Any large library, particularly if it is an old one, contains many happy accidents in its collections, books that complement one another in unexpected ways. But in a great research library, such as Harvard's, accidents do not represent merely the workings of chance. Great collections grow form the effective coordination of the experience, education, skills, and talents of generations of scholars and librarians whose purpose is to enlarge knowledge and as a result, leave the library richer for their association with it.
In the collection of the Harvard-Yenching Library which, with more than a million volumes, is the largest East Asian library maintained by any American university, are, for example, the memoirs (published during wartime) of Ambassador Kurusu Saburō and Admiral Nomura Kichisaburõ, Japan's special envoys to the United States at the time of Pearl Harbor. In Harvard's Houghton Library are the personal and official papers, including typescript journals, of Joseph C. Grew. This archive records a long and distinguished diplomatic career which was climaxed by Mr. Grew's tenure as United States Ambassador to Japan in the years just before and at the time of Pearl Harbor. History's mirror always has two sides but only in a superlative research library can both be found together.
East Asian studies, in particular, require such closely complementary research resource, for the great and separate East Asian civilizations must be discovered through original, vernacular documents, but described in the languages of the West. One finds at Harvard, then, two parallel streams along which the serious student can explore East Asian civilizations to its most remote origins. One stream is formed from the incomparable collection in the original languages which fill the Harvard-Yenching Library. The second is a series of tributaries in Western languages which are to be found in dozens of the other branches of the University Library.