The Bancroft Survey Project began in February 2008. Funded by grants from the Andrew W. Mellon and the Rosalinde and Arthur Gilbert Foundations, the survey project is intended to be a simultaneously broad and in-depth survey of all manuscript holdings of the Bancroft Library, which has been collecting for over a century. Four archivists were hired to scour the collections for a three year term, during which they will review the vast myriad of manuscript materials and use a survey instrument designed to gather data on collection scope, subject categories, and physical condition. The survey archivists are Marjorie Bryer, Amy Croft, Dana Miller, and Elia Van Lith, and they are also the authors of this blog.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

400 year old book brings rare smile to grumpy archivist

A beautiful title page from a surprising find.

My post today is more casual and off-the-cuff than usual.  Simply put, I was having one of those survey days where everything is more complicated than it seems like it should be.  Certain oversized folders weren't quite where I expected them to be, mischievous elves had misnumbered or mislabeled other items, and my catalog records were starting to swim together.  When would this enormous survey project EVER end?? Would things EVER be clear cut and straightforward again? Argh!

Then I came upon a French illustrated genealogy from 1635. Its thick, strong cloth paper, careful hand-written script and intricate, pigment-dyed paintings of family coats of arms (or crests) all attest to its 375 long years of existence. Most of these items are found in the rare books collection, but this one is part of manuscripts and thus on my list to survey today.

I am not of French extraction, nor do I have any other particular connection to this item (although it would be terrific if my family history book was this ornate), I was just happy to see it today.  Not only is it exceptionally old (especially for a repository located in California, which only became a state in 1850), it is colorful. A true relic of another time and place. Enjoy!

(All images are photos of Banc MSS 71/166: Pierre d' Hozier genealogie de L'Illustre Maison Des Ursins, Paris, 1635)

The cover is probably from the 19th century.  Yes, it is dusty. Don't worry- we'll have it cleaned and wrapped. 

Above: the first page, (most likely) bears holding up the family crest.

Right: Two examples of coats of arms within branches of the Ursins family.

Below: Details of more coats of arms; at bottom, a colorful family tree. 

-- D. Miller (no longer as grumpy)