Mackintosh Library Collections: Asiatic

Naganari Kodama (1884) 新選古代模樣鑑 (GSA Mackintosh Library, Asiatic Collection)

GSA Library holds a small collection of books produced in or concentrating upon Asiatic countries, mostly dating from the mid to late nineteenth century.

There is a strong focus on the arts and society of Japan, reflecting the close trade and cultural links that existed between the Japanese nation and the city of Glasgow. These had been cemented in the Japan-Glasgow Exchange of 1878, in which the Japanese government gifted a collection of over one thousand art pieces to the city, across architecture, furniture, wood, lacquer ware, ceramics, metalwork, and textiles. The gift was exhibited in 1881-1882 during the Oriental Art Exhibition at the McLellan Galleries, attracting around 30,000 visitors. Today the collection resides with Glasgow Museums. Meanwhile, Glaswegian engineer Henry Dyer (1848-1918) had introduced Western-style technical education to the Tokyo Imperial College of Engineering and had sponsored exchanges between Japanese and Glaswegian students. In 1889, Kustaro Mitsuta became the first Japanese student to enroll at Glasgow School of Art.

In 1887, ‘a series of books on Japanese art and design’ were acquired by then GSA Headmaster Francis Newbery. Although individual titles are not recorded, the GSA library holds to this day a number of rare Japanese books published in the Meiji period. Much has been written on the influence of Japanese art and design on the young Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who was enrolled as an evening class student at the School from 1883-1894, and it is tempting to conjecture that Mackintosh may have enjoyed a formative exposure to the arts of Japan with the arrival of these volumes in the GSA library during his studies. Also included in the collection is a book on the Japanese artist Hokusai inscribed in Mackintosh’s hand in 1889 to his Windy Hill patrons, the Davidsons.

Significant volumes on Oriental and Islamic arts are also held in the Stoddard-Templeton Collection.

Digital Volumes

We have digitised a selection of volumes from this collection, which you can view online or download.