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National Diet Library Newsletter

No. 202, October 2015

Small exhibition in the Kansai-kan (18) A collection of living creatures from all times and places: real, virtual and extinct creatures

From August 20 to September 15, 2015, the Kansai-kan of the National Diet Library (NDL) held a small exhibition entitled "A collection of living creatures from all times and places: real, virtual and extinct creatures."

<<Poster for the small exhibition>>

The exhibition focuses on not only living but also imaginary and extinct creatures, and presents a variety of subjects from a wide range of related materials including scientific and literary works.

This article is an introduction to four of the most famous books featured in the exhibition, which record the lives of animals living in the author’s local habitat, demonstrate the diversity of living creatures, or give animals a prominent place in a literary work.

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Konchuki (Japanese translation of Souvenirs entomologiques by Jean Henri Fabre) published by Sobunkaku from 1922 to 1926 [NDL Call no.: 385-207]

<<Original cover of Konchuki>>

<<Sketches of insects by Fabre>>

This representative work of the French entomologist Jean Henri Fabre is highly regarded as a record of insect life. It combines expert scientific observation with literate depictions of insect behavior. Featured in the exhibition was the first Japanese translation of this work, which was published in several volumes from 1922 to 1926. The first volume was translated from French to Japanese by ŌSUGI Sakae. It is very interesting that this well-known anarchist dealt with a translation of a book about a topic far removed from politics.

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Seibutsu shigen (Japanese translation of On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin) published by Keizai Zasshisha in 1896 [NDL Call no.: 467.5-cD22s3-T]

<<Original cover of Seibutsu shigen>>

This is the Japanese translation of the English naturalist Charles Darwin’s book On the Origin of Species, which introduced to the world the theory that evolution is brought about by mutation and natural selection, thereby provoking worldwide great controversy in both scientific and religious circles after its original publication in 1859. Featured in this exhibition was the first Japanese translation, published in 1896.

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Wagahai wa neko dearu (lit. I Am a Cat) published by Ookura Shoten from 1905 to 1907 [NDL Call no.: 26-344]

<<Original cover of Soseki’s Wagahai wa neko dearu>>

<<An illustration from Wagahai wa neko dearu >>

This is the debut novel of NATSUME Soseki, a Japanese author from the Meiji period. This satirical and humorous story as told by a cat gained great popularity. Featured in this exhibition was an edition of this work that was published serially between 1905 and 1907 and which included a number of unique illustrations.

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Wakan sansai zue (lit. Illustrated Sino-Japanese Encyclopedia) published by NAITO Shooku in 1890 [NDL Call no.: 031.2-Te194w-n2]

<<Yinglong (Winged dragon)>>

This is an illustrated encyclopedia by TERAJIMA Ryoan, published in the Edo period and based on Sancai Tuhui compiled during the Ming dynasty by Chinese author Wang Qi. The book consists of 105 volumes in total and is divided into three parts: universe, earth, and humankind. The chapter focusing on birds and animals also includes legendary animals such as the Chinese phoenix, dragons, and a mermaid.

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