For those interested in the premodern and/or the history Christianity and its connections to Japan, Sophia University in Tokyo has a fascinating database that’s worth looking into. A digital archive of the rare books of Johannes Laures, S.J., the collection contains as many as 15,000 items in a variety of languages, including Japanese, Latin, French, English, and more.
According to the Sophia University website, the archive includes:
– missionary publications from the 16th century to the present, manuscripts, maps, and artifacts related to early modern history and cultural exchange, linguistics, Kirishitan art and literature, as well as the Japanese anti-Christian literature published during the period of persecution.
– the entire series of “Fr. Petitjean’s Press” published during the restoration of the Catholic Church in Japan (1865-1880).
– Chinese Catholic publications from the late Ming-early Qing period.
The database can be navigated in both English and Japanese, although the individual works can be difficult to navigate because titles of objects and texts are not translated from their original titles (a Latin text, for example, will still have its title and information in Latin!). Even so, the textual content of many works is accessible, as is the various metadata for each object.
The database is divided into three main sections for visitors, Essays (hypertext of Laures’ Kirishitan Bunko), Sources (bibliographic data, maps, maps, images, manuscripts, and other objects), and Texts (images of manuscripts and transcribed texts). These categories can be at times a little opaque, but more useful, I think is that all of the items in the collection have also been arranged on a timeline that is easy to navigate and explore:
With the ability to also narrow fields within the database and timeline by language, date published, and other categorical information, it’s fairly simply to get through despite any linguistic barriers. I think the maps of Asia and the world that are in here (of which there are NUMEROUS examples) are especially fascinating. So be sure to check it out!