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Library Acquires 14,000 Thai Books

Library Acquires 14,000 Thai Books

The addition of 19th and 20th century books makes UCR’s collection of Southeast Asian volumes the largest in the Southwest.

(December 20, 2007)

Justin McDaniel, assistant professor of religious studies, examines two of the nearly 14,000 Thai-language books obtained from a private collector in Bangkok.Enlarge

Justin McDaniel, assistant professor of religious studies, examines two of the nearly 14,000 Thai-language books obtained from a private collector in Bangkok.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The acquisition this fall of nearly 14,000 volumes in the Thai language makes the UC Riverside collection of Southeast Asian books the largest in the Southwest and one of the finest in the United States.

The Ton Chapab collection of 19th and 20th century books about Buddhism, political science and modern history contains some very rare volumes, said Justin McDaniel, assistant professor of religious studies, who negotiated the purchase from a Bangkok collector.

The UCR Libraries obtained the books as a special initiative to support expansion and excellence in the campus’ newly established Southeast Asian academic and research programs, according to Ruth M. Jackson, university librarian. The university’s holdings on Asia in general total about 54,000 volumes.

Most of the books are in Thai. Some are written in Burmese, Cambodian or French.

“This collection will be the crown jewel in a quickly growing collection of Southeast Asian books,” McDaniel said. “We are actively collecting material from Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Southern California is one of the largest centers of Southeast Asians in the U.S. and UCR wants to be a partner with those communities. We would like people to feel free to come browse our collection.”

The growing Southeast Asian collection — which numbers about 29,000 volumes, much of which has been supported by a $150,000 grant from the Henry E. Luce Foundation — is a resource for research by faculty and students in comparative literature, history, music, religious studies and Southeast Asian studies, as well as those who are learning the languages of the region, McDaniel said.

The investment in establishing a Southeast Asian collection will be of immense value, not only to academic programs and research at UCR, but also to the local Southeast Asian community that will be able to use the resource, Jackson said.

“We now live in a global community, and internationalization of academic programs to include and embrace world cultures is critical to the preparation of students,” she said.

Among the highlights of the new acquisitions for the collection are a rare seven-volume Thai encyclopedia of Chinese literature; very rare photo albums of King Chulalongkorn (Rama V), who died in 1910; numerous political speeches; a large number of hard-to-find Buddhist sermons; many Thai art books; and a large collection of rare funerary books distributed during funeral ceremonies of Thai dignitaries, royalty and important monks.

Limited numbers of funerary books typically are printed — as few as 100, in some cases — so many of those books in the Ton Chapab collection are the only ones now in North America or Europe, McDaniel said.

With a dozen faculty from several departments teaching in Southeast Asian studies programs, “UCR is really the place to come for Southeast Asian studies in the Southwest,” McDaniel said. “This is one of the best centers for study in North America.”

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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