Reading: Exploring the Bancroft

February 19, 2013 § 14 Comments

Next week we’ll be making our first forays into the Bancroft Library, one of the great (but somewhat hidden) treasures here at Cal.  The Bancroft is especially notable for how accessible its collections are to undergraduates and the general public, so be sure to take advantage of it during your time at Berkeley.


We’ll be visiting the Bancroft in this week’s sections, but we thought it would be good to give you guys a head start.  Exploring the Bancroft is a wonderful book produced in celebration of the Bancroft Library’s centennial, highlighting the variety of books, papers, manuscripts, photographs, and other materials housed at the Bancroft.  While the excerpts we included cover  a pretty wide swath of the Bancroft’s collections (Western Americana, Latin Americana, the Pictorial Collection, Rare Books and Literary Manscripts, History of Science and Technology, University Archives, Center for the Tebtunis Papyri, the Mark Twain Papers, and the Regional Oral History Office), it’s important to know that these are only highlights and the list is not exhaustive.

To get more ideas of what’s available, you can browse the Bancroft’s website to find more collections, both physical and digital.  You can also do keyword searches at the Online Archive of California’s Bancroft page to try and find specific collection items related to your topic.

What items are you interested in at the Bancroft?


If you’re interested in perusing this book and its wonderful photographs, you can find copies of it at Main Stacks, Doe’s Reference section,  and at the Bancroft itself.

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§ 14 Responses to Reading: Exploring the Bancroft

  • This was a very interesting read. I’m not very familiar with the Bancroft Library and now I know about several different collections I would like to peruse. I’m particularly interested in the oral histories of the law clerks of Supreme Court Justice Earl Warren, the documents relating to The Skull and Keys Society, and the Joan Didion papers. This may be how I decide to spend my winter break…

    So, is anyone else curious about The Hill-Shumate Undergraduate Book Collecting Prize? How do we enter? I definitely have some interesting old books, I’d love to see how I stack up against other young collectors.

  • Christina James says:

    I was so impressed by all of the collections in the Bancroft Library! I’ve used some of the online collections, and I got a chance to see the Tebtunis papyri with a seminar I took last year, but otherwise I knew very little about the Bancroft. I’m excited to look into those that relate to my research interests, such as the collections dealing with the West, migration, California, etc. This reading was a great introduction to the Bancroft.

  • ykki says:

    I did not much about the Bancroft. But, reading the article, now I could get more information about their collections. I have been there before to look at the microfilm of a Jamaican news paper for my research on a Chinese American writer. I really enjoyed skimming over the microfilm whole day. I wish I could spend more time at the Bancroft Library while I am here.

  • lexier says:

    I can’t believe I’ve never used the Bancroft library before, especially as a history major. The scope of the collection is truly stunning. Unfortunately, nothing seems to fit with my research focus (Olympic games during the Cold War) but I am still very curious about the collection. I do wonder how Bancroft managed to attain such a widespread, interesting collection – did it ask for these materials, were they gifts, etc.

  • chrisbazil says:

    Wow, I had no idea that the Bancroft Library contains such amazing resources. This weeks reading gives us a good chance to review the different subject areas within the collection, and to possibly discover a unique topic for our 101. Two topics from two different collections piqued my interest, and I cannot wait to check them out when I get the chance.

    1. From the American Literature Collection: The Joan Didion Papers (if you never read any of her essays you need to do yourself a favor and pick up one of her books).

    2. From the University Archives Collection — Campus Planning and Architecture: John Galen Howard Papers, 1874-1954.

    John Galen Howard designed a large number of the classical buildings on campus. I can only imagine the greatness that is contained within these papers.

  • dlimandri says:

    Although it has already been expressed, I just wanted to relay my astonishment regarding the comprehensiveness of resources that the Bancroft library actually offers, and that we as students have at our disposal.

  • mimichellemedia says:

    Wow, I’m personally impressed that the Bancroft has the John Muir Papers in its conservationists collection and Hiram Johnson Papers, as well.

    The pages jump from 88 to 101.. I’m really curious to know what challenges that the Rare Book Policy committee had in 1948 and why Berkeley is one of the “last” to have a rare book collection.

    A question I have is .. what can researchers of literature do with first editions of books like Frankenstein (1818) in the Bancroft. Do they analyze for differences in the actual text in earlier editions, read prefaces/introductions or does it have more to do with the actual physical book over the literary content?


  • mimichellemedia says:

    Another question I have is how long after the events of the UC loyalty oath did the faculty records enter the University archives? (at what point is material ‘history’).

  • Shane Scott says:

    I’m really amazed at the resources available at the Bancroft, and that it’s so accessible is really fantastic. I knew nothing about the Bancroft before now, but I’ll certainly take the time to make the most of it in the future. Unfortunately I didn’t see anything that would be immediately useful for my project (American isolationism during the beginning of WW2), but there’s such an extensive collection that I’m sure I’ll be able to utilize it in the future.

  • I was always curious about going up the stair case that leads into the bancroft. Know I have made that journey and it was awesome I was able to look at the court cases land grant purchases of the Mont Diablo ranch. and Vallejo. The staff was very friendly and the library has a very friendly environment.
    Some of the questions I have inqusitions paperes and I would also like to ask them about the Wells Fargo Papers relating to Pancho Villa, 1Q09 ‘922

  • I have never been in the Bancroft Library before and I am excited to go there. I did not know much about the Bancroft Library but after reading the article I know some things now. There are so many collections in the library. I did not know that there were so many different resources available for us to use. I am excited to look through all kinds of things and look at different articles/books related to my topic and find something that may help narrow my topic down. This reading was helpful to get to know some things about the Bancroft Library.

  • maliamailes says:

    This was a really interesting read! I was not really aware of how vast the resources in the library are- it makes me excited to look through it! I would like to spend a lot of time going through the materials (even without an ultimate research goal!)

  • Cassandra Carrasco says:

    Oh no! I didn’t realize we were supposed to comment here this week. I am really excited to explore the Bancroft. I have not been inside either. Obviously I want to check out the Mark Twain collection–who doesn’t? I’m also really interested in a book called Micrographia, which is a several-hundred years old book of detailed illustrations done using microscopes– a new technology at the time. I understand that there are few copies in existence and the illustrations are extraordinary!

  • I too am a bit behind on comments. I found the reading interesting as a preview of things to come. It was a bit overwhelming though; so much cool stuff to check out and so little time. I was excited by the stereograms of the Colorado River taken on the Powell survey, because I remember recently reading about them, and seeing modern photos taken from the same vantage points. Also, Wells Fargo papers pertaining to Pancho Villa? Seriously? It’s a pretty broad and massive collection. I suspect I could spend years hanging out in the reading room. It’s particularly interesting to me how the Bancroft has such an emphasis on the American West, and it seems somehow appropriate for an American public university to have just such a collection. I remember once seeing a large collection of Grandma Moses paintings hung in a gallery high atop a Tokyo skyscraper that was otherwise filled with very edgy modern art. It was so far out of context that it just felt completely robbed of meaning. I love that the Bancroft has a Food, Wine and Agriculture collection and the Mark Twain papers all perched on the edge of the Pacific, a few dozen miles from Napa and Calaveras counties. Also, the strong sense of place in the collection should really help with my paper on local landscapes.


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