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
Kinsey Today Fall/Winter 2000
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