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Article 3

Paying a visit to the Rijksherbarium in Leiden was easier said than done. Once I actually got there, however, I was totally taken by surprise. The reason is that the building itself is an impressively modern blue glass pyramid. The Rijksherbarium took over the building after a computer company ceased production. Since 1995, the structure has been the home of the Leiden University National Environment Research Facility, the Botanical Specimens Collection, a library, and various research laboratories. The building has been named in honor of a deceased former director of the Rijksherbarium, Prof. Van Steenis, and is located in Leiden's new "science zone."

The Rijksherbarium itself, unlike most museums of natural history, is not open to the public. I was extremely fortunate to receive a guided tour by Prof. Cornelis Kalkman, a former director. Prof. Kalkman has visited Japan in order to attend the von Siebold Symposium held at Hosei University. Before traveling to the Netherlands, I interviewed Prof. Minoru Omori of Hosei University, who kindly wrote a letter of introduction for me.

While Prof. Kalkman was director of the Rijksherbarium, the specimen collection was housed partly in an old textile factory in downtown Leiden and partly in the old university library. The ability to control air quality in the new building coupled with its large size makes the facility a safe repository for the specimen collection. Upon inquiring about the size of the collection, I was told there were some 4 million specimens! Even so, there is still space available to accommodate growth.

According to a letter sent to Prof. Kalkman's home and Prof. Omori's letter of introduction, the item we were searching for was unambiguous. Amidst the moveable and fixed shelving aligned in rows, a box containing the primula genus specimens was in its designated place. We removed the items from the box related to Siebold and studied them in detail in Prof. Kalkman's office. I was also able to take photographs of the specimens. Since the Siebold collection is divided up and housed among the other specimen books in the Rijksherbarium, Prof. Omori and other Japanese researchers, despite repeated visits, have yet to see the collection in its entirety.

Prof. Takao Yamaguchi of Kumamoto University and Prof. Yoshishige Kato of Dokkyo University began to research the whole Siebold collection in 1995. Included are Siebold materials at the Leiden National Museum of Ethnology and the Makino Specimen Archive attached to the Tokyo Metrpolitan University in Hachioji. It is said that specimens collected by Siebold exist in Munich, Germany and in St. Petersburg, Russia as well.

In order to fully understand Siebold's activities while he was in Japan, the study of botany alone is insufficient. A kakko-so painted by Keiga Kawahara, a Dejima artist, is held in a collection in St. Petersburg. I was thoroughly impressed by the specimens which I found in Leiden and felt greatly relieved to know of the primula's safe repose there.
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