The library in Thanh Hoa
The books belong to retired teacher Le Mai Buu, who lives in Dong Lac Hamlet, Hoang Trach Commune. The collection has many kinds of books, including literature, history, science, traditional medicine, and the tradition and customs of different regions.
The collection is known as Thu Gia Van Ninh Duong. ‘Thu Gia’ means family book collection or libraryand ‘Van Ninh Duong’ means a quiet and peaceful family.
All books were handwritten or engraved. The oldest one, La Duong Di Cao, was written in 17th century while the book, Kim Van Kieu Truyen, is one of the 10 most precious editions of the Vietnamese classic, the Story of Kieu.
The majority of the bookshelf contains documents on traditional medicines amounting to 300 books, in addition to hundreds of precious books on the history and customs of localities nationwide.
Buu said, “The library has existed for 150 years under the management of five generations of the Le Mai family. It’s highly valued by experts for its high cultural and historical value."
Difficulties in preservation
Buu admitted that he's facing increasing difficulties in preserving the books due to the tropical climate. His sole methods of preservation include covering and putting them in wooden cabinets and regularly drying them in the sun.
However, such simple methods have proven inefficient as 70% of the 600 books have been damaged, and over 20 books completely decayed.
Buu has even asked his son to learn Chinese so that more of the content can be understood. Several researchers and antique collectors have asked Buu to sell the collection, but he has refused. He said, “I hope these books will be used for research as soon they’ll completely fall apart. If we don’t act in time, the valuable knowledge contained in them will disappear. It’d be a tragedy."
The Story of Kieu
Crumbling old books