Making the Medieval English Manuscript: The Takamiya Collection at the Beinecke Library

Toshiyuki Takamiya, Professor Emeritus of English literature at Keio University in Tokyo and renowned book collector, began his love for western European medieval manuscripts during a visit to the Yushodo Bookshop in Tokyo in 1970. He was captivated by the physical qualities of western books and remembers admiring their heavy leather bindings, which were wholly unlike the lighter materials and delicate stitching used for Japanese books and scrolls.

From the outset, Professor Takamiya possessed a talent for spotting remarkable manuscripts decades before the market did. He collected Middle English manuscripts when they were still abundant and undervalued. His collecting was always guided by his scholarly insights into the English and Latin textual tradition. A less academic collector might have been satisfied with one copy of Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Christ; the Takamiya Collection has four, each with unique and important textual and codicological features. More remarkable still are the collection’s three copies of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, each an important witness to the text.

The Beinecke Library’s acquisition of the Takamiya Collection is a significant milestone in the study of the medieval English book. This is the largest, most comprehensive, and finest collection of medieval English manuscripts assembled in modern times.

Professor Takamiya’s devotion to teaching and scholarship motivated him to find a new home for his collection, one where it would stimulate further generations of students and scholars. We are thrilled that the collection has come to the Beinecke Library, and we look forward to many years of fruitful collaboration between Professor Takamiya and the many students whom he has inspired.


To browse this digital exhibition, select among the categories listed in the exhibit navigation tool on the right-hand side of the page. You can view any manuscript image in greater detail: simply click on the image and then, once you are taken to a new page, click on the image again.



This digital exhibit was co-curated by James Eric Ensley, Gina Marie Hurley, and Alexandra Reider. Anya Adair, Brianne Dolce, Elizabeth Hebbard, Katherine Hindley, Joe Stadolnik, and Clara Wild all contributed labels. The vision and expertise of Emily Ulrich were foundational to this entire exhibit.

Ray Clemens and Diane Ducharme, in addition to writing several of the labels, offered expert curatorial guidance at every step. Jessica Brantley, Ardis Butterfield, Alastair Minnis, and Barbara Shailor provided valued support and advice.

Olivia Hillmer, Rebecca Martz, and Kerri Sancomb did a wonderful job with the design elements of the exhibit. The Conservation Department, particularly Christine McCarthy, Paula Zyats, Marie-France Lemay, and Ansley Joe, was generous with their time and counsel. Dave Hicking helped us with all things technical. For the beautiful photographs of each item, we thank the Beinecke's Digital Photography Department: Rebecca Hirsch, David Driscoll, Bob Halloran and Meredith Miller. Mike Morand tirelessly promoted our exhibit to the public, and E.C. Schroeder provided unflagging encouragement and leadership.

Our greatest debt throughout this process has been to Professor Toshiyuki Takamiya.