One of the marked features of social life in California is seen in the many public libraries of the state. Not in the cities alone, but throughout the rural areas, libraries abound. In striking contrast to many prevailing conceptions of it is a fact that California is not a country of Indians and untutored pioneers, for every school has a library, almost every village contains an organization of book-lovers.
Close in the wake of the Argonauts came the founders of the public school system, and this was the original stimulus that started men to building libraries. John G. Marvin, the pioneer superintendent of public schools, took an erly stand for libraries, and in 1863 Professor John Swett reechoed the high recommendations of Superintendent Marvin. From these persons the high school and district school libraries were the nucleus of the sentiment that led to the starting of village libraries.
The generous interest, thus outlined, which California has ever shown in the widest education of her young people by culture through books, has extended to her citiez and towns. In 1878 a general library law was passed, supplemented by the more complete statute of 1880, providing by local taxation for the establishment and support of free libraries and reading rooms in all incorporated cities and towns, the maximum rate allowed being one mill on the dollar.
Under this statute all of the existing free libraries of California have been founded. the exceptions are a few libraries operated under municipal charters.
Mr. W. P. Kimball, of San Francisco, has given the situation in northern and central California considerable attention. He thus sets forth the condition as it exists in many towns adjacent to the Bay of San Francisco:
ALAMEDA. Upon the eastern shore of the bay is located one of California's most interesting cities, Alameda, a favored place of residence for business men. Its library was organized in 1877, and was soon placed under the general law. Later years have been marked with constantly growing prosperity, especially since 1893, when direct access to the shelves was begun. During 1894 the circulation increased from 58,000 to 101,000 with a loss of but 39 v., and with no additional library force. With 24,000 v., a population of 16,000, its circulation the last year has been 138,000, and is rapidly increasing. The library occupies excellent quarters in the city hall building, and has an income of $7,400. A valuable lot belonging to the city, and centrally located, is designed for the future home of the library.
OAKLAND. the geographical position of Oakland to San Francisco is similar to that of Brooklyn to New York. Oakland is a city of churches, an important manufacturing center, the terminus of the transcontinental railway (with the expected entrance of another in a few months), and has thousands of beautiful homes. Its population is estimated at 75,000. The library was founded by membership plan in 1868, adopted by the city 1878, has now 28,000 v., sustains five branches, reports an income of $16,000, and a circulation of 160,000. It sadly needs a new building in place of the frail structure now occupied. Oakland's taxable wealth is assessed at $50,000,000.
BERKELEY. There is but one Berkeley, and from the windows of its public library one may look out upon that "road of passage and union between two hemispheres"--the Golden Gate. Here is located the State University, whose future never seemed more promising than at present. With these inspiring surroundings there is no room for surprise to find in this place of 8,000 people a library of 6,500 v., with a circulation of 43,000, income of $5,000, and steadily increasing public appreciation.
SAN RAFAEL. At a point a few miles distance from the bay, lying at the base of Mt. Tamalpais, is the little city of San Rafael, having 3,500 inhabitants, splendid drives, and an outlook on interesting scenery. Its library was adopted by the city in 1890, has an appropriation of $1,500, about 3,500 v., with a circulation of 17,000 v., and will soon occupy a room in the high school building now being erected.
SANTA ROSA. In the prosperous inland city of Santa Rosa, 50 miles north of San Francisco, possessing 9,000 inhabitants, is a library of 8,500 v., which is doing a good work, especially with the schools. Unfortunately a heavy load of city indebtedness seems to prevent anything beyond a narrow income at present.
SACRAMENTO. After an early beginning in 1852, the Sacramento library passed through its initial life of prolonged combat for existence, and was adopted by the city in 1879. It now owns 28,000 v., has a circulation of 80,000 v., and an income of $8,000, and is doing a service capable of great extension with ampler means. Residents of Sacramento are allowed access, for reference, to the State library, with its wealth of 104,000 v. The city has 30,000 inhabitants.
STOCKTON. In the city of Stockton the library enjoys the distinction of occupying a beautiful home of its own. The timely legacy of $70,000 from the late Dr. W. P. Hazleton erected a tasteful marble structure, and provided $15,000 for books. Established in 1880, it now has an income of $7,500, an aggregate of 30,000 v., and circulation of 106,000, and its work with the schools, women's clubs, and the community, is rapidly expanding. A classified catalogue for school use has been published by the board of education.
Other creditable free libraries exist at Haywards, Livermore, Petalume, Napa, Saint Helena, Vallejo, Woodland, Marysville, Eurelia, and San Jose.
No report of the smaller libraries of the state would be adequate without explicit mention of the library organization of the employes of the great Wells-Fargo Express Company. The association was founded in 1890. In 1893 its privileges were opened to express agents of all the coast states, and in 1894 employes of the Southern Pacific Railway were admitted to membership. There are almost 5,000 v., and they circulate as far north as Portland, as far east as Ogden, and to the towns of New Mexico on the south. There are now nearly 700 members.
It is regrettable to say that two of the greatest libraries in California are inaccessible to the public--the Sutro collection of some 200,000 quaint volumes, and the inestimable private shelves of the great Bancroft library. The latter collection contains many valuable original historical documents.
