The Wade Collection of Chinese and Manchu books (and western books about China) was presented to the Library in 1886 by Sir Thomas Francis Wade, GCB, GCMG (1818-1895), first Professor of Chinese in the University (1888-1895). His successor Herbert Allen Giles (1845-1935), Professor of Chinese 1897-1932, published A Catalogue of Chinese and Manchu Books in the Library of the University of Cambridge (Cambridge, 1898), from which the following brief description is extracted.
This collection was formed during a residence of forty years in the East by judicious selection of the best editions of the best works in the most important branches of Chinese literature; and the result is a comprehensive library admirably suited to the needs of any ordinary student. For even although Buddhism, Taoism, some of the fine arts such as music and painting, and several of the sciences such as botany and medicine, can scarcely be said to be adequately represented, still, much may be found on these and kindred subjects in the various great encyclopædias with which the library is so well supplied.
A rough classification, adopted by the donor to suit the room at his disposal, has been allowed to stand, and the books are therefore in the actual order in which he left them. [...] The classification is as follows:
A. Chiefly devoted to editions of the Classics and to exegetical works upon various portions of the Confucian Canon, but containing also the writings of Taoist philosophers, various Buddhist sûtras etc. etc. [175 works in 478 vols.]
B. Under the heads of History, Biography, and Statutes, this section contains (B 734) a complete and uniform edition of the Twenty-two Dynastic Histories of China in 227 large volumes, the splendid encyclopædia of Ma Tuan-lin (489), with its prototype (476) and subsequent enlargements (527 and 629), the Mirror of History (961), the Statutes of the present dynasty (261), the Penal Code (134), various collections of reprints, etc. etc. [291 works in 2038 vols.]
C. The chief feature of this the Geographical section is the Imperial Geography (85) in 24 large vols. Here is also to be found (114) the oldest printed book in the University Library. [56 works in 263 vols.]
D. This section contains a few of the leading novels, some plays and essays, and a good collection of anthologies, including three volumes (146-148) of specimens from the writings of the poetesses of the present dynasty. [85 works in 312 vols.]
E. Besides a beautiful and valuable edition of the Imperial Dictionary of K'ang Hsi (225), this section comprises many works of especial value to the general student, such as the great literary Concordance (265), the descriptive Catalogue of the Imperial Library (143), and several important encyclopædias. [110 works in 481 vols.]
F, X, and Y. Among the "Miscellaneous" books in these sections may be mentioned a rare collection of pamphlets (F 35) issued by the T'ai-p'ings during their great rebellion, and the first 12 volumes of a military encyclopædia (F 124) published in 1599. [47 works in 405 vols.]
Z. This section contains various translations of religious and scientific works; among them a facsimile copy of the New Testament in Chinese (40) as presented to the Empress-Dowager of China on her 60th birthday by a missionary body, and a copy of Euclid (41) partly translated by Matteo Ricci in 1607 and finished by A. Wylie in 1857. [32 works in 286 vols.]
G. This section is for students of the Manchu and Mongol languages, and contains in addition to translations of the Chinese Classics several useful handbooks for beginners. [87 works in 286 vols.]
Total: 883 works in 4304 volumes.
In the late 1940's the collection was rearranged according to a new Classification System devised mainly by Gustav Haloun (1898-1951), the fourth Professor of Chinese (1931-1951). Correspondences between the new and old classmarks can be found by using the Finding List.