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About the Collection

The UCSF Japanese Woodblock Print Collection consists of four hundred Japanese woodblock prints on health-related themes. It is the largest collection of woodblock prints related to health in the United States and an important component of the Library's East Asian Collection.

In 1963, UCSF Provost and University Librarian, later Chancellor, John B. de C. Saunders, M.D., started the East Asian Collection, which was then developed over the next thirty years by Librarian/Curator Atsumi Minami. Mrs. Minami traveled to Japan and China and purchased items from various smaller, private collections, acquiring the woodblock prints as well as hundreds of rare Chinese and Japanese medical texts, manuscripts, and painted scrolls.

The Japanese woodblock prints offer a visual account of Japanese medical knowledge in the late Edo and Meiji periods. The majority of the prints date to the mid-late nineteenth century, when Japan was opening to the West after almost two hundred and fifty years of self-imposed isolation.

The prints are housed in the Library's Archives and Special Collections. Rotating exhibits of the prints and other items from the East Asian Collection appear in the first floor gallery of the Library.

In 2003, the California Digital Library funded the project to make digital images of the prints available online. The project involved translating titles of the prints into English, updating catalog information, digitally photographing the prints, and ingesting the metadata and digital images into the CDL's website Calisphere.

How to search the collection

Enter one or more keywords (subject, artist's name, etc.) in the search box and choose either "all terms" or "any terms."

Narrow your search: Enter multiple keywords and choose "all terms" for Boolean AND. Results will be returned only when ALL of the keywords appear. For example: measles smallpox will only retrieve items pertaining to both measles and smallpox.

Expand your search: Enter multiple keywords and choose "any terms" for Boolean OR. For example: measles smallpox will retrieve items pertaining to measles as well as those pertaining to smallpox.

Exact phrase: Use quotes [" "] to search for an exact phrase. For example: "women's health" "Taiso, Yoshitoshi"

Truncation: An asterisk [*] can be used as a wildcard to replace one or many characters. For example: buddh* will retrieve items tagged as Buddha, Buddhism, and Buddhist.

Website Credits and Acknowledgements

UCSF Library staff
Lisa Mix, Manager, Archives and Special Collections
Leslie Kleinberg, Project Manager
Gordon Lai, Programmer
Valerie Wheat, former Reference Archivist

We are grateful to the following UCSF Library staff for their support of the project:
Karen Butter, University Librarian
Julia Kochi, Director, Digital Library and Collections
Kathleen Cameron, Manager, Digital Content Development
Jason Randell, Programmer

Theme essays
Laura W. Allen, Ph.D., independent scholar and consultant, Japanese art

English translations of print titles
Yoshiko Kakudo, curator of Japanese art, emerita

California Digital Library staff
Steve Toub
Brian Tingle
Craig Thompson
Eric Satzman
Robin Chandler

Website design
Mission Minded

Digital photography
Emily Lin, UC Merced

Cataloging and metadata
UCSF Library staff

Funding for the digitization of the UCSF Japanese Woodblock Print Collection was provided by the California Digital Library.


Itō Kyōko, "Disease Prevention Prints," Daruma 40 (10:4) (Autumn 2003), pp. 13-33.

Jannetta, Ann Bowman, Epidemics and Mortality in Early Modern Japan (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1987).

Rottermund, Hartmut O., "Demonic Affliction or Contagious Disease? Changing Perceptions of Smallpox in the Late Edo Period," Japanese Journal of Religious Studies 2001 (28:3-4), pp. 373-398.

Salter, Rebecca. Japanese Popular Prints. From votive slips to playing cards (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press, 2006).

Tanaka Yūko, "The Cyclical Sensibility of Edo-Period Japan," Japan Echo 25:2 (April 1998), pp. 12-16.



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