The Sutro collection is said still to rank fourth among great American libraries. almost 220,000 books and manuscripts are to be found within its walls. It is a warehouse of unexplored material, a true "mother lode" of literary gold. Ellen Armstrong Weaver, of the Sutro library, contributes an interesting sketch outlining its principal features. She says:
"The collection was begun in 1883. A year later 335 cases of books, gathered by Mr. Sutro and his staff of English and German experts, reached San Francisco. This nucleus was placed temporarily on ranges in the upper floor of 107 Battery street, where it still awaits the march of events. Later on, accessions came from the libraries of the Duke of Dahlberg, the Duke of Hamilton, the Duke of Sunderland, and from Dr. Clay's library near Manchester, England. From the monastery of Buxeim and the Royal state library at Munish, which latter had absorbed the libraries of all the monasteries of Bavaria besides other valuable works, came a rish accession of 4,000 incunabula, said to be one of the best collections in existence.
"The incoming tide of books, manuscripts, etchings, engravings and scrolls was so great that an overflow became necessary to Montgomery block, where a large branch is housed at the present time.
"When the monasteries were confiscated in Mexico, whole libraries fell into the hands of the government. A national library was at this time established in the City of Mexico, and many duplicates and other works not claimed by the state found their way to bookdealers. Mr. sutro afterward described to a friend his experience in visiting a warehouse in the City of Mexico, about 1889, where he walked "waist-deep" in stacks of books, and, realizing their importance, purchased the entire lot of old Spanish books and manuscripts.
"In the Orient Mr. Sutro bought a Semitic library, Persian, Arabic, Sanscrit, and Japanese manuscripts and books, which have never been pronounced upon by scholars. The Hebrew collection includes about 300 printed books and 187 scrolls and manuscripts. Many of these books are incunabula, and are valuable as such. The gem of this collection is a Yeaman manuscript of the Medrash Hagadol of the eleventh century, the only complete copy known to exist. It is of incalculable value, and is the treasure, par excellence, of the library.
"Books of science and travel are scattered throughout the two branches of the library, promising rich returns to the investigator. The classics fill several ranges. German literature includes the classics, historians, and some interesting volumes in old German, printed in blinding text that gives the impression there must be something worth searching for, else it would not be so carefully veiled from the ken of ordinary mortals. The French ranges are rich in 92 v. of hte Moniteur universel, relating to current history in the time of the French revolution, the earliest date being 1790. There is a fascinating French quarto, date 1628, on the art of fencing--L'Espee--embellishing with fine steel engravings of the art and its votaries in heroic attitudes, and an astrological chart indicating under what sign of the zodiac it is wise to stand in order to make a thrust at an opponent with the best hope of success. Under the head of art there is a choice collection of Louvre prints, and copies of originals in the British museum, Dresden gallery, National library in Paris, a portfolio of Italian and Sicilian art, ublished by Griggs & Sons, Pompeiian and Herculanean art reproduced in color by Zahn; Journal of Indian art, published by Griggs, engravings and woodcuts by old masters, reproduced in facsimile under direction of Dr. Fred Lippmann, and a fine series of engravings and etchings on industrial art and architecture. Picturesque Journeys through Sicily and Malta, with sepia-washed copperplate engravings, Jean Houel, 1789, is a feast for the eye. There may be nothing especially unique in the department through which we have skimmed, but there is enough cream on every shelf to feed the brains of California genius and rouse the ghost of originality to leave the shades and come to action.
"A browse through the English department offers pastures green to booklovers. The enthusiasm and abandon of a bibliomaniac on a tour of discovery in the Sutro library is equal to all the pleasures of the chase combined. The Religion of Nature, by Wollaston, we handle reverently when we learn that Ben Franklin's own hands set the type, when he was a compositor working at the case in Palmer's printing office in London, 1726. A quaint Elizabethan song book, printed by Wm. Byrd in 1589, is most fetching, with its songs of sundry natures.
"Of Bibles there are a goodly number in all languages, in manuscript and print. There is a ponderous old Vinegar Bible from the celebrated collection of John Dent, printed by John Baskett in 1717, and sometimes called Basketful of printers' errors. The type is perfect, and steel engravings of exquisite fineness illustrate the pages. It is little wonder that it was impossible to suppress the edition in spite of errors. A Breeches bible, celebrated because of the announcement that Adam and Eve made to themselves breeches rather than fig-leaf aprons, is bound in calf, with brass corners, and has reached the ripe of of 284 years. Charles II.'s own copy of the Prayer-book and Psalms is bound in oak, richly carved and clasped with royal arms wrought in brass. James I.'s own copy of the Psalms, also bound in oak, elaborately carved and clasped with the royal crest, is said to be the very book given by the Earl of Sunderland to Charles II. as he entered Tample Bar in 1660, after the Restoration. In the cover of the colume is a printed slip bearing this odd couplet:
" 'Buy, reade and judge; The price do not grudge; It will do thee more pleasure Than twice so much treasure.'
