Monday, July 29, 2013

The Manuscript Society

The Manuscript Society continues its interesting schedule of activities and publications. The Spring issue of our quarterly journal Manuscripts featured an article by the editors of the Documentary History of the First Federal Congress, 1789-1791. Bickford et al. outlined the contents of the 20 volumes already published and for the final two volumes planned for the next few years. The remarkable project gathering and publishing all surviving manuscripts of the FFC’s original legislation as well as written records of the Congressional proceedings, personal correspondence and diaries of the legislators, and news reports about the FFC is being published by the Johns Hopkins U. Press. The FFC article is typical of the unique content of our journal which has been under the astute hand of Editor David Chesnutt for over 30 years. Samples of  past issues of the journal are available (click on “Publications”). Besides original articles Manuscripts features book reviews and auction results.

 MS members also receive the quarterly News, either hard copy or electronically, filled with current news not only of the Society, but of reports of personalities and events in the world of manuscripts and books. The News Editor Patricia K. Vaccaro, also edits an e-digest of events, book publications, current archival exhibits, etc. The monthly e-digest is available without charge to those interested, by sending an e mail to with the subject line, “sign me up for the Digest”.

Activities are planned across the country for the coming months. In Philadelphia, a summer meeting held at Restaurant Estia featured members presenting treasures from their collections as well as anecdotes about collecting and current archival shows of interest.  A similar gathering is planned for Saturday December 7 in Philadelphia’s Chinatown. For the greater New York City area a meeting is in the planning stages for late September/ early October. Anyone in either city interested should contact Past President Barton Smith at

On Saturday, July 20, members of the Los Angeles chapter of the Manuscript Society visited the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California, to view the exhibition "The Life and Times of Abraham Lincoln." Twenty-five renowned Lincoln collectors and DreamWorks Studios contributed 250 objects, including President Lincoln’s famous stovepipe hat, a bloodied pillow from the night he died, a Lincoln-signed Emancipation Proclamation and 13th Amendment, and sets from DreamWorks’ “Lincoln” Movie.  Louise Taper, one of the contributors, served as docent for the group.

At the Fall meeting of the MS Board of Trustees to be held in Los Angeles, a symposium open to the public will be offered on Sunday November 17. There will be several speakers discussing the basics of manuscript collecting including care of the collection, and its eventual disposal, among other topics. Details will appear soon on the MS web site. The LA contact is MS President Beverly Hill,  

The MS Annual meeting was in May in Santa Fe NM. The arrangements committee, Steve Barnett, Gary Hendershott, Alfred Lemmon, Brian Murphy and Barton Smith set up the ambitious schedule. The result was 4 days of thrilling lectures, rare archives and art, fine food, and gorgeous weather, The number of memorable speakers was noteworthy. At the Palace of the Governors/New Mexico History Museum we toured the collection of Santos, religious folk art, in a setting some might call a New World Sistine Chapel, guided by Dr. Ross Frank whose father amassed much of the collection before selling it to the museum. Later Dr Frank presented an illustrated lecture on his current interest, Plains Indian Ledger Art. There were also lectures by Alfred Lemmon on the “…Daily Life of a Spanish Colonial Document” and Dr. Dennis Reinhartz on “17th and 18th Century Maps of the Greater Southwest”. In the Museum’s Library, Archivist Tomas Jaehn presented a letter of William Bonney (“Billy the Kid”) to General Lew Wallace, then Governor of New Mexico, and autograph field notes of anthropologist Adolph Bandelier’s research on the Aztec culture. In the print shop, master printer Tom Leech gave a lecture/ demonstration of the history of The Palace Press (established in 1834).

The Museum Hill collections gave an introduction to Native American culture and arts, which made the next day’s visit to the San Idefonso Pueblo particularly meaningful. There, Barbara Gonzales, great grand daughter of the legendary potter Maria Martinez, proved that the family, specifically Barbara and her son Cavan, uphold the family tradition of world class art. Finally mention must be made of historian Alan Carr who gave a spell binding talk at the Los Alamos National Laboratory’s Bradbury Museum, and to  Nancy Bartlitt, author (with Everett Rogers) of Silent Voices of World War II...” who spoke at our closing dinner. Next year will find us in Pittsburgh May 21-25 following the trail of Lewis and Clark and Frick and Carnegie.

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