excerpt – Exploring the Bancroft Library

Some of the original 39 volumes of The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, published 1883-1890 by Bancroft's own publishing company. This set, bound in full calf, was sold in 1884, complete with glass-fronted walnut bookcase, to Henry Stiner of Eagleville, California, for $5.50 per volume.Foreword

The publication of Exploring the Bancroft Library takes place at a crucial moment in Bancroft’s distinguished history as one of the premier research libraries of the world. Hubert Howe Bancroft (1832-1918) laid the library’s foundations in 1860 when, as a bookseller and publisher in San Francisco, he began a reference collection on California. Almost fifty years later, on November 25, 1905, the University of California signed a contract to buy The Bancroft Library. On May 2, 1906, just two weeks after San Francisco’s great earthquake and fire—from which the collection was fortunately spared—President Benjamin Ide Wheeler authorized the removal of the library from its San Francisco home on Valencia Street to its new quarters on the third floor of California Hallat the time the newest building on the Berkeley campus. Now, as we embark on an extensive renovation project, Bancroft is celebrating the past one hundred years at Berkeley and simultaneously preparing for the next one hundred years—at least.

After 146 years of acquiring “stuff”—a technical term in librarianship—ranging from ancient Egypt to the modern American West, this book provides an opportunity to celebrate, and describe, the library that has grown from the one begun by H. H. Bancroft. The library’s diverse collections offer a bewildering wilderness of possibilities. Here we attempt to tame that wilderness with forays into the history of each collection, its contents, and future development. Our curators introduce some of their most significant holdings and write of the research opportunities provided by their collections and programs. In the “At Work” essays, scholars, students, and artists describe new discoveries based on Bancroft collections. We explain our research and publication programs and Bancroft’s growing emergence as a campus center for learning as well as research. We also offer a behind-the-scenes view of how the library works to collect, organize, and provide public access to its wealth of resources.

Charles B. Faulhaber
The James D. Hart Director

A great library does not simply happen. It is the result of the conscious efforts of generations of men and women, all imbued with the same goal: to capture the material record of a culture’s collective and private aspirations, conflicts, accomplishments, and disappointments. Its collections of primary and secondary sources—books, maps, manuscripts, institutional and company records, newspapers, pictorial materials, and artifacts—illuminate the particulars, the character and soul of a culture’s memory and presence. Ultimately, the library’s ever-growing collections enable each generation to research, enrich, and reshape the telling of its story, undoubtedly the most precious gift a culture can give itself.

The university’s acquisition of The Bancroft Library was one of the signal events that led to Berkeley’s current eminence as the world’s most distinguished public university. As President Benjamin Ide Wheeler stated presciently at the time:

The purchase of The Bancroft Library marks a great day in the history of the university. …

It means the inevitable establishment at Berkeley of the center for future research in the history of Western America; it means the creation of a school of historical study at the University of California; it means the emergence of the real university of study and research out of the midst of the colleges of elementary teaching and training.

H. H. Bancroft’s collection originally focused on the “Pacific Slope”—California, Oregon, and Washington—but soon expanded to cover Central America, Mexico, the entire Western United States, British Columbia, and Alaska. Bancroft eventually sought to document the creation of “Pacific Civilization,” the history of human activity in North America from the Rocky Mountains west to Hawaii and from Alaska south to the Isthmus of Panama. By the time of the sale to the university, the initial gathering of books in Bancroft’s bookstore and publishing house had grown to more than 50,000 volumes. Unlike many of his nineteenth-century peers, who were primarily interested in, for example, first editions, fine printing, and quality bindings, Bancroft attempted to collect everything:

I did not stop to consider, I did not care, whether the book was of any value or not; it was easier and cheaper to buy it than to spend time in examining its value. The most worthless trash may prove some fact wherein the best book is deficient, and this makes the trash valuable.

In 1906, shortly after the university acquired the library, Henry Morse Stephens, professor of history and the person probably most responsible for its purchase, recognized Bancroft’s genius, noting that

Mr. Bancroft’s greatest characteristic as a collector was that he had imagination. He swept in with his dragnet all sorts of stuff—business directories, diaries, handbills, account books. He had the imagination even to see the importance of ships’ logs and he took these in. He sent a man to Alaska for all the records of the early fur companies. As a result we have more of these than there are at St. Petersburg. … One knows not where to begin or end an enumeration. There are five thousand volumes of newspapers, many of them country newspapers at that, many of which exist alone in this collection. There is a magnificent pile of briefs in Spanish land cases; an extraordinary collection of records of the old Missions. We can trace the pious Father Serra, founder of missions, step by step on his journeys. We have also the entire records of the old Presidio in San Francisco; large masses of correspondence of old Spanish families; the actual minutes of the Vigilance Committees, which are under lock and key and not to be opened until all the participants have passed away.