"A trio of royal missals is completed with George III.'s Prayer-book and Psalter, a folio bound in blue morocco, bordered with gold tracings, with the royal arms in gold on the covers. It is a fine copy, ruled throughout with red lines, with a brilliant front of St. Paul's cathedral. It carries its age of years remarkably well, nor do there seem to be any royal thumbmarks upon this direct inheritance from England's royal household.
there is great historical value in the old Vailey court proceedings, and among the 20,000 pamphlets relating to the Commonwealth times is a perfect old Diurnal, giving a contemporary account of the execution of Charles I.
"We find also a set of the Gentleman's Magazine, covering a period of 100 years; the library of the secretary of the London Chemical Society; a collection of parliamentary documents and proceedings dating from the year 1000 A. D., and extending to our own times, once the property of Lord Macauley, and used by him in writing hs histories, and the codified laws of England from Lord Cairns' library.
"The Shakespeare collection, although limited, is of high quality. It includes a set of the first four folios, printed in 1623, 1632, 1664, and 1685, all the publications of the Shakespear society, and a large quantity of miscellaneous Shakespeariana. In addition to the complete first folio in the set there is a curious old stray, without history or antecedents, a fragmentary edition of a first folio, bought as a tangled mass of leaves from a London bookseller and patched up and restored until eighteen comlete plays have shaped themselves together. The precious complete first folio of the set is in fairly god condition--as first folios go at this epoch of their history; a few pages were missing which have been supplied by fascimilies. This copy evidently went through the great London fire, and its edges still show the marks of that ordeal. A special providence seems to the rescued 'The Tempest' and 'The Merry Wives of Windsor' just before the hungry flames had passed the margin line.
"In this collection is the original rent-roll of Shottery Medow, Stratford-on-Avon, written on 16 leaves of vellum in a fine old English hand. It is interesting to trace the names of Thoms Combes, Joe Smart, and Bartol Hathaway.
"Come forward, thou little snip of a volume; who art thou, pushed back almost out of sight? Be heavins! The Doctrina Christiana, Mexico, 1546--oh, delight of my eyes--and beautifully dressed in pale yellow levant by Jenkins and Cecil. Devoutly I thank the providence which sewed my pockets up ere I entered this deserted edifice, for verily, otherwise, I might not depart guiltless. And here are the California incunabula, five of the extant six printed before 1840, modest, thin-bodied shapes--four probably unique! And here are ten fat bundles stoutly wrapped in manila paper--bless me, all manuscripts relating to the acquisition of Texas, unknown to historian, uncollated, uncalendared even, not mentioned in any printed account of the Bancroft collection.
"And other thousands of manuscripts: Zumarraga's Pastoral, 1534; the nine priceless volumes of Thomas O. Larkin's records and correspondence at Monterey; Alvarado's narrative, slowly penned during feeble health in the dull hamlet of San Pablo; Bandini's chronicle, persuasively distrained from his unwilling widow in dusty Los Angeles; the pathetic record of the venerable and ever-courteous Gen. Sutter, dictated in his last moments in Lititz, Pennsylvania; the personal memoirs by hundreds of pioneers who helped to establish states on these western shores; the invaluable Historia by Gen. Vallejo, drawn forth through innocent artifices by the genial, subtle Cerruti, who played with delicate touch upon the unresponsive chords of this portly seigneur of Lachryma Montis; and the volumes collected by Judge Hayes, illustrated with inserted photographs and views of inestimable worth, one containing manuscripts by Padres Serra and Lasuen.
"We sometimes speak of the soul of a book. Ah, if the souls of these books had but tongues, what strange, romantic, incredible tales could they narrate!
"This imperial folio of Gregory's Moralia, on vellum, illunicated, delicately adorned, penned by some patient, tireless monastic hand in the south of Germany; a love-gift by the abbot to some Spanish ecclesiastic of high station; the precious freight of some frail caravel westward cross the stormy waters of the Atlantic; immured for two centuries within some quiet sanctuary in New Spain; the price of some pilfering sacristan; the booty of bibliophile Andrade; sold on credit to Maxmilian; carried nule-back with a thousand unhappy companions to Vera Cruz, and hastily shipped to a dingy Leipzig auction room; the cynosure of a score of anxious bidders; and, finally, back again over sea and land to its present seclusion on the foggy eduge of sunny California. Where next?
"Old family names in the great dramatists' family." This choice bit of Shakespeariana left England under a strong protest from the library world.
The department most interesting to Californians is the famous Spanish collection, which Professor Burr, of Cornell, has called the best collection in America, both as to quality and numbers of books of the Fifteenth century. Andrew D. White, famous as Cornell's president, justly classified the collection as the best extant and the library as fourth in importance of any in America.
In the Spanish collection there is a vast amount concerning the early voyages and explorations of the Spanish on this coast. The geographical Society of the Pacific has obtained valuble material from the shelves of this great library. From one of the old books was first learned of the rescue and return to Mexico of the wrecked people of the San Augustine, a vessel that was wrecked somewhere between Point Reyes and Bolinas Bay, in 1596, times that go well back to the origin of our American history.
the story of the Mexican governors, the history of printing in Mexico, and the original constitution of the University of Mexico, are some of the treasures to be seen.
There are also well preserved specimens of printing from the press of Guttenberg, Caxton, and Elrich Zell, the master of Caxton. An extraordinarily valuable and rare specimen is of early printing in Roman letters by Nicholas Jason.
