Illustrated books a rare delight

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 June, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 23 June, 2006, 12:00am

An exhibition of rare books at the University of Hong Kong will celebrate not only the antique printed variety, but also the library's one millionth e-book.

Books and Their Stories: Gems from the University of Hong Kong Libraries Collection runs until July 30.

It features valuable books from the rare collections of the university's libraries, many of which are richly illustrated.

Some belonged to historical and literary figures, including Lu Muzhen, Sun Yat-sen's first wife, Robert Morrison, the first Protestant missionary in China, and Hsu Ti-shan, a well-known essayist and novelist.

Founded in 1912, the University of Hong Kong Libraries is the oldest and largest academic library in Hong Kong.

The university has been focusing on expanding its collection. It not only keeps books, but also newspapers, periodicals and even stone rubbings.

The Fung Ping Shan Library, housed in the same building as part of the university art museum and gallery, has more than 1,500 rubbings engraved from the Qing dynasty and early 1900s, which were bought from a private collection in the 1960s.

It is also rich in periodicals on fine arts published in the first half of the 20th century.

The printed collection of all the university's libraries has grown to over 2.4 million volumes, some being unique.

The university also has a huge e-book collection. In seven years, the library has amassed one million. It was the world's first library to begin acquiring Web-based e-books.

The exhibition details how the library built up its rare collections and explains the one millionth e-book creation.

A five-volume 1798 edition of George Staunton's An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China, was chosen to be digitised as the one millionth e-book. The library owns the world's only printed copy.

Another highlight is a rare copy of the Si ku quan shu (a collection of reference works up to the 18th century), believed to have originated in the Wen Yuan Pavilion collection at the Old Summer Palace.

The gallery is open 9.30am to 6.00pm, Monday to Saturday, and 1.30pm to 5.30pm on Sundays. It is closed on public holidays. Admission is free.