The idea of the library was born in 1860 when Bancroft, returning from a trip, discovered that his assistant, William Knight, charged with editing a guide to the Pacific Slope, had assembled a small reference collection of about a hundred volumes. Within a decade Bancroft had gathered in 16,000 volumes and begun to seek ways to make use of them as well as to make money from them. Eventually this led to the publication between 1883 and 1890 of Bancroft’s Works, thirty-nine volumes on the history of California and the West—but that’s another story.

The collection continued to grow as the result of collecting trips to the East and to Europe, as well as through extensive purchases at major auctions, most notably of collections like those that became available on the European market after the collapse of Maximilian and Carlota’s ill-fated Mexican empire in 1865. Another significant milestone in Bancroft’s collecting was winning the friendship of General Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, then retired and living on a large land-grant ranch in Sonoma, the town he had founded. As a leader of the Californios and the last commandant of Alta, California, Vallejo had amassed a large quantity of records that complemented the official archives of the Mexican government. Thanks to Vallejo’s influence, other important Californio families gave Bancroft their papers. If Bancroft could not secure original documents, he had transcriptions made of relevant portions, as in the case of the Archives of Spanish and Mexican California in the hands of the U.S. Surveyor General in San Francisco’s City Hall, whose originals perished in the 1906 earthquake and fire. When no documents existed, he sought out and interviewed figures from all walks of life throughout the American West. These “dictations,” hundreds of oral histories, became important sources for his Works, preserving recollections that might otherwise have been lost. Among the most heavily-used documents in the collection, the “Bancroft Dictations” preceded the library’s current Regional Oral History Office.

When the University of California acquired Bancroft’s library in 1905, it was—and it remains—the largest library in the United States devoted to a single region. Without Bancroft’s vision and collecting efforts, much of the history and myriad details of one of the world’s most spectacular migrations and its aftermath would have been lost.

From its arrival on the Berkeley campus in 1906 to the present day, a continuous and noteworthy relationship has existed between the library and faculty, scholars, and students. Under the leadership of Stephens and the first three directors (Herbert E. Bolton, 1919-1940; Herbert I. Priestley, 1940-1944; and George P. Hammond, 1946-1965), all professors of Latin American history, the library deepened and expanded Bancroft’s original vision, particularly to the south. The astonishing breadth and depth of the library’s holdings of Latin Americana established Bancroft as a singularly valuable resource for any student of the history of Mexico, California, and the Southwest.

During the last years of his tenure, Hammond began to take a broader view of Bancroft’s mission, tucking both the University Archives and the Regional Oral History Office, founded in 1954, under Bancroft’s wing. Both colorably could be linked to the history of California. Under the directorship of James D. Hart, 1970-1990, however, the library substantially restructured and expanded its historic mission. Hart, a former Chairman of the English Department, Vice-Chancellor, and Provost, was the author of the classic Oxford Companion to American Literature (1941) and A Companion to California (1978).

With the transfer of the Rare Books Department from the Main Library in 1970, Bancroft at a stroke expanded its reach to include the entire sweep of Western civilization, ranging from the Tebtunis Papyri Collection from ancient Egypt to medieval manuscripts, incunabula, rare books and fine printing, and modern literary manuscripts. Two years later the creation of the History of Science and Technology Program balanced the focus on history and the humanities with a concentration on the sciences, especially big science, the large-scale projects in physics and chemistry that had marked the university’s rise to prominence in the 1930s. Hart’s eye, however, was never far from California. Rare Books continued to focus on the manuscripts and papers of contemporary Western authors and on the work of California’s fine presses. The Mark Twain Papers and Project, which came to Bancroft with Rare Books, made the library the signature location for the study and edition—in collaboration with the University of California Press—of the author’s letters and literary works.

Today Bancroft’s holdings are national treasures. In announcing the award of a $750,000 Challenge Grant for the 2006 renovation of the library, Dr. Bruce Cole, Chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, called Bancroft’s collections “unique, irreplaceable, and of stellar significance.” They are all of that—icons and images of the human experience—and Bancroft preserves and protects them with the same loving care that the Church lavishes on its icons. No digital surrogate or reproduction, no matter how accurate, can duplicate the historical artifact itself—the first printing of a book, an author’s manuscript, a personal letter, or an original document, painting, or vintage photograph.