Illuminated manuscripts on vellum and paper, the work of painstaking monks "who wrought their hearts into exquisite missals, Bibles, catechisms" and philosophy, are of the number. Many an old cloister has yielded its secrets to enrich the collection.
Far out on Valencia street in San Francisco, a large, plain brick building, two stories in height and having iron shutters, stands in the midst of ample grounds. within, arranged upon a mile of shelving, are the 60,000 printed and manuscript volumes, with a vost number of periodicals, pamphlets and maps, which constitute the Bancroft Library, itself one of the surprises of California.
The gentle Franciscans, who, at the close of the eighteenth century, dotted this distant province of Spain with missions; the men of strong arm and clear brain, who, in the middle of the nineteenth centurey, wrested gold from the hills and made California an American state,--these are favorite themes of the historian and novelist; but that in so young a commonwealth the care for intellectual things should have scored a literary achievement almost impossible to the scholarship of older communities is hardly understood, even here at home. Yet this is the meaning of the unpretentious Valencia street structure and the precious collection housed behind its heavy iron doors.
The Bancroft Library is the only existing depository of the entire literature of the western half of North America. Not only is it thus distinct from other collections, but for many reasons it can never be duplicated. Such libraries are not found in the market, ready made. Their development depends upon favoring conditions of time and place and requires a large expenditure of labor and money. the material of this collection was assembled when the history of the Pacific Coast was still a virgin field. Entire libraries, the treasures of famous Spanish families, were transferred by purchase to its shelves. Great masses of government and mission archives were incorporated, either in the originals or in copies made by scores of clerks during many years of toil. More imortant still, hundreds of actors in the events preceding and contemporary with the establishment of American dominion up and down the coast--Spaniards and Americans, Englishmen and russians, Indian traders, agents of the Hudson's Bay Company, Alaskan missionaries of the Greek church--contributed narratives of their own experiences. Many of these men, makers of history in a double sense, even compiled or dictated complete manuscripts annals of particular localities or periods and of imortant transactions.
These pioneer leaders are now no more, but their invaluable testimony, secured in the nick of time, is here preserved. No other state or section anywhere in the world has been so fortunate. What luck for Massachusetts, for Virginia, for New York, had there been a Bancroft to collect the printed and spoken story of their founders! What good fortune for the nation, had such a collector, endowed with ample means, intelligence and zeal, given his life to rescuing from oblivion the recollections of the actors in the American Revolution, the makers of the Constitution, the hardy pioneers who first crossed the Alleghenies and won the Mississippi Valley to the young republic! These things were attempted too late if at all. The opportunity for a full and systematic chronicle of the most important events in the country's history was forever lost.
The Bancroft Library thus stands apart from all others in being the largest and fullest existing collection of books, maps and manuscripts relating to a special territory, time or subject. Larger masses of historical data are of course to be found in the great library centers of the world, but they are general, covering all lands, peoples and periods. Not only is the Bancroft collection superior as a whole but its superiority obtains in each of its parts. Here, for instance, may be found more complete data for Mexican history, for Central american history, for Pacific United States history, than exist elsewhere. The library contains a bette collection on Alaska, on Costa Rica, on Texas or Colorado or Utah, than can be had in any other public or private institution, and in the case of California especially it is regarded by experts as incomparably superior to any state collection now formed or that could now be formed in all the United States or Europe. Thus Mr. Bancroft has accomplished for his country a work that in common practice would have been left for historical societies and specialists to attempt at a later date, when the actors had wholly passed away and most of the original materials had perished.
The history and method of this collection are characteristically American, or rather western. Its assembling was not the work of a scholastic recluse burrowing in the dim alcoves of the Bodleian, nor of the familiar American millionaire who buys books at random because they are ancient, nor yet of the agents of a government or institutuion, but of an intelligent California business man who aspired to become the historian of the Far West and whose success as a progressive, money-making bookseller and publisher made his bibiographical and literary undertakings practicable. Thus the collection, designed for practical ends, has been put to practical and systematic uses. To facilitate his work of history writing, the collector had the entire library indexed and digested as one would index and epitomize a single volume. Nowehre else has so vast an amount of crude historical data been worked over, thoroughly winnowed and every important fact brought within reach for instant reference. This was done not only for the printed and manuscript books but for the newspapers as well, nearly a thousand files of which, equivalent to many thousand bound volumes, form a valuable part of the collection, being often the only contemporary record of important events. These indexes and summaries employed many men for years. Having served Mr. Bancroft's original purpose in aiding his historical writing, they are still a noteworthy feature of the library, whose availability they double.
Hubert Howe Bancroft came to California from Ohio in 1852, at the age of twenty. Failing as a gold-seeker, he established himself in San Francisco as a bookseller. Success came soon and before the outbreak of the Civil war he was at the head of the largest book and publishing house on the coast. But for money as an end he cared nothing, and instead of laboring to pile up wealth he devoted his surplus income to the purchase of Pacific coast books. At first his only motive was curiosity. As some men pursue riches for mere love of money, so he sought books for the love of exploring the past. California, her history and the annals of her neighbors fascinated him. The towns of the entire coast and the shops of eastern cities were searched for books printed here or referring to the coast. In 1862 and 1866 Mr. Bancroft made his first book hunting tours of Europe, spending many months in ransacking the book-marts of Spain, Italy, France, Germany and England. By his direction experts prepared a complete index and digest of all material on the Pacific coast countries from Panama northward that was to be found in the British museum and other national libraries of Europe. Many thousand additions to Mr. Bancroft's collection resulted from these early tours, and in 1869, as he tells us in his charming autobiography entitled "Literary Industries," his library contains 16,000 volumes.
