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William Woodville Rockhill’s Chinese Language Books

Rockhill
Illustration from Hui tu zeng xiang xi you ji, an 1891 illustrated version of the Journey to the West, from the Rockhill donation.

The article A Scholar Diplomat’s Legacy: William Woodville Rockhill and His Chinese Language Books at the Freer Gallery of Art Library, by Lily Kecskes, former Head Librarian of the Freer-Sackler Library, and published in the Journal of East Asian Libraries, number 146 (October 2008), describes an important donation in the history of the Freer-Sackler Library. The article details a 1927 gift of precious and rare Chinese language books to the Smithsonian Institution made by Mrs. Rockhill, widow of the scholar-diplomat William Woodville Rockhill. It notes that the donated books “ranged, in date of publication from 1659 to 1913 and covered a wide range of subjects, including religion, history, geography, literature, and culture of Central Asia, Tibet, and Mongolia.”

The Freer-Sackler Library decided to use Kecskes’ scholarship to provide researchers with a way to locate each of the books from the Rockhill donation by searching the Smithsonian Libraries catalog. Through the assistance of Ezra Heller, an intern working on a high school service project in May 2016, a link “Rockhill, William Woodville, 1854-1914 former owner” has been added to the bibliographic records representing the works donated by Mrs. Rockhill. Doing a search for “Rockhill” as an author browse search in the Smithsonian Institution Research Information System (SIRIS) links to a list of the 82 titles comprising over 1000 volumes in the Freer-Sackler Library that we have been able to identify thus far as originating from the Rockhill donation. Kecskes’ article notes that the majority of the Chinese language books in the Freer-Sackler Library rare books collection are from this Rockhill donation.

 

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One Comment

  1. Ms. Ivy Leichman

    As a long time Smithsonian member, I am pleased this has been organized so well by Mr. Ezra Heller.

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