These are the crown jewels of any library. Bancroft’s include the only known lines from Sophocles’s Inachos, in a papyrus fragment dated to the second century B.C.; medieval manuscripts of the entire cycle of the great Arthurian prose romances in Old French; the Codex Fernández Leal, one of the key sixteenth-century pictographic manuscripts recording Mexico’s pre-Columbian history; all four seventeenth-century folio editions of Shakespeare; Joseph Breen’s diary of the experiences of the Donner Party, marooned in the Sierra Nevada during the winter of 1846-1847; Carleton Watkins’s nineteenth-century mammoth-plate photographs of Yosemite and California’s Central Valley; the love letters between Mark Twain and his wife Olivia; the archive of cartoonist Rube Goldberg; the manuscripts of Frank, Charles, and Kathleen Norris, Richard Brautigan, Joan Didion, and Maxine Hong Kingston; and the records of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s San Francisco City Lights bookstore. The more than 2,000 oral history interviews include those of photographer Dorothea Lange; Nobel Prize-winner Charles Townes, inventor of the laser; and Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court. And these treasures are the veriest tip of the iceberg.

The Bancroft Library of the Twenty-first Century: Continuity and Change

If the preceding historical précis has done anything, it has demonstrated that Bancroft has changed dramatically over the past one hundred years. The pace of change will only accelerate as we strive to keep up with the advent of new technologies, on the one hand, and, on the other, the economic, social, cultural, and political realities of a California that is larger and more diverse than all but a handful of countries.

What will not change, however, are the underlying principles that have guided Bancroft’s growth for more than 140 years. We shall continue to document the development of California and the American West, but we shall not neglect our more recent interest, the history of Western civilization from Antiquity onward; we shall use state-of-the-art technology to provide access to our collections; and we shall open these resources not only to research scholars but also to students and the general public.

Building the Collections

One classic principle guides Bancroft’s collection policy: Build on strength. Because in a very real sense Bancroft is the institution of record for the history of California from the earliest period, we shall continue to collect Californiana comprehensively, adding retrospective items as they become available through gift or purchase as well as keeping up to date with contemporary materials. It is much cheaper to acquire today’s materials today rather than through the book trade even ten years from now.

Just as H. H. Bancroft documented the California of his day with the reminiscences of figures like General Vallejo, so too will Bancroft’s curators document contemporary California with the archives of organizations like the Sierra Club or political figures like Governor Pat Brown, and the oral histories of winemen and women, educators, and mining engineers. And just as Bancroft collected the ephemera of his age, the sorts of things that were so common that everyone discarded them, so too will The Bancroft Library continue to collect the ephemera of our age—the advertising supplements, the tourist leaflets, the political protest flyers that add color and context to more substantive texts and images.

Bancroft will also continue to document California’s economic development, its agriculture, mining, logging, building, and labor interests, high-tech and biotech, and even tourism; the history of environmentalism; the state’s physical infrastructure—the great water projects and the building of highways, bridges, and prisons; its political history and the lives of its politicians and political activists; its literature, art, architecture, and performing arts; its ethnic diversity—new generations of immigrants from south and southeast Asia as well as the continuing influx from China and Latin America; the growth of the University of California itself, with its expansion from one campus to ten and its manifold contributions to the development of the state and the world.

Many of Bancroft’s most significant acquisitions are built on the fact that there are two sides to every story—at least—and with a fine impartiality, befitting H. H. Bancroft himself, we attempt to collect the appropriate primary sources so that posterity, with a longer perspective, can be the judge. The opposing views of the timber and mining industries and the environmental movement, for example, liberal and conservative activism for and against affirmative action, the debate about gay and lesbian rights, and the arguments about building highways or mass transit systems—all are areas where conflict stimulates and demands a comprehensive range of materials. Indeed, just as during H. H. Bancroft’s day, the state of California has remained at the creative cutting edge and turbulent center of globally significant political, economic, academic, and cultural conflicts and transformations.

Both collection policy and a deep knowledge of the collections sharpen the focus of the search and allow the curators to evaluate the materials that come into their ken, but book collecting is not a dispassionate science. There is the thrill of the chase. Indeed, the search has much in common with big game hunting; expert knowledge of the habitats and lairs of the prey is key: rare book catalogues, ongoing relationships with dealers and personal collectors, attendance at antiquarian book fairs and auctions, word of mouth about private collections and archives, and just plain serendipity—the items that come in “over the transom,” as it were.