It was at this date that the bibliophile's determination to become a writer of Pacific coast history was formed. His business house in San Francisco was now so well organized and prosperous that he counted upon it to afford the material support needed for many years of severe and expensive literary labor. Hard times, indeed, came later, and losses by fire and by the insolvency of others put greater burdens upon the merchant-author than any but a real master of trade could have borne, but, throughout a long period of stress, the business, in the hands of agents trained by him, never failed to supply the means for his further collecting and to meet the demands of his large staff of library assistants or the still heavier cost of publishing his series of great historical works. In this combination of business acumen with literary ability Mr. Bancroft's career presents a remarkable contrast with those of the majority of famous authors. Doubtless the plan to remain at the head of a large and intricate business while devoting his attention to the historical undertaking wa not, a priori, eminently practical, and in commenting on this in his autobiography Mr. Bancroft tells a story of the Central Pacific:
"'How dared you undertake crossing the Sierra?' the pioneer railroad men were asked.
"'Because we were not railroad men,' was the reply."
This chapter is less concerned with Mr. Bancroft's writings than with the library which made them possible, and a mere mention of their titles must serve to indicate the character of his works, which were published between 1874 and 1890: "The Native Races of the Pacific States," 5 vols.; "History of Central America," 3 vols.; "Mexico," 6 vols.; "North Mexican States and Texas," 2 vols.; "California," 7 vols.; "Arizona and New Mexico," 1 vol.; "Northwest Coast," 2 vols.; "Oregon," 2 vols.; "Washington, Idaho and Montana," 1 vol.; "British Columbia," 1 vol.; "Alaska," 1 vol.; "Utah," 1 vol.; "Nevada, wyoming and Colorado," 1 vol.; "Popular Tribunals," 2 vols.; "California inter Pocula," 1 vol.; "California Pastoral," 1 vol.; "Essays and Miscellany," 1 vol.; and "Literary Industries," 1 vol.
Upon the publication of "The Native Races," W. E. H. Lecky, the eminent British historian, declared it "a noble monument of American energy as well as of American genius," and added: "I was talking of the book the other day to Herbert Spencer, and was gratified to hear him speak so warmly of the help he had found in it in writing his present work 'Principles of Sociology.' * * * The book will take a very high place among the earliest works of great learning America has produced."
Meanwhile the library grew apace. Indeed, between 1869 and 1880 the work of collecting and collating materials occupied more of Mr. Bancroft's time and that of his expert assistants than could be given to the preparation of matter for the press. Visits to Europe, to Mexico and Central America, to Oregon and British Columbia, yielded splendid results. Many of his bibiographical adventures are recounted in the "Literary Industries." For example, in 1869 was sold in Leipsic, London, and other foreign cities the notable library collected by Don Jose Maria Andrade, the famous Mexican bibliophile. Andrade had sold this great collection to the unfortunate Emperor Maxmilian, who designed it as the foundation of a Biblioteca Imperial de Mejico. But when Maxmilian was shot, Andrade, fearing his treasures might be seized by the republican authorities, packed the books off on the backs of two hundred mules to Vera Cruz, whence they were shipped to Europe. The bulk of the library, when it fell under the hammer, was bought by Mr. Bancroft, who thus gained some 6,000 volumes of the rarest books and manuscripts relating to his subject. "A sum five times larger than the cost of the books," he exclaims, "would not have taken them from me, for Inever could buy any considerable part of them again at any price. Their use has taught me that these works included foreign books of the highest importance."
A few years later the sum of $30,000 was paid at a London auction to enrich the library with the choicest works collected by Don Jose Fernando Ramirez, president of the Emperor Maxmilian's first ministry. Ramirez, a learned and discriminating bibliographer, had acquired his prizes from the Mexican convents after the suppression of the monastic orders. Of the prices which these books fetched at public sale Mr. Bancroft wrote: "I had before paid hundreds of dollars for a thin 12mo volume, but a bill wherein page after page the items run from $50 to $700 is apt to call into question the general sanity of mankind. * * * My chief consolation was that if the books were worth these prices, my library would foot up a million of dollars."
The accessions from these and other celebrated Mexican libraries included specimens of the earliest American printing--the products of the press at Mexico as early as 1534; the valuable manuscript "Concilios Provinciales Mexicanos," in four large folios, constituting the original record of the first ecclesiastical councils of the church in Mexico, held between 1555 and 1588; certain costly originals on the aboriginal languages, preserving the laws, tribute rolls and biographies of rulers and nobles, written in the Aztec hieroglyphics on strips of metl or agave paper; a copy of the report of Andagoya in 1534 on inter-oceanic communication across Panama, and many other rare and even unique books and MSS. from the tme of Cortes to that of Maxmilian.
