After leading a History writing workshop session at Florida International University one evening earlier this week, I decided to linger on the Modesto Maidique campus after class in order to pay a visit to the Green Library. I was interested in checking out an exhibition of Japanese materials on loan from our own museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.’s private collection. In my capacity as Chief Librarian at the Wolfsonian, I have had numerous opportunities to visit Mr. Wolfson’s private stash of collections materials, and had seen a sprinkling of rare books, board games and other ephemera on the shelves; Japanese paintings and prints hanging on the walls; and kimonos and other decorative arts objects on display in his downtown storage and study centre. I also had the privilege of seeing a great deal of his Far East materials on display at The Bienes Museum of the Modern Book in Ft. Lauderdale, in an exhibit entitled: Japan and the Art of War, 1863-1945, jointly curated by Jim Findlay, Lea Nickless, and Philip Gebauer. Many of the same items (and others!) are now on display in the Green Library and are well worth paying a visit.

Although I would not claim at present that the Wolfsonian Library’s collection of Japanese materials is so substantial as to warrant calling it comprehensive, we do have some particularly interesting items donated by a number of supporters over the years. Museum founder Mitchell Wolfson, Jr.’s original donation also included a number of Japanese items—a few of them related to Japan’s conflicts with her Chinese and Russian neighbors, with the bulk documenting Japan’s participation in the Second World War.


One item, a soft cover book for children, contains instructions on how to make “a consolation gift” to help keep up the morale and fighting spirit of soldiers at the front.

 Other items include a set of patriotic Japanese prints designed to be made into fans, and rare periodicals such as Japan: Today and Tomorrow and International Graphic.

Once the Wolfsonian opened its doors as a public museum and study center, the institution began receiving donations of a number of important Japanese titles from a number of other collectors. The library holds two copies, for example, of Their Japan: being brief descriptions of noteworthy phases of Japanese life, or many of the customs, festivals, arts and crafts of the Japanese, published in Yokohama in 1936. One copy was donated to the library by Arthur Jaffe in 1994; the other by Anita G. Herrick in 2003. I happened across a rare edition of Japan, her strength and her beauty at the antiquarian annex of the Miami International Book Fair in 2002 and bought and donated it to the library.


In 2007, a book collector out in Seattle, Washington, Pamela K. Harer donated more than one hundred rare children’s propaganda books to the library—several of which hailing from the Far East.


Former FIU Director of Libraries and cruise line enthusiast, Dr. Laurence Miller also recently donated his substantial collection of cruise industry promotional materials to the library. Among the tens of thousands of cruise line industry brochures, deck plans, and other printed advertisements is an entire box of materials produced by the Mitsui O.S.K. Line in the postwar era.


Most recently, the library has received more than fifty rare books from the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection. Fred Sharf has always been extremely interested in Japan and the Far East, and a large number of the books in that donation came from that region—posing a real linguistic challenge for our cataloguers!


Mr. Sharf has been making arrangements to augment that earlier gift with a more substantial donation—sure to include many more important works documenting the rise of Japan to world power status in the late nineteenth and early-to-mid-twentieth century. But more on that later this summer!

~ by "The Chief" on June 26, 2010.

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