There is also more purposeful collecting when we set out to build or deepen a collection for a particular scholarly purpose. Thus, in order to support the research agenda of students of early modern Germany in the Departments of History and German, Bancroft has been systematically acquiring sixteenth-century historical texts, in both Latin and German.

Material culture—the built environment—is of as much interest as intellectual history. Bancroft contains extensive documentation of the physical development of the San Francisco Bay Area; for example, vast collections document the construction of the Golden Gate and Oakland-San Francisco Bay bridges. Occasionally the library initiates the documentation of significant projects or events. Bancroft commissioned photographer and former boilermaker Joe Blum to document the building of the new Carquinez Bridge, completed in 2003. Currently Blum is photographing the construction of the new east span of the Bay Bridge.

And always, the fundamental questions the curators ask themselves in the continual balancing act between the desire for comprehensive documentation and the realities of limited space, staff, and budget are the following: Will these materials prove of lasting historical value? What will scholars a hundred, or five hundred, years from now want to know about the reality of life in California in the twenty-first century? Who are the epoch-making authors, artists, scientists, political figures? Who are mere footnotes?

If bringing in trophy collections is the glamorous part of Bancroft, the back room staff of Bancroft Technical Services have the decidedly unglamorous but absolutely essential task of scholarly taxidermy, reducing to order the newly acquired collections of archival materials, the printed books, the ephemera, the photographs, restoring them to their pristine state, and putting them on display for the scholarly world to see, admire, and use. At the end of this process, the recent acquisitions will join the serried rows of Bancroft’s other treasures on the more than 100,000 linear feet of shelving on and off campus. For further details, see “Behind the Scenes” (pp. 178-188).

Technology and Access

Bancroft will also continue to use the best available technology to provide access to its collections, just as H. H. Bancroft did. In his case it was the steam-powered printing press combined with impressive Yankee entrepreneurship that scattered thousands of copies of what is in essence the catalogue raisonée of his library the length and breadth of California and the West in the form of Bancroft’s Works. In The Bancroft Library of the twenty-first century, we shall continue to take advantage of the latest advances in information technology to make our and his collections better known and accessible from any point on the globe at any time of day or night. Already students and scholars enjoy Bancroft’s online collections (Honeyman Collection of Western Art, Japanese-American Relocation Archive, Chinese in California, 1850-1925, 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire) and exhibitions (Bear in Mind: The California Grizzly at The Bancroft Library; Images of Native Americans; Looking Backward, Looking Forward: Visions of the Golden State). Such digital resources will multiply exponentially in the future.

Bancroft’s Readers

In all of these efforts of collecting and disseminating, we continue to carry out the work that H. H. Bancroft started, giving back to the general public, as well as to professional scholars, the wealth of information originally gathered from that public and interpreted by those scholars. We also continue to serve, fundamentally, the students of the Berkeley campus. Indeed this was one of Henry Morse Stephens’s primary justifications for the purchase of the library:

A good collection of secondary books can always be purchased; but all the money in the world cannot get together in a moment a collection of books and manuscripts and newspapers that shall afford to the student examples of every type of historical source-material. All teachers of history away from the great centres of historical collections realize the impossibility of adequately training their students. They can give them books to read; they can even give them source books; they can occasionally show them some original documents; but they can practically never give them the use of such an amount of diversified material as shall illustrate the various sorts of historical material which the student of history should be able to understand.

Today, year in and year out, almost half of Bancroft’s users are Cal students. Just as in Stephens’s day, one of Bancroft’s major functions is to teach the privilege, promises, and pitfalls of working with primary sources. The digitization and on-line sharing of Bancroft’s holdings, valuable though they are, cannot substitute for the hands-on research that takes place in the Reading Room. The curators, in informal one-on-one sessions or in individual and even semester-long classes held in Bancroft, show student (and faculty) researchers how to use the collections to answer different kinds of questions.

These relationships are fostered especially by Bancroft’s three research programs. Undergraduate research apprentices receive academic credit for their work in the Regional Oral History Office, the Mark Twain Papers and Project, and the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri—interviewing participants to study the racial integration of the Oakland Fire Department, deciphering Greek texts on ancient papyri, or transcribing Mark Twain’s letters. At a more advanced level, Bancroft fellows work on their dissertations, studies like David Igler’s “Industrial Cowboys: Nature, Private Property, and Region in the Far West, 1850-1920” (1996) or Isabel Breskin’s “Visualizing the Nineteenth-century American City: Lithographic Views of San Francisco, 1849-1905” (2002).

