Monday, April 10, 2017

Celebrating National Library Week

In honor of National Library Week, California Historical Society (CHS) staff and researchers will contribute one blog post a day celebrating some of the Society's most beloved, inspiring, and unforgettable collections. The CHS Collection is vast, idiosyncratic, and wonderful, so full of treasures and delights that it's hard to pick favorites. For this inaugural post, I let my mind wander until the three items below emerged as especially precious.

Rosalía Vallejo de Leese, after 1847, Dag8H, California Historical Society   

I first discovered this daguerreotype of Rosalía Vallejo de Leese while conducting research for the exhibition Juana Briones y su California: Pionera, Fundadora, Curandera. The sister of Mariano Guadalupe Vallejo, Rosalía married early San Francisco trader Jacob Leese in 1837, making her one of Yerba Buena's earliest non-Native residents. I find Rosalía's youthful gravity extremely moving. According to photography historical Peter Palmquist, Rosalía's niece Epfiania "Fannie" de Guadalupe Vallejo may have been California's first photographer, acquiring a daguerreotype camera around 1847.


Representación del Colegio [Apostólico de Propaganda Fide de San Fernando] al Virrey, MS Vault 151, California Historical Society
I encountered this manuscript, a letter written to Viceroy Marquis de Croix from the Franciscan college in Mexico City, as I was working on a project to catalog CHS’s neglected Spanish-language manuscripts. The letter was penned around 1767, the year King Charles III expelled the Jesuits from Spain and Spanish America, radically changing the course of religious history in the New World. In the letter, the Franciscans thank the Viceroy for entrusting them with the missionization of California, but also emphasize the urgent need for more priests and warn that a single missionary living alone among the neophytes is an exceedingly dangerous thing (“una cosa sumamente peligrosa”). Manuscripts like these are powerful because they particularize, humanize, and bring into focus almost inconceivably momentous historical events and upheavals.
 


Kino, Eusebio, Exposicion astronomica de el cometa, que el año de 1680 : por los meses de noviembre, y diziembre, y este año de 1681, por los meses de enero y febrero, se ha visto en todo el mundo, y le ha observado en la ciudad de Cadiz, California Historical Society, Vault 523.6 K624e


Finally, one of my favorite books in the CHS Collection is the Jesuit missionary Eusebio Kino’s astronomical treatise of 1681, Exposicion astronomica de el cometa, que el año de 1680…. Published in Mexico City in 1681, this work records Kino’s observations of the Great Comet of 1680, which he made in Cádiz as he was waiting to depart for the Americas. Kino’s work inspired praise and opprobrium—a sonnet by the great Mexican poet Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz and a fierce refutation by the scientist Carlos Sigüenza y Góngora—revealing a flowering intellectual culture in seventeenth-century Mexico. The Exposicion astronomica includes a beautiful celestial map charting the course of the comet. Kino’s impact on cartography was also significant; he was the first European to prove that California is a peninsula, not an island.


Marie Silva, Archivist & Manuscripts Librarian

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