Discovery of a unique book in Japanese script at Special Collections

In November 2021 Sven Osterkamp, professor of Japanese Language and Literature at the Bochum Ruhr-university came across an entry in a university library catalogue from 1754. It was a book about the Christian doctrine in Japanese which had belonged to Christian Raue (1613-1677), Utrecht professor of Oriental Languages.


Further research led to a publication by curator Bart Jaski in which a footnote stated that Raue had donated a Japanese compendium about the Christian doctrine, with call number V oct 853 rar. An email correspondence followed and soon it turned out that it concerned a hitherto unknown publication from ca. 1595, coming from the Jesuit Mission Press. A very rare finding.

Printing press from Europe

The Jesuits working in Japan obtained a printing press from Europe in 1590, enabling them to print Christian texts. This copy in Japanese script also rolled off the press: a so-called confessionary. This is a kind of manual, helping the ‘sinner’ to confess his sins by means of a fixed series of questions and answers.

Prof. Osterkamp compared this copy with other confessionaries of the Jesuit Mission Press and wrote an extensive article about his findings which is now published on the Special Collections website.