Exhibition of rare books in Shanghai brings Western literature culture to Chinese visitors

Source: Global Times Published: 2020/11/4 20:27:50

A photo of the Latin version Sapientia Sinica, or Chinese Wisdom, published in 1662. Photo: Courtesy to Shanghai Library on Sina Weibo

More than 100 rare Western books collected by Bibliotheca Zi-ka-wei, the earliest modern library still in operation in Shanghai, were revealed to booklovers at an exhibition hosted at the Shanghai Library on Monday.  

The Selected Rare Collection in Bibliotheca Zi-ka-wei of Shanghai Library exhibition features 104 literary treasures, the oldest being a 1477 original copy of the first Latin version of Greek writer Dionysius Periegetes' De Situ Orbis. Other highlights are a first edition of the Italian version of John Mandeville's Tractato de le Piu Maravegliose Cosse (The Travels of Sir John Mandeville) in 1480 and the book Design of Chinese Buildings, Furniture, Dresses, Machines, and Utensils written by William Chambers, an important Scottish-Swedish architect as well as a fanatical promoter of the "Chinese-style" in the European architectural world. 

The most notable work of this large-scale display of foreign rare books that the Shanghai Library has had the chance to hold in recent years is the seemingly plain-looking thread-bound publication Sapientia Sinica, or Chinese Wisdom. The work was published in 1662 in both Latin and Chinese. The book on display has notes on the title page written by a librarian 100 years ago explaining the book's origin. It is rare as the book is currently collected by only six public institutions around the world, and the Shanghai copy is the only one in China. 

Specializing in collecting foreign literature published before 1950, Bibliotheca Zi-ka-wei is an old library in Shanghai that houses more than 300,000 volumes of foreign literature published from 1477 to 1950. An epitome of the historical cultural ties between the West and East, it is now a part of the Shanghai Library, a modern and multi-functional reading place for the public that aims to further the cultural communication between China and the world. 

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