Tech library houses mysterious book

One of Tech’s most mysterious and beautiful books hidden in the archives is an old Japanese paperback that was donated about four years ago. A graceful Japanese woman kneeling by a table with a fan in hand decorates the cover of the manuscript.

The book follows the traditional format of being read backwards compared to Western literature. Its crumpled, dried-out pages are full of hand-written kanji and illustrations. There are some pencil sketches, several watercolor pictures, a few cartoons penciled in, some color pencil drawings and even a score for a short tune jotted down.

Although a handful of the images appear to be political cartoons, the majority of them seem to be memories captured on paper.

Sketches of a young woman appear on several pages. Some of her portraits have color, while others are just graphite on paper. A few pages have ink doodles of people, while elaborate paintings with short phrases fill others.

One page has a political cartoon mocking the Chinese government. Another has a highly stylized colorful caricature of a man with his horse. A few pages are stuck together and too delicate to peel apart, but hints of intricate paintings bleed through the thin paper.

There is a page full of red stamps, organized in vertical lines, and some of these stamps show up in the corner of several illustrations.

Two black and white photographs of a formal group portrait consisting of men in uniform and a few women were glued in the first couple of pages beside, what appears to be, a description of each. However, this book has yet to be translated to reveal its mysteries.

Melissa Pilkington—a former Spanish professor at Tech who worked in the Modern Languages department—donated this rare manuscript, which her father, J. Pilkington, had passed down to her. He had been a World War II US Marine Corps sergeant assigned to Saipan in the Marianas Islands.

He had come across a dead Japanese soldier during his stay there and searched the corpse for anything of value. Pilkington dated his curious find “June 1944” and penned his name on the back cover. No other information is known concerning this artifact’s origins.

It appears as if the book was some sort of journal or memorabilia because of the handwriting, the drawings and the photographs.

The original owner must have held onto this book during his service because it held a personal significance. Another possibility is that he had been filling it out while serving. Either way, it must have had great personal value for it to be found on him.

Although Tech has had this curious discovery archived for four years, it has yet to be translated or truly researched. Unfortunately, it is not a priority for the library. It occupies the bottom of a pile waiting to be looked into, making it even less likely to be examined. Eventually, it will have to be translated at Tech but while the campus waits, this book will continue to hold onto its secrets.