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A Unique Book Collection

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<<NO SOURCE>>, Jun. 1, 1885. William H. Dorsey Scrapbook Collection, 250.39A Unique Book CollectionMr. Adolph Sutro’s books, which will probably be made a free public library.The San Francisco Alta says:—For several years past Adolph Sutro has been quietly buying up rare books and manuscripts at public and private sales through his agents and personally. The purchases of course, are made in Europe. Mr. Sutro’s intention is to at some future time erect a suitable building and place the valuable library at the disposal of the public, for the students of scholarly research. The intention on the part of Mr. Sutro would not have beenmade public for some time had not the first contingent of books been damaged while in transit to this country. It will be remembered that the books were packed in boxes and shipped aboard the steamer Bordeaux for transportation to San Francisco. When they arrived several cases were found to be wet with saltwater and many of the rare old books destroyed or badly damaged. The collection has, however been partially arranged for cataloguing, and yesterday the representatives of the press were invited to inspect the temporary quarters, No. 107 Battery street.That the library will be a most valuable addition, not only to the city, but to the whole nation, needs but a single glance at its many treasures to be evident to the least skilled antiquarian. There are now on the shelves about 65,000 volumes, which is only the beginning of a proposed library of many hundreds of thousands of volumes. The briefinspection allowed yesterday was scarcely more than sufficient to make manifest a few ofthe bibliographic treasures. There are hundreds of volumes known as incunabula—that is,works printed previous to the year 1500, when the art of printing was in its infancy—Bibles that date back to 1483, whit their elaborate illuminated initials. There is also the whole Talmud complete in twelve volumes.There is in the collection a photograph of the first letter written from California. The letter is dated at Monterey, December 28, 1602, and was sent to Spain by Sebastian Vescanio. Mr. Sutro secured this photograph at Seville by special permission of the King of Spain. The works cover the range of all the arts and sciences. The library will be particularly rich in botanical works, many of which date back into the fifteenth century. Atlases, histories, travels, and dictionaries are in great number. The antique illustrated works on medicine and surgery will be of great interest to physicians and medical students. There is also a very fine edition of the complete works of William Hogarth. Onelittle volume exhibited yesterday is a presentation copy of a work on English military discipline, presented by Charles II to Lord Cornwallis in 1682. There are in the collectionover 10,000 tracts and pamphlets of the time of Charles I. There is a very large collection of Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts, which have not as yet been thoroughly examined. Mr.Sutro says that the British Museum Directors will send out men to overhaul these manuscripts and definitely ascertain their character and value. A curious exhibit is a copy of the famous Vinegar Bible published in England in 1717. The edition is so named because of a typographical error that occurs in the 20th chapter of St. Luke, where the word vinegar is substituted for vineyard. Many of the works are illustrated with elegant and costly plates, notably illustrations of statuary, of national costumes, and of the Ogle collection of gems. A large number of files of the London Morning Chronicle, dating back to 1760, are among the large collection of newspapers and periodicals. There is a two volume work on California, originally written in 1758 by a Jesuit named MiguelVenegas. An interesting exhibit is a letter written by Martha Washington to Mrs. Lord Fairfax and dated May 17, 1708.Mr. Sutro has a large scrapbook containing autographs of Lafayette, Napoleon, Wellington, Nelson, St. Vincent, the Hon. Mrs. Norton, Dickens, Tom Taylor, Buckstone, Charles Mathews, and many other celebrities. A prayer book and psaltery once the property of Charles I is in Mr. Sutro’s collection. Among the Egyptian curios are several mummies, one of a lady who died 3,800 years ago. There is one mummy head that is in so perfect condition that the little ringlets of hair are plainly visible on the skull. There areseveral perfect hands and feet. One hand still retains the long, well shaped nails and on the wrist a beaded bracelet. A miniature Egyptian canoe with human figures attracts one’sattention, as it was taken from a grave and is claimed to be 4,000 years old, dating back to the time of Abraham, about 1993 B.C. There is also a small collection of insects found in the Soudan. To adequately describe Mr. Sutor’s collection would take at least a week of careful examination and critical study. If Mr. Sutro lives to carry out his ideas he will establish such a library as will earn for himself the sincere thanks of antiquarians and students engaged in special historical research. As yet he hardly knows just what treasures he has in his collection. The classification and cataloguing and subdividing of the works will be a task of long duration, and one calling for special and accurate


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