, commander of the eighth voyage of the Company, for long presumed to be lost in England.

Administrative / Biographical History

The collection includes Japanese manuscripts given by the Dante scholar, Paget Jackson Toynbee (1855-1932); and the naturalist, Henry Nottidge Moseley (1844-91). Details on both are in the Dictionary of National Biography.

Conditions Governing Access

Entry to read in the Bodleian Japanese Library is permitted only on presentation of a valid reader's card (for admissions procedures see http://www.bodley.ox.ac.uk).

Acquisition Information

Most of the manuscripts were acquired between the end of the nineteenth century and the beginning of the twentieth; the earliest acquisition happened sometime before 1680, and the latest in 1963. The series includes manuscripts given by Dr. Paget Toynbee in 1912, and Mrs H.N. Moseley in 1914.


Collection level description created by Susan Thomas, Department of Special Collections and Western Manuscripts.

Other Finding Aids

Some of the manuscripts are briefly described in Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series, with references to the oriental and other manuscripts (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted, with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980), vols. II.I, V-VI, nos. 2984, 29223, 29897, 30122, 30881, 31630-2, 32364-5, 32593-4, 32921-2, 33030-1, 33354-7, 33614, 34161, 34166, 36350-7, 36813-58, 36991.

A catalogue of Japanese manuscripts and early printed books is in preparation.

Corporate Names