Western collector of ancient books, Chengdingtang, has donated and entrusted to the National Central Library 200 letters and manuscripts by cultural figures. The library held the Chengdingtang Ancient Books and Manuscripts Symposium and Donation Ceremony at the Taipei International Convention Center on 31 October 2020. Director-General Shu-hsien Tseng presided, and Chengdingtang was represented by Mr. Jason Dou. Also invited to give formal addresses were the VIP guests Bureau France de Taipei Director M. Jean-François Casabonne Masonnave and former Minister of Culture Cheng Li-chiun.
On the day of the ceremony, the National Central Library launched the Chengdingtang Exhibition of Ancient Western Books and Manuscripts by Cultural Figures, exhibiting manuscripts by great Western authors, including poetry and drama by Alfred de Musset, three manuscripts by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, works by Victor Hugo and Gustave Flaubert, letters by Guy de Maupassant and Emile Zola, transcripts of Franz Joseph Haydn’s Four Seasons drama, and Alexandre Dumas’ five-act poem Fiesque of Lavagne, likely being seen for the first time in Taiwan. They were accompanied by precious ancient books previously brought to the National Central Library, such as a 1483 Koberger Bibel, the historiographical masterpiece Supplementum Chronicarum, published in 1490, a Complete Comedies, Histories and Tragedies of Mr. William Shakespeare, printed in 1632, a 1570 first edition of I quattro libri dell’architettura, a 1762 Du contrat social ou principes du droit politique by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, a 1637 Discours de la methode by René Déscartes, and a 1721 Lettres persanes, by Charles Montesquieu.
Also on the day of the ceremony, the Chengdingtang Ancient Books and Manuscript Symposium was held, hosted by Director-General Tseng, at which distinguished scholars were invited to speak on related research fields. Director-General Tseng said that the library holds a wealth of material in its special collections. There are over 5,000 Western language volumes of 100 years old or older, including illustrations, texts and copious rare books, as well as the precious Western classics and manuscripts transferred by Chengdingtang. She said that the National Central Library should appropriately organize and maintain them, and digitize and place them on the internet, for the reading and research convenience of readers, and for optimum promotion of social education.
In his address, Jason Dou of Chengdingtang said that his family had been collecting ancient Western books for more than 100 years, had for almost 50 years been collaborating with the National Library of France and German institutions of restoration on the restoration of documents, and had in recent years stored some ancient Western books with—and made some donations of ancient Western books to—the National Central Library, in the hope, with the strength of the library, to preserve this consignment of mankind’s cultural heritage and digitize it, make it available to scholars for research and lend it to overseas libraries for exhibitions, and other varied promotional uses.Director Casabonne-Masonnave followed by saying that many of the manuscripts on display were the works of French literary giants, the universal values and deep observations of human nature among whose thoughts made their words transcend national boundaries to become the invaluable common assets of all people. Former Minister of Culture Cheng then said that she was delighted to have been invited to witness the donation ceremony, expressed her admiration for the Chengdingtang family’s century-long protection of valuable Western books from the ravages of war, and said that later generations’ donation of these to the National Central Library gave the library an opportunity to take on the responsibility of collecting and caring for these books, which, apart from enriching the library’s collection, could also—through the added value of ancient book digitization, varied forms of promotion and connections with European collecting organizations—give play to the research value of ancient books.