Hawthorne-Longfellow Library held a reception yesterday to celebrate the College's acquisition of the Frederick W. Mote Chinese Book Collection. The collection, which consists of Motes' personal library, was donated by Motes' widow, Hsiao-lan Chen.
Frederick W. Mote, who librarian Sherrie Bergman described as "one of the foremost scholars of Chinese history in the 20th century," is perhaps most renowned for publishing "Imperial China 900-1800" and for contributing to "The Cambridge History of China."
Mote taught at Princeton University for 30 years and wrote extensively about China's political and social history during the late Imperial Era, particularly during the Ming and Yuan Dynasties.
"When he started at Princeton there were very few people who studied China in the U.S.," said Assistant Professor of History and Asian Studies Lawrence Zhang, who spoke about Mote.
Zhang explained that Mote, who majored in Chinese history at Nanjing University, was "instrumental" in opening new programs and expanding the Chinese field of study.
"He's an important scholar in his own right, but also an important pioneer and also an important teacher," said Zhang. "He turned Princeton, for example, into an important center of Chinese studies."
Zhang explained that Mote's work enabled the rise of new genernation of Chinese scholarship.
"It is probably not an exaggeration for me to say that most of us junior professors today can trace our academic lineage back to him," said Zhang during his reception speech.
The collection includes "6,000 Chinese and English language works, which will greatly enrich Chinese scholarship at Bowdoin for years to come," said Bergman.
"There are quite a few books [in the collection] that I think are rare, many are out of print," said Zhang. "Many came from him hunting in old bookstores in China."
According to Zhang, the collection is significant because "a lot of the material is in the primary language, which is something we don't have. And there are lots of secondary works here that the library doesn't own or have that will be used for students as well."
Hawthorne-Longfellow Library began the process of acquiring the books four years ago when former Professor of History and Asian Studies Kidder Smith learned that Motes' widow was interested in donating his personal library to an academic institution.
"I was put in contact with Hsiao-lan Chen and we were fortunate that she agreed to give the collection in its entirety to the Bowdoin College library," Bergman said.
After acquiring the books, the library sent the collection to a company in Utah to be catalogued.
"It was a considerable undertaking to have the collection packed and shipped to Utah for cataloguing," said Bergman.
In order to fund the cataloguing, the College received gifts from Bowdoin's first Professor of Asian Studies, John D. Langlois as well as from Gordon Weil '58 and Richard Burns '58, who gave their gift in memory of former Professor of History William Whiteside.
"We are very grateful to [Hsiao-lan Chen]," said Bergman. "It's an extraordinarily generous gift. It will serve not only students at Bowdoin, but those at Colby, Bates and the whole world through Interlibrary Loan."
The books are an important resource for scholars of Asian Studies. In her opening speech at the reception, Bergman laughingly remarked that the library received an Interlibrary Loan request immediately after the collection was logged into the Internet.
The books have been available in Hawthorne-Longfellow Library for several months, but yesterday's reception marked the official opening of the collection.
-Tasha Sandoval contributed to this report.