For many years, the Books and Documents Department of the National Palace Museum has been a rich and systematic source for rare Chinese books through the ages, archival documents of the Qing dynasty, and books and periodicals on Chinese art and the humanities. This invaluable source has attracted innumerable visitors and specialists over the years for study and research. The library under its administration has been open officially to the public since April 1996, offering a brand new atmosphere of service. Not only is the space within spacious, the setting is comfortable and orderly, and the facilities considered superb. With such full services as catalogue information retrieval, document image disc browsing, microfiche reading and photocopying, and Internet computer access, the library is an ideal site for information retrieval and academic research. The following is an introduction to its highlights:
1. Rare Books
The core of the National Palace Museum's collection of treasured rare books was inherited from the old manuscripts, annotated editions of masters, movable print editions, and woodblock print editions through the ages from the former Qing, also including a small number of ancient imprints and old manuscripts originally from Korea and Japan. Among the more important objects, one can count the Complete Library of the Four Treasuries of the Wen-yüan Pavilion, the Abstracted Contents of the Four Treasuries of the Ch'ih-tsao Hall, block-printed editions of the T'ien-lu-lin-lang and the Wu-ying Palace, gazetteers, repositories of the Grand Secretariat, Ch'en Chung-t'ao's collection in the Yen-i Tower in Shan-ying, and Yang Shou-ching's book collection from his Kuan-hai Hall. This assembly of books is not only enormous in number, it also includes several extremely rare sole surviving editions. The collection further includes books from the Peking Library entrusted to the management of the Museum. Besides the rich collection of books through the ages, many books submitted in the early Qing and texts dealing with dramas provide an ideal source of material for researching book editions, Ming and Qing dynasty history, and folk literature.
2. Qing Archives and Documents
The various archives and memorials composing the Qing dynasty documents in the National Palace Museum collection number more than 400,000 volumes. They include historical archives compiled by the Historiography Institute, compilations of documents, and documents from the inner court of the former Qing dynasty. They not only provide later generations with a rare glimpse at the Qing dynasty archival system, they are an invaluable treasure of primary material for researching Qing dynasty history. In terms of sources for the Museum collection, they can be divided into the four main types: 1) imperial vermilion-rescripted memorials from the palace archives, archives of the Grand Secretariat repositories, archives of the Council of State (including copies of memorials and assorted archives), and Historiography Institute archives (including various historical materials compiled by the Historiography Institute of the Qing dynasty and the Qing Historiography Institute of the early Republican government). Furthermore, recent years have witnessed a substantial number of private donations (such as the documents of Tseng from Hsiang-hsiang and archives of Qing dynasty foreign relations).
3. Books and Periodicals
To accommodate the general public and academic research in Chinese art and culture, as well supporting the wide-ranging needs of Museum staff in their tasks of arranging, researching, and presenting exhibitions, the National Palace Museum has since moving to its present location in Taipei actively sought and assembled modern and contemporary books and periodicals in Chinese and other languages on Chinese art, culture, conservation, and museum studies. Using open stacks, they are provided for the general reading public for reference. This vast collection of books and periodicals is both academic and professional in nature and social education in function.