FAQ for The National Diet Libraryfs gDigital Library from the Meiji Periodh


By Henry Smith, for Japanese Bibliography, Columbia University


"Kindai Dejitaru Raiburarii" ‹ί‘γƒfƒWƒ^ƒ‹ƒ‰ƒCƒuƒ‰ƒŠ[  http://kindai.ndl.go.jp/


            This important resource came online in the fall of 2002, providing full-text online access to the Meiji collection of the National Diet Library, which was previously accessible only at the Diet library itself or through the Maruzen Meiji Microfilm. The following is a provisional attempt at FAQ about the online version.


1)  Does it include the entire Meiji Microfilm collection?


No, at least not yet. The site says that it now [as of late September 2005] has "about 59,900 volumes–ρ59,900ϋ". The total number of volumes in the collection is about 160,000, which would mean that about 38 per cent is now available. Apparently it has been necessary to check the copyright of all the items before making them public; it is unclear whether this means that certain items will never be included. Nor it is clear why no such check seemed to have been needed for the microfilm collection. Nor is any timetable given for the completion; the figures below suggest that the addition of new titles slowed considerably after 2003, so it seems increasingly likely that the entire microfilm collection will never be made available online, presumably for copyright reasons.


2)  What is available now?


The detailed search (shôsai kensaku ΪΧŒŸυ) screen gives figures for the total number of current titles in each of the nine categories. Here is a comparison of the totals for three points in time, showing the progress made over a three-year interval. Note that these figures are for gkenŒ,h which refer to a single title, or record, as opposed to the number of volumes (which is much more, since many titles are for multi-volume works).


CATEGORY              Oct. 2002        Aug. 2003       Sept. 2005


*  0.‘‹L                     (0Œ)               (374Œ)           (455Œ)              

* 1.“NŠw                      (4679Œ)         (4956Œ)         (6368Œ)        

* 2.—πŽjD’nŽ          (3424Œ)         (3576Œ)         (4788Œ)        

* 3.ŽΠ‰ο‰ΘŠw              (5682Œ)         (9180Œ)         (10360Œ)      

* 4.Ž©‘R‰ΘŠw              (0Œ)               (2300Œ)         (2765Œ)        

* 5.HŠwDH‹Ζ          (0Œ)               (985Œ)           (1181Œ)        

* 6.ŽY‹Ζ                      (0Œ)               (2751Œ)         (3240Œ)                    

* 7.Œ|pD‘Μˆη          (1812Œ)         (1891Œ)         (2273Œ)

* 8.ŒκŠw                      (0Œ)               (1630Œ)         (2008Œ)                    

* 9.•ΆŠw                      (4544Œ)         (4629Œ)         (5658Œ)        


TOTAL:                      20,141Œ        32,272Œ        39,096Œ



This suggests that the pace of increase, at least in titles, dropped abruptly after 2003. As of fall 2005, there are roughly 60,000 volumes and 40,000 titles. It is not immediately clear which categories are under-represented, since the categories in the Meiji Microfilm are more finely divided.


3)  What is the search engine like?


It is the standard NDL OPAC search engine, including the very nice features of being able to select an output of up to 200 titles at once, and sort by author, title, or date. The on-line records do provide readings of author names (unlike the NDL-OPAC itself), so you can therefore searched for names by kana input\but not titles, for which no readings are provided.


4)  Does it include all books published in the Meiji period?


This of course is the same question that has always been asked about the Maruzen Meiji Microfilm. The official answer in Maruzen PR was 70 per cent, but there is no indication how they arrived at that number. I suspect that this figure is much too high, if one considers provincial publishers and all sorts of ephemeral publications, but I know of no efforts to arrive at a total number of books published in the Meiji period. (And remember of course no magazines or newspapers are included in the collection: it is only books.) 


5)  Can you print and download the images? 


Yes. There are two ways to view the images, either as straight GIF files, or with a special viewer that you can download for your browser (IE or Netscape\doesnft yet work with Firefox) and operating system (Mac or Windows) at http://kindai.ndl.go.jp/img/download.html. The GIF files can be printed at their fixed size (Ctrl-P) or saved (use the "Save Image" command and saved with a .gif extension), and then manipulated as with any image, and printed in any way you want. The viewer does not allow saving files, but does permit printing at the fixed size. The advantages of the viewer are a) it downloads the image a bit faster; and b) it enables magnification of the image up to 300%, which is very nice (although it will not print at the magnified size). With a broadband connection, printing pages from the viewer is remarkably fast, a lot quicker than it would take to xerox them from the original book.


6)  Is the text searchable?


Basically, no, since these are page images, not digital text. A number of the items, however (in the fields I looked at, about one-third), are provided with a table of contents, which is a wonderful convenience, enabling you to jump directly to the chapter that interests you. You can tell from the search results screen which items have such contents, by the highlighted g–ΪŽŸh before the title. These may be searched, but you must enter the search term in a special search field that appears only on the detailed search (shôsai kensaku ΪΧŒŸυ) screen, down near the bottom, where it is easy to miss it. Note also that you can search by subject (kenmeiŒ–Ό), which refers to the standard NDL subject categories (similar to those for LC). If you are looking for materials about (not by) a particular historical figure, you can click on the gl–ΌŒ–ΌŽ«‘h button right under the subject search box, and look up the names that will result in hits. (Even though it says gsubject and nameh index, most of them seem in fact to be names.) All this would be much simpler if there were a keyword search, but like the NDL OPAC itself, none such is possible.

7)  Why is it called the "Modern" (Kindai ‹ί‘γ) Digital Library, when actually includes only books from the Meiji period? 


Dunno. The English title is in fact "Digital Library from the Meiji Period." Maybe they don't want to advertize the fact that it really is the Meiji Microfilm collection, and that all the images are taken from the microfilm. 


8)  Does this mean that the Maruzen Meiji Microfilm is now useless? 


Yes, as far as I can tell, at least once all the titles are available online. What a waste that we devoted so much time, effort, and money to acquiring it at Columbia. We should enshrine it as a stunning example of how the wrong technology was chosen at just the wrong moment. Let's only hope that they haven't already burned the original books themselves. I'd be interested to know where Maruzen ends up in all of this. Did they perhaps own the microfilm masters, which they could then sell to the NDL? Maybe there was even a plot from the start to sell as many million-dollar sets of the microfilm collection as possible, knowing that they would be obsolete within a decade, and then make still more money by selling the images to the NDL. 


hds2 Oct. 2002

rev Sept 2003

rev Sept 2005