Research opportunities for studies like these often arise from the synergistic relationships among the various archives and diverse formats. Documents in the Henry J. Kaiser Papers on the 1930s history and designs for Hoover Dam, for example, are greatly enhanced by construction photographs in Pictorial Collections. The oral histories of participants in the 1964 Free Speech Movement can be juxtaposed with University Archives’ records of Academic Senate meetings during the same period. Critical analyses of historical events no longer need to be limited to the written document. Visual images and oral histories may contradict—or confirm—the written record.

The Paradox of Success

In addition to basic principles, other similarities exist between The Bancroft Library of the early twentieth century and of today, sometimes painful realities that are, in fact, symptoms of success. In 1906 the Regents of the University of California were willing to fund only 10 percent of Bancroft’s $11,000 budget, placing the bulk of the financial burden into the hands of private supporters. The Regents’ share of Bancroft’s budget, now more than $8 million annually, is larger today, just over 32 percent, but Bancroft still depends on private giving for almost half of its budget, with the rest coming from grants. In 1906 the original two staff members and three students could only begin to make Bancroft’s riches available; today, even with sixty career and temporary staff and eighty student employees, Bancroft cannot keep up with the large and ever-growing backlog—more than 21,000 linear feet—of unarranged manuscript and archival collections. In 1906 the attic of California Hall was less than ideal storage space, and too small to boot, and the first-floor Doe Library quarters in 1911 were not much better. Almost from the beginning off-site storage was needed, initially under the bleachers at the Edwards Field track stadium on campus, later in the old Ford assembly plant in Richmond, and, since 1982, in the Northern Regional Library Facility in the same city.

Renewal: The Bancroft Centennial Campaign

In 2001 the Berkeley campus scheduled Bancroft’s fifty-year-old home, the Doe Library Annex, for seismic renewal. From the beginning it was clear that this was a not-to-be-missed opportunity to renovate and reconfigure the building, originally designed as generic library space, in order to serve Bancroft’s programs and patrons more effectively. The problem was that the state would pay only for the seismic work, at a cost of some $32 million. A state-of-the-art renovation would cost at least as much more, but that funding would have to come from private sources.

In 2008 Bancroft will move back into a newly renovated, reconfigured, fully modernized—and safe—building, the beneficiary of a capital campaign that has raised over $32 million in little more than three years. Instead of occupying just two-thirds of the Doe Annex, Bancroft will have more than 90 percent of the building, thanks to the transfer of the library’s periodical, newspaper, and microfilm collections to the Doe Library. Bancroft collections will be stored on compact shelving under complete temperature and humidity control, allowing for approximately twenty years of collection growth. The entrance floor will have an expanded exhibition gallery and space for the Regional Oral History Office, as well as direct access to the Doe Library. In order to provide for better collections security, the Edward Hellman Heller Reading Room, the four seminar rooms (one more than previously), an expanded press room, a new reference center, the curatorial offices, and the public service offices will move up one floor. The seminar rooms will have state-of-the-art multimedia equipment, while the reading room and reference center will provide both wired and wireless internet access. The fourth floor will house administrative offices, some of the technical services operations, the Mark Twain Papers and Project, and the Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, each of the latter with its own storage vault. The rest of technical services will occupy a new fifth floor in what had been uninhabitable attic space.

For the first time since Hubert Howe Bancroft constructed a building for his library at Valencia and Mission streets in 1881, Bancroft will have a home designed specifically for its needs, both immediate and long-term, an appropriate setting for this crown jewel of California culture.

In Conclusion

Bancroft’s mission is to gather and host the material record of our cultures’ diverse histories, to make that record accessible, and to preserve it for generations yet unborn. But time does not stop. History is in constant flux, and Bancroft’s collections are ever expanding or being rediscovered. Even those of us who work in Bancroft on a daily basis find it impossible to understand or even fully to comprehend the complexity of its collections and programs and the uncountable ways in which they find their use in scholarly, educational, and public realms. Ultimately we know the quality of our service by the scholarly work and public discourse that it informs; the content of public projects such as film documentaries; and, especially, the excitement on the faces of students as they triumphantly locate just the right document that provides the missing piece to a historical jigsaw puzzle.

