Tuesday, May 29, 2012
1939 -- Cabot Coville
The Wason Collection started to grow rapidly after 1927 with the annual income from the Wason endowment, University budget appropriations, and outside grants. In 1938 it received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, which also brought to Cornell its first full-time Chinese History professor, Knight Biggerstaff. Professor Biggerstaff played an important role in the development of the Wason Collection. Cornell Alumni News on November 23, 1939 reported a story of how the Wason Collection secured a valuable set of 1,210 volumes of reproduced original records of the Qing dynasty (The Veritable Records of the Qing Dynasty) through Professor Knight Biggerstaff and Cornell alumnus Cabot Coville. The original volumes of these records were housed in the Manchu’s old imperial palaces in Shenyang. After the Japanese conquered Manchuria in 1931, these original volumes fell into the hands of the Manzhouguo government which was set up by the Japanese. In 1937 the Manzhouguo government reproduced 300 copies of the volumes by photolithography, and then through the Japanese foreign office it gave several sets to European institutions and one each to Harvard, Columbia, and the University of Hawaii. The rest were sent to Japan. During 1934-36, with a fellowship from the American Social Science Research Council, Professor Biggerstaff went to China especially to study these records. He knew that there was a great demand for these records all over the world as they had high research value. Professor Biggerstaff entered into correspondence with Cabot Coville who used to be United States Consul in Harbin in Manchuria and was second secretary at the American Embassy in Tokyo at that time. Coville graduated from Cornell University with a B.A. degree in 1923. He had strong ties to Cornell as his parents and three siblings were all Cornell alumni. He entered the U.S. foreign service in 1926 and had served as the American Embassy attaché in Tokyo, vice-consul and consul in Kobe, Darien, Tokyo, and Harbin. Interested at once, Coville unofficially brought this issue to the attention of the Japanese government stressing the importance of Cornell's Wason Collection and the desirability of augmenting it with this set for the benefit of American scholars. As a result, the books were presented to Cornell through Coville and Biggerstaff.