During Mr. Bancroft's travels in Mexico he obtained valuable dictations from leading actors in the stirring history of that country during the war with the United States and the civil conflict growing out of the French intervention. Thus, with the aid of native stenographers, he procured a detailed narrative of the career of Porfirio Diaz, now president of the republic, from the lips of General Diaz himself,--a manuscript which throws light on the most brilliant period of American history.
Profitable trips were made by Mr. Bancroft's agents to the Central American capitals, where many valuable originals were collected and where the authorities lent aid to the work of copying or digesting the historical records. For this region an important acquisition was the library of Mr. E. G. Squier, formerly United States minister to Central America and author of many works on ethnology and history. His collection was rich in Central American books and MSS., ancient and modern; in newspapers of the country, in important portions of the library of Alexander Von Humboldt, and in transcriptions from the archives of the Spanish government relating to early Central American history.
Nearly a score of other large and important collections, with twice as many minor ones, were at different times added by Mr. Bancroft. One of the former was the library of Alphonse L. Pinart, a wealthy French scholar, who spent several years on the Pacific coast from Alaska to Central America, making investigations and gathering materials. In the same class were the collections of the French abbe Brasseur de Bourbourg, resident of Spanish america for twenty-five years and author of several works on Mexico; Placido Vega, general commanding under the Mexican President Juarez during the Maxmilian period, and Don Juan Osio, governor of Lower California and author of an historical manuscript containing much information regarding times and events of which there is no other chronicle.
In early California history, one of the noteworthy acquisitions was the library of the late Benjamin Hayes of San Diego, formerly district judge at Los Angeles and an indefatigable collector. "Judge Hayes," Mr. Bancroft writes, "performed for posterity a work beside which sitting upon a judicial bench and deciding cases was no more than catching flies. * * * His collection was formed with a view of writing a history of Southern California, but this purpose was defeated by age and ill health."
Mr. Bancroft received great if not always ready aid from many famous actors on the Mexican side in the events that ended with the transfer of California to the United States. That typical Spanish California, General Mariano G. Vallejo, commander of the outpost of Sonoma under the Mexican regime, long held aloof, and the extended course of diplomacy required to obtain his co-operation is described with delightful humor by the author of "Literary Industries." At last the gallant old soldier yielded, and forthwith became the most enthusiastic worker for the library. From hiding places unsuspected came forth treasures the very existence of which had been denied in the name of all the saints. Books and MSS. not only unique but of immense historical value were produced, and for several years the general busied himself in preparing a memoir of his times and in gathering from the missions and early California families more than 10,000 historical documents.
This distinguished convert to the cause of history was also an efficient proselyter and aided in recruiting many of his compatriots. Thus in time the library acquired the papers and recollections of many old Hispano-American families: Arguello, Alvarado, Coronel, Estudillo, Castro, Pico, Bandini, Arnaz and Ortega in this state: Bonilla, Altamirano, Corona, Barrios and fifty others of Lower California, Mexico, Honduras and Guatemala, all being rich in unique manuscript documents and memoirs. The purchase of the collection of Thomas O. Larkin, United States consul at Monterey prior to the acquisition of California, gave the library a valuable mass of unduplicated documents and official correspondence during the important period, 1844 to 1849.
The papers and records of Isaac Bluxome, executive officer of the San Francisco Vigilance Committees of 1851 and 1856, whose identity long remained conceled under the dread signature, "33 secretary," were acquired in the face of great opposition. The anxiety of many actors in these periods of strangulation and forced expatriation to remain unknown hampered the historian's effort to procure the secret records of the popular uprisings against the lawless element. Better judgment, however, prevailed in the end, and thus Mr. Bancroft was enabled to obtain the full history of the comittees, which he has told in the two important volumes entitled "Popular Tribunals."
After all the aid that private collections could give, there still remained the vast tangle of California archives preserved in the different offices of nation, state and county, at San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, Los Angeles and other towns, constituting more than 500 bulky tomes, besides loose papers, in all not less than 300,000 documents. They are the official records of the successive rule of Spain, Mexico and the United States from 1768 to 1850, and California history could not be written without them. By employing a large auxiliary force. Mr. Bancroft substantially transferred their contents to his library. Every paper of the 300,000 was carefully deciphered; noteworthy documents were copied in full; the less important were stripped of their Spanish verbiage and abridged. The same process gave the library the data contained in the mission archives, mostly in the possession of the Archbishop of San Francisco, who cordially placed these treasures at the disposal of the historian.
To complete this wonderful store of information on the making of California were gathered all imortant newspapers and the personal narratives of every man still living who had taken a prominent part at the time of the American occupation and settlement. Some of these memoirs cover only a few pages, others fill volumes. Indeed, whole histories were sometimes written in this way, where the man and his information were deemed of sufficient importance. Thus General Vallejo, already mentioned, and Juan B. Alvarado, last Mexican governor of Alta California, each wrote in Spanish, at the hand of an amanuensis furnished by Mr. Bancroft, an independent and noteworthy "Historia de California," the two works filling six folio manuscript volumes, which occupied several years in preparation.
This rapid summary of Mr. Bancroft's Californiana will elucidate his assertion that in no other country or period have historical materials been gathered so abundant and so valuable as those that readily rewarded his efforts in California during the fortunate decades of the sixties and seventies. His success will doubtless never be paralleled on this continent.