Mexican Inquisition Documents: Conservation Challenges

The history of the Inquisition remains a central element to understanding the relation of Christian culture to other cultures of both the Old and New worlds.The Inquisition traces its origin to thirteenth-century France, where it was established to protect religious orthodoxy. Introduced into Castile in the late fifteenth century, it was especially aimed at “New Christians,” or converses, primarily Jews converted to Christianity. In theAmericas the Inquisition was established principally to protect against the Protestant menace. Although it periodically focused on the secret practice of Jewish observance, crypto-Judaism, the Inquisitors focused more on other breaches of orthodoxy and sexual misconduct, especially among the clergy: the solicitation of sex in the confessional, moral turpitude, bigamy, blasphemy, superstition, and witchcraft.

The richness of these handwritten paper documents can only be suggested. Most of them are procesos or trials that typically include the indictment supported by genealogical lists, records of property, and the most minute details of evidence. Because these documents span the years 1593-1817, they lend themselves not only to research by scholars for the information that they have written in them but for the research opportunity they offer on the physical materials themselves—the handwriting, the inks, and the paper with its watermarks. A research paper titled “Identification of Granular Materials Found in the Mexican Inquisition Documents” by Alison Murray and Michele Philips analyzes the ink debris brushed from each document and sent to the Art Conservation Program at Queen’s University in Canada. The authors confirmed that it was probably sand that had been used to blot the ink—which supports the practices gathered from literature, documented, for example, in Samuel Pepys’s diary. The paper has a series of watermarks that richly deserve further study but indicate that most of the paper was supplied by Italian papermakers.

Trial cord of Blas de Magallares, accused of not believing in the Holy Virgin, and the cord with which he hanged himself while in prison, 1597.Although scholars had known about their existence, these documents had remained in private hands since the nineteenth century.They had been stored in a relatively sound environment; all but one were in very good condition.This one document was badly mold-damaged and needed comprehensive conservation treatment. Some of the documents had iron ink that had deteriorated the paper substrate in places, forming a lacy pattern. The papers were in great demand from the moment they were acquired, so conservation took several years. It was interrupted by various exhibits, demands by visiting scholars, and the need for them to be treated together as a collection rather than as single items. One of the conservation challenges of these materials was to preserve intact the information that future scholars would find useful but also to preserve and protect the artifacts themselves from use and wear over time. Consequently, several of the documents were digitized.

This collection is unique as, unlike other collections, it contains two of the original

covers made of limp leather, which were left intact. Two other covers were wrapped around cases but not attached. The evidence is uncertain that these two covers do indeed belong to these cases but they were left where found, so that future scholars can decide on their authenticity. On looking at their physical condition, it became evident that the “unevenness” of the edges or “waviness” of the pages was due not to dampness but to previous folding by the scribes to create the margin for their notes and late organization. This folding was standard practice and is being echoed in the twenty-first century by regular comp books for lawyers where the pages are divided into three columns, with a wide margin on the left of the page to facilitate taking notes during the modern trial process.

These documents were sent for treatment to the Library Preservation Department, Conservation Treatment Division. Most of thee documents needed only protection from future handling. The majority of the procesos posed little conservation challenge and were conserved by mending the iron gall ink damage, sewing them into individual protective archival folders, and boxing them in groups. Three of the trial records with evidence attached needed more extensive treatment. The challenge was to document this evidence, such as a package containing powder or a small leather pouch that contained a bone. There was some uncertainty as to whether this was a finger bone or a bone from a small animal skeleton. There was also a need to restrict access to these packages to prevent repeated handling, as the evidence would be lost or damaged. The Library Photographic Service Laboratory took accurate photo documentation of the contents and the conservator encased the items in a sealed container, within the box, with their relevant documents. The black and white prints provided a visual image of the contents and until a legitimate scholar arrives to do the research, these items are restricted.

Another document with the evidence attached had sewn into its middle a rope that the accused had used to hang himself. This rope was acidic and had burned its image into the adjacent paper. To keep this artifact as it was assembled, the conservation approach was to sew an insert Mylar folio between the adjacent pages and the rope itself. The insert protects the document from handling by acting as a barrier sheet. When the Mylar pages are turned, the rope is no longer touched by the user.

The conservation of these Mexican Inquisition documents is all the more vital as the history of wars of religion is for obvious reasons attracting the attention not only of scholars but of the general public.

Gillain Boal, the Hans Rausing Conservator,
Preservation Department.