It was with great sadness that we learnt of Professor Ohtake’s recent death. Masatsugu Ohtake’s profound connection to the College was one of shared academic endeavour, thoughtful international collaboration, great generosity and happy memories. He was elected to an Honorary Fellowship of Hughes Hall in 1996.
Former Hughes Hall President, Sarah Squire, knew Professor Ohtake well and met him on many occasions during her tenure:
“Masa was a staunch friend of Hughes Hall and its successive presidents over the years from the 1980s when he first came as a Visiting Scholar. He came to know all seven Hughes Presidents from Margaret Wileman onwards, and, inspired by Professor Peter Richards, took the decision to transfer his entire bibliographic collection to the College. Year after year, visiting Cambridge regularly every six months, he would appear bearing bulging bags of rare books, prints and papers – received with wonder and appreciation and now safely housed at the heart of the college library”.
By-Fellow, Annemarie Young, remembers Professor Ohtake with great fondness:
“Masa was an inspiring person. His regular visits to the UK and to Hughes Hall especially, were the highlights of his year, particularly in his later years. His legacy to the College – through the gift of knowledge, connections and memories, as much as rare books – is considerable indeed. My husband and I were fortunate to become good friends with Masa – he and Anthony bonded over rugby, a passion he shared with others at Hughes. He invited us to visit him in Japan in late 2019, and we have treasured memories of the time we spent with him. Many at Hughes Hall were proud to consider him a friend as well as a generous benefactor. Our thoughts are with his family at this time.”
Professor Ohtake, formerly professor of English literature of Waseda University in Japan, was particularly interested in the poets of the First World War. He was an authority on the poet Edward Thomas, who was killed in action in 1917. In Thomas’ verse he found parallels with the majestic calm of the Japanese haiku. Each year in February Professor Ohtake joined fellow members of the Edward Thomas Fellowship for their annual walk in the Hampshire countryside to commemorate the poet’s birthday.
Shortly after his first sabbatical visit to the College in 1986-87 he found himself wondering “what I might have contributed to the life of Hughes Hall”. Today the question is easily answered.
Over more than two decades Professor Ohtake generously presented the College with rare fine-press editions of modern British poets, notably Edward Thomas and Ted Hughes. The Ohtake Collection forms the core of the College’s Rare Books Collection, and is now appropriately housed in Hughes Hall Library.
Professor Ohtake was also instrumental in renewing the College’s connection with Tokyo Woman’s Christian University, whose second President, Miss Tetsu Yasui, came to Cambridge in the 1890s as a student of Elizabeth Hughes.
Professor Ohtake’s magnificent collection of books which he generously donated to Hughes Hall in recognition of his long association with the College, includes:
First World War poets
First editions of the works of Edward Thomas (1878-1917), Professor Ohtake’s particular enthusiasm, and other material relating to Edward Thomas.
Books by Siegfried Sassoon (1886-1967), including Sassoon’s school diary which was displayed in the exhibition at Cambridge University Library: ‘Dream Voices: Siegfried Sassoon, Memory and War’.
Further books by and about the First World War poets, and generally about the literature and history of the war.
First editions, fine press limited editions, and other material relating to former Poet Laureate Ted Hughes (1930–98). Some items have manuscript inscriptions by Ted Hughes himself. Much of this was acquired by Professor Ohtake from Keith Sagar, the bibliographer and friend of Ted Hughes.
Fine print and private press books
These include the exquisitely bound volumes of Matrix, and books published by Ashdene Press, Daniel Press, Doves Press, Whittington Press, William Cobden-Sanderson and Rampant Lions Press.
For details of the Collection, see: www.hughes.cam.ac.uk/student-centre/academic/library/ohtake-collection.