The Huntington Library houses an array of materials for the study of the Pacific Rim, a region of immense breadth, with a diverse network of people, cultures, and societies. Geographical coverage is strongest for California, China, Hawaii, Japan, and the Philippines, with a current collecting emphasis on Chinese-American and Japanese-American history in Southern California. The present institutional focus on the Pacific Rim is a direct response to scholars' increasing interest in migration, ethnicities, and the transnational aspect of individuals and communities dotted across the Pacific Ocean.
Notable subject areas are European exploration in Asia from the 16th century onward, 19th-century anti-Chinese movements in California, and Chinese immigration to the U.S. from the 1850s to 1980s. Other strengths include American missionary activities in Hawaii in the 19th century and the Philippine-American War. The majority of materials are in English, but there are also resources in Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish.
The Huntington holds the largest Pacific Mail Steamship Company collection in the United States (1851–1929). Significant papers of individuals include Emilio Aguinaldo's, relating to the independence of the Philippines, and those of Joseph Oliver Carter, Privy Councilor to Hawaii's Queen Liliuokalani. The Hong Family Papers contain the legal files of Y. C. Hong, one of the first Chinese-American immigration attorneys in California and the U.S.
Noteworthy printed books include the first European volume to feature Chinese characters or logograms, Juan González de Mendoza's L'historia del gran regno della China (1586). Exceptional and among the earliest Asian works are the only extant manuscript copy of the Yongle encyclopedia, fascicle 10270–10271 (ca. 1562–1567), and fascicle 45 of the Huayan jing Chinese Buddhist canon, created during the Song dynasty in 1085 and The Huntington's oldest printed book.