William Elliot Griffis Collection Development Policy

Statement of purpose of the institution and/or collection 

We collect rare, unique, and specialized materials that document Westerners in Japan and East Asia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The cornerstone of this collection is the William Elliot Griffis Collection.  William Elliot Griffis (1843–1928), a graduate of the Rutgers College Class of 1869, has been called the foremost interpreter of Japan to the West before the First World War.  As well as a traveler and prolific author, Griffis was a collector of books, documents, photographs, and ephemera about Japan and those countries in her sphere of influence, particularly Korea, as well as about many other subjects.  He gave a substantial group of personal papers, books, and manuscripts to Rutgers during his lifetime, and after his death by bequest. SC/UA collects books, manuscripts, and other material that complement these collections. The collection supports the research and informational needs of Rutgers University and the people of New Jersey, as well as those of the broader communities of international scholars and researchers. 

Types of programs supported by the collection 

  • Curriculum 
  • Research 
  • Exhibits 
  • Community outreach 
  • Clientele served by the collection 

We primarily serve scholars in a wide range of disciplines including Asian languages, history, political science, law, anthropology, art history, economics, and religion.  For instance, we have held workshops on the Korean materials in the Griffis Collection, which were attended by scholars from Korea and throughout the United States. Graduate students at Rutgers and elsewhere regularly use the collection for their research. Undergraduate classes in Korean Studies and Advanced Japanese conversation are regularly brought to SC/UA to use the collection, as are international students, those participating in study abroad, and those doing special projects. An honors seminar will be taught based on the Griffis Collection. K-12 students from the United States and Japan, members of the Japanese community of New Jersey, and members of the general public with an interest in the subject regularly visit the Griffis Collection. 

Priorities and limitations of the collection 

Present identified strengths  

The William Elliot Griffis Collection comprises 250 cubic feet of manuscript material and over 1,000 rare books. The greatest strengths of the book collection are the numerous travel accounts written by Americans who visited Japan during the Meiji and Taisho periods (1868–1926). A special effort has been made to collect accounts by women.  

Present identified weaknesses 

We are currently building the holdings documenting countries within Japan’s sphere of influence during this period: Korea, Taiwan, and Manchuria. We are also increasing our holdings of travel accounts by Westerners written in languages other than English, including French, German, Italian, Dutch, Spanish, and Portuguese. Because some travel accounts can now be accessed for informational purposes through Google Books or Hathi Trust, we are focusing on rare or unique titles with artifactual value.  

Desired level of collection to meet program needs and collecting guidelines 


Geographic areas collected 

Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Manchuria 

Chronological periods collected 

1853 to 1927 

Subject areas collected  

History, political science, art history, literature, philology, economics, religion. 

Languages collected 

English language materials extensively.  Also Japanese, Korean, Chinese, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch selectively. 

Forms of materials collected  

Books, manuscripts, maps, pamphlets, and broadsides.   


We usually do not collect individual letters and photographs unless of special interest. We do not collect fine art prints or items of which the cost is prohibitive, duplicates, or contemporary published work unless the work is substantially based on materials in the Griffis Collection.   

The Special Collections and University Archives will not accept materials without legal transfer of title through a deed of gift, transfer of records form, or other official acknowledgement.  

We do not accept gifts that pose major preservation hazards (e.g., mold, insect infestation, dampness, etc.); that come with special conditions and constraints it cannot honor; or require extensive processing or treatment. 

Cooperative Agreements 

Japanese prints and fine arts are collected by the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum at Rutgers. Contemporary works in Chinese, Korean, and Japanese dealing with this period are collected by the East Asian Library. Contemporary works in English are collected by the Alexander Library.  

Resource Sharing 

Like all materials in SC/UA, items in the Griffis Collection can be accessed outside of Rutgers through several cooperative access arrangements, including the OCLC Research Library Partnership SHARES Consortium. However, titles that are very fragile or irreplaceable are not shared without the curator’s approval. The curator of Griffis Collection will consider requests to photocopy, or scan materials needed by other institutions subject to the condition of the materials, and the photoduplication policy of SC/UA. 

Deaccessioning Policy 

Items in the Griffis Collection are not deaccessioned. However, books that might be included within a larger donation but do not fit our collecting criteria may be rejected and disposed of as described in our deed of gift. It is our hope that we could provide a suitable home for materials given into our possession but inappropriate for our collection.  

Procedures for Reviewing the Policy and its Implementation 

This policy will be reviewed, evaluated, and changed as necessary to meet the goals of the university and the New Brunswick Libraries. The Libraries annual report will be used as a source of information for this review, with additional information taken from user surveys, faculty interviews, departmental committee meetings, and other similar data compiled by the curator.