Cambridge University Library is now home to one of the world’s largest collections of Chinese monographs – following the gift of 200,000 electronic books by the country’s Premier.

Wen Jiabao, Premier of the People’s Republic of China, visited the University recently as part of the University’s 800th Anniversary celebrations.

The gift is one of the largest single donations received in the University Library’s 650-year history and almost doubles the number of electronic books at its disposal.

The donation was presented to the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Alison Richard, in a short ceremony before Premier Wen's delivery of the 2008-2009 Rede Lecture.

The 200,000 titles in the donation have been selected to complement the Library's existing Chinese holdings, and comprise books published since 1992 in the humanities, including classical and modern Chinese language and literature, history, geography, politics, economics, law, philosophy, religion, social sciences, military affairs, culture, education and art.

University Librarian Peter Fox said: “Our Chinese collections, already among the finest in the world in terms of range and quality, have been spectacularly launched into the electronic era thanks to Premier Wen's munificent gift, and now provide even more comprehensive support for the future development of Chinese Studies in Cambridge.”

The collection of e-books, specially selected for Cambridge, is accompanied by an elegant scroll bearing the Chinese title "China Digital Library" inscribed in the Premier's own calligraphy. Following the gift, it is believed the University Library now holds the biggest collection of Chinese monographs in the UK.

China's provision of electronic publications is one of the most comprehensive in the world. The digital publishing and e-book technology used in the digital library platform presented to Cambridge were developed by Founder Apabi Technology Ltd of Peking University.

The Chinese collection of Cambridge University Library includes inscribed oracle bones dating from the 13th century BC; over 100,000 printed book titles, the earliest of which dates from the 12th century AD; manuscripts, paintings, rubbings and other artefacts.

The first Chinese book entered the Library as early as 1632. Significant additions to the Library's Chinese holdings were made in the years immediately following the Second World War and systematic purchasing of new Chinese publications has continued ever since.

Generous gifts from China have continued down the years, including many obtained through the mediation of Dr Joseph Needham (1900-95). In 1986, 4,468 volumes were presented by the Government of the People's Republic of China, and as recently as last November, State Councillor Madame Liu Yandong donated a set of 140 volumes.

The latest gift from Premier Wen Jiabao, however, eclipses all previous donations of Chinese books. It has increased the number of Chinese book titles available to members of Cambridge University by two-thirds to over 300,000, the largest number of any library in the UK and among the largest outside China.

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