The same thorough methods that made the Bancroft Library a complete magazine of Hispano-American history were applied with success, if with less voluminous results, to the states and countries of the northern coast. In Oregon, Washington, British Columbia and Alaska, every public or private collection yielded its data, either in originals or in copies and every pioneer who could tell a story worth recording was visited and his narrative written out. Among the important accessions were the collection of Ellwood Cooper, lawyer of Olympia and author of an unpublished "History of Oregon," which came with his library; the records of several Hudson's Bay Company posts from the Columbia river to Alaska; the library of Sir James Douglas, the Hudson's Bay Company's governor of British Columbia, containing among many other unpublished MSS. the adventures of Simon Fraser in his exploration of the Fraser river; and Russian materials from Innokentie metropolitan of Moscow; Iohan Veniaminof, missionary to the Aleuts; Admiral Lutke, and Etholine, formerly governor of the Russian possessions in America. One of Mr. Bancroft's secretaries, Ivan Petroff, the well known authority on Alaska, made two trips through that country on behalf of the library, and subsequently spent two years at Washington in copying imortant unpublished documents in the office of the secretary of state, where had been deposited all the records in the hands of the Russian authorities in Alaska at the time of the transfer of sovereignty.
Thus it is seen that the Bancroft Library is a collection of libraries--the work not of one man but of many men, laboring independently to gather and preserve the history of an area equal to one-twelfth of the eath's surface, whereon is planted a civilization that is becoming eary year more important in the affairs of the world. This does not detract from the magnitude and value of Mr. Bancroft's achievement in assembling the results of these many labors under one roof, in systematizing the whole and making it available for use in historical writing of which his own admirable volumes are only the first fruits.
It is estimated that the Bancroft collection has cost its owner upwards of $500,000, to which must be added half as much more, spent in preparing indexes and digests and otherwise making it ready to the hand of the investigator. Having served Mr. Bancroft's purpose for his historical series, it is to be hoped that the library may never be broken up, a catastrophy that would destroy its value as a unit and waste its costly apparatus of aids to the student. Rather, if none of California's millionaires is wise enough to provide for its preservation here, let it go intact to the Library of Congress or to the New York Public Library, which, through its Astor and Lenox collections, is already rich in Americana relating to the eastern half of the continent. Thus, in connection with eastern collections, it may eventually become the basis of an Institute of American History, of which the nation would be, to all time, the grateful beneficiary. Such use would best commemorate its founder's zeal for truth and his singleness of purpose.
One of the old and famous libraries of San Francisco is the Mercantile, which has for many years been popular, though its membership is not so large as some others. So long ago as 1876 this library had 41,563 volumes. It was established in 1852, and has 80,000 volumes now. Three thousand were added during the year 1904.
For more than half a century the mechanics' Institute Library, of San Francisco, has been popular and prosperous. Its funds come from income of property, from dues and rents. It has 116,000 volumes.
The San Francisco Public Library was incorporated in 1850 by an act of the Legislature and was opened to the public in June, 1879. By 1884 the library was so well patronized that 325,828 books were issued. In 1888 new quarters were provided in the city hall and branches were established throughout the city. So rapid has been the growth of the institution that in 1902-3 the total use of the books (library and home) exceeded one million calls.
There are now six branches throughout the city, and all are prosperous. From 20,000 volumes in 1880 the list has grown to a total of 152,881, of which 122,579 are in the main library.
One of the greatest libraries in the country is the California State Library located at Sacramento. It was created by an act of the legislature in 1850. The necessary funds for the maintenance of the library were acquired by requiring every state officer, civil and military, to pay five dollars on receipt of his commission. In addition to the funds thus collected there was reserved five dollars from the pay of each member of the legislature for each session, and by a supplemental act approved May 11, 1853, all fees of whatsoever character collected in the office of the secretary of state were reserved for the use of the library.
The State Library occupies quarters on the east side of the Capitol building. This entire section of the building is occupied by the library, the law department being on the first floor, and above it the general collection. The rooms are all heated by steam and lighted by electricity, thus protecting the books from any injurious effects of gas. A system of telephonic communication between the departments adds to the efficiency of the service and saves much time and labor. Owing to the circular construction of the building, there is ample light at all times.
The library contains a greater number of volumes than any other state library in this country excepting the New York state library. The collection now contains 125,000 volumes and many pamphlets, and the library is in need of more room for further extension. The map collection contains about 275 maps, special attention being paid to securing the latest official county maps of the state. The library also receives copies of all the maps issued by the United States government.
The original design in creating the library was merely to meet the needs and requirements of the state government and of the legislature during its sessions; and while it is intended for reference purposes only, with the exception of certain works from the law department, its use is not restricted to members of the state government, but is extended to the general public, and every one has the opportunity and privilege of using it as a reference library. The entire collection is open to the public, both on the main floor and in the adjacent rooms and galleries. Many of the cases are kept locked, however, and are opened only upon application to an attendant. Small tables are placed under the windows in the alcoves for the use of readers, affording opportunity for quiet study.
