To find out whether a given publication is actually the first time the book has appeared in printed form you will need to have software to enable you to read and write Japanese and enter the details on the NACSIS website, but inputting the information will present difficulties unless you can get help with the transcription (i.e., you need to be able to know how it is pronounced in order to be able to type it).If you don't want to go into it that deeply, there is also a chance that you can find the book you are looking for in the western alphabet on the OCLC website, but again you need at least to know how the title is pronounced.If you have one of these in your hand it is at least a complete book (though check the section on books which are part of a series to see if it is one of a set).More recent books, however, are frequently issued in a slipcase and - even more common - with a wraparound band.Get informed on the many facets of rare book collecting and start a new collection today.These pages are not for experts; they are for people who do not speak Japanese but who, for one reason or another, have an interest in books written in Japanese.We buy, sell, and appraise books, autographs, photographs, printed material, and original art.
The Rare Book Collection also houses hundreds of artist books.
If you're going to take things that bit further, and try to work out some of the Japanese characters yourself, you'll probably want to whittle down the amount of work you need to do.
If you focus on the page that gives the publication details you will probably be able to get all the bibliographical information you need. Gakken publish a book called A New Dictionary of Kanji Usage,which covers the basic characters and their most common collocations, and once you get a bit more advanced Sharp do a kind of all-singing-all-dancing electronic dictionary called a Zaurus, that you can write the Japanese characters into and it will read them for you, tell you how they're pronounced, what they mean and how they collocate.
Study it for an hour or two, and you should be able to work out the date of most of the Japanese books that come your way.
In the 1940s the rare books, letters, manuscripts, and ephemera that had found their way into Penn's library collections for the past two hundred years were formally assigned to a department for special collections, known today as the Rare Book & Manuscript Library.