The collection of Japanese books and manuscripts, assembled by the 25th Earl of Crawford in the 1860s and ’70s and purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1901, is not large by international standards, but it contains a number of manuscripts and printed books of great interest and rarity.
Many of the books derived from the collections of some of the most famous Japanologists of the nineteenth century, including Pierre Léopold van Alstein, Frederick Victor Dickins and Philipp Franz von Siebold; a few can be traced back to the collection of Isaac Titsingh (1744–1812), who lived in Japan in the eighteenth century and who is considered by many to be the founder of modern Japanology.
The collection includes twenty-two manuscripts, as well as over 200 printed books.
They mostly date from the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and include works on history, biography, poetry, drama, anthropology and topography, with dictionaries, directories of samurai, encyclopedias and maps, in Japanese, Dutch and English.
Among them are four volumes of annotated drawings of plants and insects.