The great lode of manuscript materials available to researchers in University of California’s Bancroft Library has long been unassayed. Volume I by Dale Morgan and George P. Hammond of a projected three volume guide gives only a pleasant sample of the usefulness that the other volumes will have for Hispanic Americanists. This first volume contains the Pacific and Western manuscripts (except California), while two subsequent works now in preparation will provide speedier access to Mexican and colonial Spanish American documents and to manuscripts concerning California, the strong focal point of Hubert Howe Bancroft’s original historical labors.
Some fifteen years ago the effective user of the old Bancroft Library was expected to learn his way to the collections by the apprenticeship system, an inefficient but extremely pleasant method that gave the indigenous researcher a distinct advantage over his visiting colleague. Emergence of the new Bancroft Library has brought better storage, greater comfort, increased supervision, enlarged collections, a publication program, and now at last the beginning of the end for what Director Hammond calls the “memory of the oldest employee” system of storage and cataloging.
It seems inappropriate that the “old days” should pass unlamented by those who enjoyed the former system, and yet the obvious advantages of the new catalogs will dry the nostalgic tear of even the most romantically inclined. There will still be opportunities for many “finds” even within the greater organization, for guides can only suggest types of materials. However, the rapidity with which the investigator can begin to do effective research and the frequency with which he can encounter items of interest are the dividends to be gained from this essential research tool.
Contents of this book comprise general descriptions of collections of manuscripts, transcripts, photostatic reproductions, and microfilm. These are organized on a state or area basis, being assigned to that area with which they are most vitally concerned. A catchall section entitled Western and Miscellaneous embraces those documents not properly assigned to one of the more conventional sections. This seems to have eliminated much overlapping and duplication of entries.
It is clear upon inspection that the Bancroft manuscripts have considerable material bearing on the history of: Utah and the Mormons, 27 pages; Nevada, 29 pages; Oregon, 32 pages; Texas, 37 pages; Colorado, 57 pages. Less obvious, with only 16 pages dedicated to listings, are the New Mexico materials. Some of these, occupying merely a few lines but serving as an example, contain many pieces: The Bandelier Papers, 1,453 exposures of microfilm; Kit Carson Correspondence and Papers, 1,073 items; Archives of New Mexico (Spanish), 84 volumes and (Mexican), 154 volumes in photocopy; Benjamin Read Papers, 3,143 filmed exposures; and U. S. Bureau of Land Management New Mexico Field Records, 81,354 exposures on film. It can thus be seen that a few pages of catalog description can comprehend a multitude of documents.
To the Hispanic Americanist this work serves as a preview of what is to come in a future volume when the area of concern will be closer to his research interests. It is to be desired, and with some expectation of fulfillment, that the same high standard will be maintained, thereby making these volumes landmarks in the field of archival tools.
A comment is in order on the physical presentation of the material. Unlike many guides to manuscript collections, this has clear type of sufficient size to be easily legible. Though abbreviations are used in descriptions and as aids to physical location of documents within the library, these are kept at a reasonable minimum. The book is notably free from typographical and other obvious errors. An unusually complete index is an added bonus to both the amateur and professional historian who uses this work.