Between October 2011 and September 2015, Mr Nicholas Coulson and the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation sponsored me to conduct a four-year project to progress the work of cataloguing and digitising Bodley's pre-modern Chinese holdings. It is known as the Serica Project, and its website was designed to showcase these holdings, giving an overview of their extent and nature, and presenting the bibliographic data in a way that is readily comprehensible to Chinese readers. It provides specimen pages (書影) of many of the editions, and also provides a classified list of the Library's pre-modern Chinese works that have been digitised.

The Library terminated the updating of the website in the autumn of 2021, so that it is now out of date and therefore misleading. Since then I have been continuing the project as an independent scholar, and going forward, have prepared two supplementary lists with a view to making the unified dataset available on my own server in due course:

Serica blog

Some notes on old Chinese books in the Bodleian Library's collections and on old Chinese books in general.


Collectors' seals on Chinese books in the Bodleian Library


The pre-modern Chinese collections contain things that can be catalogued only with difficulty, and sometimes not at all. I'm trying to make lists of them, and have made a start here. I'm also making lists of things that can't be found easily in the current catalogues.

Survey of Chinese "special collections" in the Bodleian Library

This survey documents the provenance and current location of all the so-called "special collections" of Chinese books in the Bodleian Library. It was originally compiled in December 2012 for the benefit of the National Library of China, with which the Bodleian had an evanescent memorandum of understanding, and I update it from time to time.

Chinese books in Europe in the seventeenth century

A list of books which came to Europe in the seventeenth century, under constant review as more examples are discovered.

Stone Age thinking at the speed of light – AACR2, MARC, and other dinosaurs

Book Arts Press Lecture 116 (17 March 1983) by John Jolliffe, who was Bodley's Librarian from 1982 until his untimely death in 1985. His paper demonstrates the inadequacies of library automation orthodoxy, and together with my annotations introduces some of the principal personalities involved in its construction.

David Helliwell
3 February 2022