News & Events

June 2008 Wason Update

Vol. 2  No. 6, June 30, 2008

FY 2008-2009 Acquisition Budget

The endowed portion of Cornell University Library received a 6% increase for the FY 2008-2009 acquisition budget but this increase was then reduced $120,000 to compensate for the increase in the endowment payout, making a net increase of only 4.8%. Meanwhile, the budgeted endowment for materials for endowed libraries increased 12.8% over FY 2007-2008. Cornell University Library’s allocation plan for FY 2008-2009, proposed by the Collection Development Executive Committee, was approved by University Librarian Anne Kenney on June 20, 2008 and will go into affect on July 1, 2008. According to this plan, the Wason Collection will receive a 7.4% increase in the library appropriation budget and an 11% increase in endowment income. Including the fiscal support form the East Asia Program, the Wason’s total acquisition budget for FY 2008-2009 will be $570,481, which is a 6.1% increase over the previous fiscal year. The table below illustrates the breakdown of the Wasons acquisition budget for FY 2008-2009.


Western Material $79,255
Chinese Material $199,638
Japanese Material $259,928
Korean Material $25,165
East Asian Law Material $6,495
Total $570,481

William Elliot Griffis and the Wason Japanese Collection

Photo of William GriffisWilliam Elliot Griffis (1843-1928) was born in Philadelphia. He graduated from Rutgers University in 1869. At Rutgers, Griffis was an English and Latin tutor for Taro Kusakabe, a young samurai from Echizen, Japan. In September 1870 Griffis was invited to Japan to organize schools along modern lines. In 1871, he was appointed Superintendent of Education in the prefecture of Echizen. In 1872-74, Griffis taught chemistry and physics at Kaisei Gakko (forerunner of Tokyo Imperial University). By the time he left Japan in 1874, Griffis had befriended many of Japan's future leaders. Returning to the United States, Griffis attended Union Theological Seminary. After he finished his studies in 1877, Griffis was called to the ministry in a series of churches, including the First Congregational Church in Ithaca (1893-1903). In the early 1900s, Griffis donated over 6,000 volumes of Japanese language books, periodicals, and maps to Cornell University Library, which laid the foundation for Cornell’s Japanese collection. In 1903 Griffis resigned from the active ministry and devoted himself exclusively to writing and lectures. One of his well-known books is Bushido: The Soul of Japan co-authored with Inazo Nitobe. In 1926, he was invited to return to Japan to receive the second Order of the Rising Sun. Griffis was a founding member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the American Historical Association, and the U.S. Naval Institute. He died at his Winter home in Florida in 1928.

Exploring the Uses of Wason’s Japanese Databases, I: Nihon Kokugo Daijiten

Some of the Wason collection’s electronic databases contain or have the same titles as books in print form, which can mislead potential users into thinking that they are merely networked versions of these titles. Such is the case with the Nihon kokugo daijiten, made available on all computers with a Cornell IEP address this year. In fact, the online form of this massive fourteen volume dictionary represents a fantastic advance over its print version, and not merely for speed and ease of use.

Open a Cornell computer to and type in a search term. Already you have one advantage over the print dictionary. If you are not sure of pronunciation, simply insert kanji, and let the dictionary determine pronunciations for you. Or, if you are seeking homonyms, insert only hiragana, and let the dictionary show you the possibilities.  If you wish to cast the net broadly, insert only the first part of your search term or phrase, and explore related terms.  Or, if it’s the last part of the phrase that especially interests you, insert this, and select “kōhō itchi” from the “jōken” pull-down menu on the right. There are two other choices on this menu as well. To get your search term and nothing else, use “kanzen itchi.”  Or to find your search term as it appears in any part of a word or phrase, beginning, middle or end, use “bubun itchi.” Searching is global over the half-million terms in the system, unlimited by alphabetical order.

Such capabilities alone would make the electronic version of Nihon kokugo daijiten a tremendous advantage over the print dictionary. But the electronic Nihon kokugo daijiten is actually much more than just a language dictionary. Want to see how your term appears anywhere in the entire Nihon kokugo daijiten, including textual quotations from 1300+ years of writing in Japan? Change the “han’i” setting in the center to “zenbun” and explore away. Linguists will also love the other features on the “han’i” menu, including the ability to search in two different ways for dialect and usage. 

Want a little more search capability? After your data comes up (especially if it is too much or too little for your needs) click “shōsai sōsaku e” (to the right of “clear”) and manipulate your terms still further. Cross-reference two or even three terms, using variations of the han’i andjōken columns to suit your needs. The “and,” “or” and “not” selections will allow you to further manipulate cross-referenced data to include, exclude or provide alternate terms in your searches. All resulting data can be copied and saved, or else printed for ease of reference later.

So next time you need clarification of a term, or want to explore its historical uses, stop juggling those 14 heavy volumes and give a try.

New Database: Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports 1974-1996

Cornell University Librarian Anne Kenney and the Collection Development Executive Committee have approved a proposal by the Library’s Area Team, which includes material selectors for East Asia, Southeast Asia, South Asia, Africa, Middle East, Latin America, and Europe, to purchase the digital collection, Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS) Daily Reports 1974-1996, with a one-time funding over two years. Created by the U.S. intelligence community to benefit policy makers and analysts, FBIS Daily Reports offer foreign views and perspectives on historical events from thousands of monitored broadcasts and publications. Translated into English from more than 50 languages, these comprehensive media reports from around the globe include news, interviews, speeches, and editorial commentary. For decades these wide-ranging reports have been invaluable to students and scholars in the academic community. This authoritative digital edition of FBIS Daily Reports, 1974-1996 will provide major new teaching and research opportunities in such disciplines as area studies, international political science, military and diplomatic history, communication and propaganda studies, and world history. To access FBIS Daily Reports, go to: