The purpose of this database is to make available for the first time in electronic form a fully revised and updated version of the important catalogue of rare books contained in the Kirishitan Bunko キリシタン 文庫 Library of Sophia University, edited by Johannes Laures, S.J. in three separate editions, namely: Kirishitan Bunko 吉利支丹 文庫. A Manual of Books and Documents on the Early Christian Mission in Japan [...], Monumenta Nipponica Monographs, 5 (Tokyo: Sophia University, 1940 [1st ed.]; 1941 [2nd ed.]; 1951 [rev. ed.]; 1957 [3rd ed.]; repr. 1985).
This unique collection of bibliographical treasures in the Sophia University collection, so meticulously studied and documented in the various editions of the Laures catalogue, merits further attention by scholars. During the intervening half century since the third revised edition and the seventeen years since the last reprint in 1985, a significant number of rare items have been acquired by the University and added to this collection. Moreover, recent studies have brought to light new data that needs to be integrated with the descriptions of the previous catalogues.
Moreover, in preparing this online resource, it was decided to include descriptions and images of early modern European maps of East Asia as well as Christian artifacts from the Muromachi and Tokugawa periods. The latter include the following: porcelain statues of the goddess of mercy (Guanyin), produced in China but used in Japan by the hidden Christians as a secret symbol of the Virgin with child and popularly referred to as "Maria Kannon"; sword guards of Japanese Christian samurai; European engravings; anti-Christian government decrees, written in black ink on wooden boards (kōsatsu), and a number of Christian-related Japanese documents in scroll format. Finally, a number of important Japanese maps from the late Tokugawa and early Meiji periods have also been digitized for the present project.
This new "electronic catalogue" not only makes this collection accessible once again to the scholarly community, it also provides the full benefits of sophisticated XML-based search engines and accompanying high-quality digital images of the frontispieces of the rare books, maps, and artifacts in question.
A further feature, which was added in 2004 is the new Virtual Library, which contains images of entire works chosen from among the rarest pre-1620 imprints in the Kirishitan Bunko collection.
The present database and virtual library, whilst demonstrating the remarkable capabilities of this technology in the development of new forms of archival delivery of data to the reader, remains a "work in progress" and will continue to be updated, revised, and integrated with new data and images over the next several years. In spite of its limitations, it should serve, nevertheless, to illustrate the nature of the type of online database --- or more accurately, "virtual library" --- which our research team envisioned for this project.
This new online digital resource will hopefully serve as a useful tool for researchers investigating the complex history of cultural interaction between Europe and Japan in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as well as the history of Western printing in late Muromachi Japan. More specifically, the focus of the database is determined by its main bibliographical corpus, i.e. books, maps, and artifacts related to the development of Christianity in Japan and the history of books printed about Japan in early modern Europe.