Unless you’re at a museum, getting ahold of ancient literary texts is virtually impossible — especially if they’re 300 years old. But thanks to the National Institute of Japanese Literature and the National Institute of Informatics, you can download rare ancient Japanese literary works without dishing out a single penny!

In an attempt to digitize the National Institute of Japanese Literature’s archive of around 300,000 rare literary works, the two institutions have released a free pilot version of a digitized database of ancient texts called “Version 0.1.” It currently holds 350 literary works, five of which come with full, typed transcriptions in modern Japanese.


Source: 1654 copy of The Tale Of Genji


Source: 1654 copy of The Tale Of Genji


Source: 1850 copy of Kaiseki Ryori Saiku Houtei


Source: 1783 copy of Ehon Mitate Kaizukushi

Included in the vast collection are literary classics largely dating from the Edo period (1603-1868). Perhaps the most well-known of these works is The Tale of Genji written by Murasaki Shikibu, of which a 17th century copy is available on the database. First written in the 11th century, it has been widely recognised as the world’s first novel.

But they’re not all literary works, as you’ll see from the 15 different categories of texts ranging from history to medical science.

Even if you can’t read Japanese, we’re sure you’ll still be able to enjoy flipping through these ancient texts. In fact, most Japanese people today would have trouble reading these texts without a modern translation.


Source: Book Of Noh


Source: 1837 copy of Ganka Kin'no


Source: 1861 copy of Eigosen


Source: 1842 copy of Fushigi Mondou

Each of the downloaded images is about 1.4-1.8 MB. The quality of the pictures is astounding, and they are clear enough so that you can enlarge them and see the minute details of paper and ink.

You can choose to get only the ones that pique your interest, download an entire category, or even get the whole collection. So what are you waiting for? Expand your digital bookshelf with these amazing works here!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.