Dr. Peter Marie Suski (ie Suzuki) was born in 1875 in Okayama, Japan, the son of a samurai. He learned English as a boy in missionary schools, and studied the Chinese classics and calligraphy as well. As a young man, Suski was briefly apprenticed in the Osaka Iron Works before travelling to Tokyo to learn photography. Then, at the age of twenty-three, he left Japan for the United States.
Suski worked, initially, in a photography studio in San Francisco, but when the 1906 earthquake destroyed the studio and much of the city, he moved to Los Angeles and opened his own studio. The income from photography proved to to be insufficient to support his family, so Suski decided to begin, at the age of thirty-eight, studying medicine at USC. He graduated in 1917 and began a successful new career.
Throughout his life, Dr. Suski cultivate a deep interest in the cultures of East Asia. He was a regular contributor to the English section of the Los Angeles Japanese language newspaper, Rafu Shinpo, writing on the Japanese language for the benefit of Nisei readers. He also continued to collect books on the ancient forms of Chinese characters. Initially, this was for his own interest, but eventually he saw in his collection a means of passing the culture of East Asia on to Americans:
I have started the collection of material with which unitiated future generations could be made to understand something of the art and culture of our ancestors' land. That is my library, which naturally requires preservation, care and guarding by a group of understanding people throughout many generations to come.
A selected band of people who are capable of taking care of a library, lock it securely when not in use, use it, keep it in order, and add to it whatever is found to be useful for the purpose.
The library and that band of determined people should be named the "Oriental Culture Nucleus".
--My Fifty Years in America
P.M. Suski, 1960
The Collection was donated to the Library by Dr. Suski's family in 1962. It is comprised of 255 titles (1,612 volumes), most of which are Chinese classics. You can find the card catalog of Chinese classics from here. The collection is housed in USC Libraries' Special Collections.
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