The library is now supported by fees received by the secretary of state for filing articles of incorporation and other documents. The money so received is paid into the state treasury each month, and a certain fixed amount of that sum is credited to the State Library and constitutes the state library fund. Out of this fund all the running expenses of the library are paid except the salaries of the librarian and two deputies, who are paid by an appropriation made by the legislature.
The law department, which is one of the greatest in the country, contains 28,000 volumes and includes reports from the highest courts of every state in the Union, the session laws of every state from its organization to date, and the compiled laws and codes of all the states. The collection of text-books is very complete, and all new publications of this nature which are of real value are secured as soon as possible. All the importantlegal periodicals, both American and foreign, are received, and in many cases the library has a complete file. The California Supreme Court Records consist of 3,331 volumes, which contain the complete record of every case on appeal in the Supreme Court of California. These columes are fully indexed, so that any case can be referred to without delay, and are accessible within six weeks afrer a decision is rendered. The department of foreign law contains the early statutes of England in folio volumes which wer published in the sixteenth century. These volumes are quaint in appearance, and are valuable on account of their antiquity, there being very few copies in existence. The reports of all English courts from a very early period may be found, many of them containing opinions rendered by the noted law-givers Coke, Blackstone, and others. The several dependencies of Great Britain, Scotland, Ireland, India, Canada, and Australia, furnish almost complete sets of statutes and reports. The collection contains many works that are valuable on account of their age and rarity, one of the most curious of these being the Connecticut laws from 1615 to 1750, commonly known as the Connecticut Blue Laws, which are noted for their severity and stringency.
The department is used a great deal by the legal profession of the city and of the state, for provision is made whereby judges of the superior courts may grant requisitions on the law department for a period of two weeks to attorneys requiring books that can not be obtained elsewhere; the judge assuming the responsibility for their safe return, and the attorney payng transportation charges both ways. By this arrangement the books are made available to the legal profession throughout the state.
The California department contains all of the works in the library that refer to California and all books by Californian authors. In addition to innumerable works pertaining to the state there are nearly 3,000 bound volumes of California newspapers.
James L. Gillis, the librarian, has recently issued a historical sketch of the library, together with a description of the various departments. Referring to the newspaper index, one of the great features of the collection, he says:
"In making an index of a file of California newspapers from the earliest date at which a paper was published in the state down to the present day, the library is undertaking a task which is not carried on to so great an extent by any other institution in this country, so far as known. The earliest paper indexed was the Californian, first published in Monterey, August 15, 1846. This was the first newspaper published in the state. It was printed with Spanish type on paper that came wrapped around cigars. Following it in the order of indexing came the California Star, and then the Alta California. The latter is now indexed up to July 1, 1879, and at the same time the current files of the San Francisco Chronicle are being indexed. there are still about twenty-two years, from July 1, 1879, to August 31, 1902, to be done; but the most valuble part of the file, so far as early California history is concerned, has already been completed. There is very little record of conditions and events in California in the early days except what is contained in the newspapers, and to students of early history this index is invaluable. Its usefulness has already been proved on many occasions, and will increase as time goes on. Aside from being an index to a particular file of papers, it is in a way an index to all papers of the same period for the subjects indexed, for having found a reference in the indexed file, and so having ascertained the date, it is comparatively easy to consult other papers for additional information. Everything relating to California is indexed, whether it be historical, personal, political, or wheatever relation it may bear to the state. The fund of information in regard to persons and events which could not be found elsewhere is prodigious, and is available to any one upon application. So far the index comprises about 65,000 typewritten cards of standard size (7.5 by 12.5 centimeters). These cards are grouped under appropriate headings and subheadings for convenient reference.
"Ninety-eight different newspapers are bound, there being at least one from each county in the state except Alpine county, where no paper is published. These bound volumes are all arranged in order in a room specially shelved for them, and they are consulted constantly."
Concerning the great reference rooms and their valuable storehouse of the world's great authorities, Mr. Gillis writes as follows:
"The main reference department occupies the central portion of the library on the second floor. The desk is placed in the center of the room, thus enabling the attendant to maintain supervision of the alcoves, which extend from the wall in radial form. The classes of biography, literature, and the fine arts occupy the alcoves nearest the desk, while the current newspapers and periodicals and the general reference works are placed in an adjoining room. Among the many valuable works of reference in the library may be mentioned Audubon's Birds, large folio edition, Challenger Expedition publications, Jesuit Relations, Bartholomew's Physical Atlas, Sargent's Silva of North America, Harris's Fishes of North America, Sowerby's English Botany, Winsor's Narrative and Critical History of America, de luxe edition, Sabin's Dictionary of Books Relating to America, Kingsborough's Mexican Antiquities, Boydell's Shakespeare, Galeries Historiques de Versailles, Racinet's Le Costume Historique, Description de l'Egypte, Early English Text Society publications, Spanish Colonial Architecture in Mexico, many complete sets of periodicals of various kinds, sets of the transactions and proceedings of associations andlearned societies, and a large number of valuable government publications, state and national. The best new books are constantly being added to the collection, so that the student may avail himself of the latest sources of information. It is desired to make the library as useful as possible to the people of California, and any information or assistance which can be furnished will cheerfully be given. during the hours that the library is open there is an attendant at the reference desk, whose duty it is to furnish allneeded assistance and advice."