The Serruys Collection at CSMC
During a visit to the University of Washington in May 2015, Professor William G. Boltz gave a box filled mainly with Chinese manuscripts to the director of CSMC. It contained a part of the bequest of Father Paul L-M. Serruys, C.I.C.M. (1912-1999) who is remembered as an eminent scholar and professor of early Chinese texts, language and linguistics. Less known is the fact that he spent thirteen years as a missionary in Northern China, most of the time in Shanxi, before he was expelled by the communists in 1949. During this period he developed an interest in anthropology and ethnography which apparently prompted him to have his students write down stories they had heard from relatives or friends. These pieces of ‘homework’ do not only provide sources for the study of folklore in a backward community, but are also of interest to students of Chinese manuscripts, since they represent the full range of writing supports and palaeographical features of the first half of the 20th century. Besides these stories, there were almanacs and other materials relating to Shanxi. – For Father Serruys’ biography see the obituary by his student Weldon South Coblin: ‘Father Paul L-M. Serruys, C.I.C.M. (1912-1999)’, in Monumenta Serica 47, 1999, 505-514.
The Structure of the Collection
For transport to Hamburg the contents of the box were repacked in several bags seeing to it that the folders containing the loose leaves were not disturbed. After arrival at CSMC, Nadine Bregler and Tim Bockholt scanned them according to what might be considered as codicological units – the folders.
For their transport to Hamburg the manuscripts were distributed into four bags. Thus, the initial naming of the image files was based on the respective bag they were found in. The first bag to be scanned was labeled with the letter A, the second with B, and so forth. These letters are then followed by a number which reflects the order in which the sheets were found inside the bags.
Further, the labeling has been conducted as follows, attempting to adequately represent the system in which the manuscripts were brought together:
For the scans of individual sheets “_a” and “_b” indicate the front and back respectively. If the backs were left blank only one example of several similar sheets was scanned to represent all of them.
Where it was visible that enveloped were intended to hold other sheets together as a folder they are labelled “cover_outside” and “cover_inside” (or “_front”; “_back”).
Stacked sheets which were folded in the middle as well as single sheets that had been folded around several other loose papers are labeled “_outside” and “_inside”.
Some of the sheets were joined together by various different means including staples, strings, etc. Furthermore, there are also a few booklets. In all these cases this is indicated in the file name with “_joint”.
The naming of the files as described above is intended to allow for an initial navigation within the scans. The continuous numbering, for example, shows if a single sheet had been placed inside several folded papers or into a booklet. Nevertheless, there are special cases that cannot be explained here. (Further information can be found in the charts, which are at the moment only available in German).
Envelope: C (loose sheets)
Envelope: D (loose sheets)
Envelope: F (loose sheets)
The complete collection can be downloaded in high-resolution images in four ZIP folders.
The digitization was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) within the Sonderforschungsbereich 950 (SFB 950). The digitization was done within the scope of the Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures (CSMC) at Universität Hamburg.