Japan has more signed copies of 'Das Kapital' than Germany

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Japan has more signed copies of 'Das Kapital' than Germany

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Japan has more signed copies of ‘Das Kapital’ than Germany


November 5, 2018 at 19:05 JST

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Photo/IllutrationThe title page of a first edition of “Das Kapital” by Karl Marx, published in 1867 (Provided by Tohoku University Library)

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Japan, it turns out, owns the lion's share of known autographed copies of the first edition of Karl Marx’s seminal work “Das Kapital” (Capital: Critique of Political Economy), published in 1867 and a central pillar of socialist thinking.

At least four are held by Japanese universities out of 15 identified around the world.

Izumi Omura, professor emeritus of the principles of Marxian economics at Tohoku University, has found that the autographed first editions are in the collections of Tohoku University, Hosei University, Kansai University and Otaru University of Commerce.

Omura is an editor of the complete works of the German economist, philosopher and socialist at Internationale Marx-Engels-Stiftung (international Marx-Engels foundation).

In each book, Marx wrote down the names of friends or scholars to whom the books were dedicated, along with words of gratitude and his autograph, on the back of the title page or in other blank spaces.

According to Omura, the first edition of the first volume in the original German text had a limited print edition of 1,000. Of those, 15 autographed copies are known to exist around the world.

“There are about 50 first editions in Japan, and of those, four are autographed,” said Omura. “The figure is larger than that for Germany or Russia. I view it as evidence of a Marx boom in prewar Japan.”

Of the four, Hosei University was the first to acquire a copy. Its records show that the copy was “purchased for an amount equivalent to 18 yen and 20 sen (18.2 yen)” in 1921 by the Ohara Institute for Social Research, which is part of the university.

The copy owned by Otaru University of Commerce was acquired by its former president from a secondhand bookshop in Berlin in 1930, and later donated by his bereaved family to the university.

Kansai University purchased its copy for 5.2 million yen in 1984 from Maruzen, a bookshop that deals in foreign-language titles.

Tohoku University also bought its copy from Maruzen, for 4.9 million yen in 1989. Marx had dedicated it to a German friend who was a journalist.

Hosei University and Kansai University do not plan to offer a public viewing of their copies, and Tohoku University keeps its copy in the library's rare book collection.

Otaru University of Commerce is willing to offer public access if it receives an advance request.

The market price of an autographed first edition of “Das Kapital” skyrocketed after a copy hand-annotated by the author was registered with UNESCO’s Memory of the World in 2013, together with a hand-written draft of “The Communist Manifesto.”

An Austrian dealer in secondhand books put an autographed copy on sale for 1.5 million euros (about 190 million yen).

This year marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Marx. He died in 1883 and is buried in London.

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