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A Collector's Work Paves the Way for Future Research
in Sexual Cultures, Both East and West

A major gift to the Kinsey Institute is expanding the scope of existing resources and opening up new avenues for scholarly exploration. The library of James W. Edwards is a comprehensive collection of more than 3,000 books on sexuality and related fields that spans several continents and reflects a cross-section of disciplines and interests. An American scholar in anthropology, James Edwards studied sexuality, health, and medicine in East Asian cultures and brought his anthropological and cultural perspective to bear on his work as a collector.

Liana Zhou, head of the library at the Kinsey Institute, compares Edwards' collecting interests to those of Alfred Kinsey. Both sought to be as inclusive and wide-ranging as possible and saw the ultimate purpose of their collection as that of redefining Western views of sexuality. For Edwards, however, this goal did not end in the West; it extended to Asian cultures as well. Zhou highlights four areas in the James Edwards library that strengthen or expand the existing Institute collections and are especially useful to scholars of sexuality, gender and reproduction.

James Edwards died unexpectedly in July of 1996 at the age of 45, shortly after he began a correspondence with Zhou about his collecting interests. The invitation to review the collection came from Edwards' partner, Ron Nigro, who has since played a major role in the generous transmission of this astonishing legacy. Edwards had requested many years ago that, in the case of his death, the majority of the collection be donated to the Kinsey Institute, with the remaining non-sexological texts given to Columbia University, where Edwards studied. Sources that duplicate the Kinsey Institute's own collection were donated in Edwards' name to the People's University in Beijing, where Edwards helped to establish a sex research information center.

As Zhou maintains, the collection is remarkable in many respects. "It is highly selective," she wrote to her colleagues on first viewing its contents, "a scholar's and a collector's collection. The more I work on it, the more appreciative I am of Edwards' collecting effort, his lifelong labor, and love for his collection."

To this day, she continues to marvel at its scope, its selectiveness, and its depth. "The collection," she will tell you, "takes your breath away."

Kinsey Today Fall/Winter 2000

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