These boots are made for….books!

The 1965 song, “These boots are made for walking,” was full of female swagger. The recorded footage of Nancy Sinatra singing the song shows her and her backup dancers sporting some sleek, black go-go boots, very popular at the time.

boots.JPGNancy Sinatra and her backup dancers’ boots

When it comes to boots for books, however, we want our swagger to be less bewitching and a little more sturdy, reminiscent of a 1970s punk rock work boot perhaps.

Modern punkModern Punk Girl circa 2018, photo courtesy of Jaconon

Are boots for books a thing? They are at the Sutro Library!  In the “If the Shoe Fits…” blog post published on January 3rd, I detailed the new bespoke book shoes our limp vellum books were getting thanks to Alan Scardera, Allison Bermann, and Allie Marotta, our intrepid SF State student volunteers. Phase one of this project was to get all the limp vellum bound books into a book shoe—a kind of box that is made out of conservation grade cardboard that supplies support for the books. From October 2018 to April 2019, the student volunteers made 113 shoes in seven months.

Not all of our limp vellum books could get a shoe, however, due to fragility or decorations that would not allow the books to easily slip in and out of the shoe without causing further damage to the book’s bindings. We could only move forward on phase two of the project once a storage solution was found for the fragile and/or decorated books.

Ties on Vellum bookLimp vellum book with leather ties remaining

damaged vellum bookLimp vellum book with severely damaged cover and fraying headcap

damaged no boardsBook missing both covers with sewn spine visible

Allie Marotta, one of the SF State student volunteers, tackled the problem by developing a new structure we are calling the book boot.

IMG_7570.JPGAn empty book boot created by Allie Marotta

The book boot looks a lot like the book shoe but with some critical differences. First, the boot has protective blue board covering the top part, or head edge as it is called, of the book.books.jpgShelved vellum books in shoes and boots

Second, the boot opens up like a clam. This allows the user to place the book inside the boot and then close the lid safely before tying up the ties, thereby making a complete and tight structure for the book:


The clam part of the structure is key as it will not cause rubbing or undue stress to the book as it is being removed and replaced from the structure.

Once phase two of this project is complete, we will move on to the final stage which will be to create shoes or boots for the limp vellum bound folio and tiny-sized books. While the project will pause over summer break, the students have already made 26 boots, and we look forward to fall semester when they return and take up the project again–just in time for darker days, colder nights, and boot season!


This post and all but one of the images are by Mattie Taormina, Director, Sutro Library.


Images of the Industrial Revolution – New Exhibit at Sutro Library

steam roller

The Industrial Revolution got its start in England in the latter part of the eighteenth century. It was in a unique position, because although coal had been used as a fuel previously, it wasn’t until the steam engine was improved upon by Scottish born James Watt that its demand exploded. This innovation coupled with the abundance of coal in the British Isles helped Great Britain to lead the world in technological innovation and manufacturing.

mexico train 2

Our new exhibit takes a deep dive into Sutro Library’s extensive collection of books and artifacts from, and relating to, the Industrial Revolution. Sutro Library is rich in materials from the nineteenth century on scientific works, illustrated newspapers and magazines, engineering manuals, and ephemera. The images speak to not only the industry and creativity occurring, but also reflect the underlying turmoil being wrought throughout every corner of society. The nineteenth century was a time of change in every facet of life: culture, politics, and technology, and this exhibit explores both the micro and macro level in which the Victorians experienced it.

news boys 1871

One facet that becomes evident from the materials on display is that this period provided men and women in Britain access to a “dizzying range of material things.” This was as a direct result of the improvements in transportation and manufacturing technology. Furthermore, it was a heady time, and a feeling that humanity could solve any problem or ailment through the application of science and technology, filled the air.


ad asthma

With the intent on demonstrating England’s status as the world leader in technology, the decision was made to hold what was officially called The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations. The event was planned by Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert. It showcased products from Canada, America, France, Russia, and many other countries. On display were marvels of engineering such as steam engines, printing presses, and locomotives along with exotic goods and raw materials from across the British colonies, next to moving machinery and musical instruments.

great exhib

workers palace


The ‘Great Exhibition’ was held in a massive glass and steel greenhouse, of which pictures of the construction are on display in the current exhibit. The building itself was meant to illustrate Britain’s dominance in engineering. It also shed light on Britain’s success in arts, science and inventions, and included pottery, porcelain, ironwork, furniture, perfumes, pianos, firearms, fabrics, steam hammers, hydraulic presses and even several houses.

good view palace


Apart from images from the world fairs of the time, the exhibit includes cultural images, architectural drawings, illustrations, and photographs. It runs through the end of July 2019 and is located on the 5th floor of the Sutro Library –  J. Paul Leonard Library on the campus of San Francisco State University.

queen at opening palace



Winter is here…at Sutro Library!

Warning: If you aren’t caught up to season 7, this blog post may have a few spoilers!

Adolph Sutro all dressed up and ready for the pop-up!

In our excitement for the final season of Game of Thrones, Sutro Library teamed up with the J. Paul Leonard Library to host a pop-up exhibit where we shared historic resources related to the themes and imagery of George R.R. Martin’s epic fantasy novels, A Song of Ice and Fire (the source material for the show).  Even though the series is based on medieval English history (e.g. War of Roses), Sutro Library made connections to various titles found within our special collections from military maneuvers to historic figures that closely match the characters. The pop-up brought in more than 80 people—a mix of students, staff, faculty and the general public. All attendees seemed highly engaged in the materials on display. Rather than perusing, many stayed to look deeply at the books, asked us questions, and took pictures of the text plates with the bibliographic information. Some attendees even came back to view the exhibit a second time!

1) Sutro Librarian, Diana Kohnke; 2) Guests lining up to view exhibit; 3) SFSU Special Collections Librarian, Meredith Eliassen; 4) More pop-up materials!

Here are some of the materials we displayed during the pop-up as well as their connections to Game of Thrones: (Click on images to enlarge)

Der aller durchleuchtigisten und grossmächtigen kayser königen and erthzhertzogen… by Jacob Schrenk von Notzing (1603) is full of woodcuts illustrating armor of history’s important military leaders collected by Archduke Ferdinand of Tyrol. The collection itself is in the Museum of Art History in Vienna. For those who aren’t able to visit Vienna anytime soon, the amount of detail seen in each illustration will suffice. Some leaders found in this volume include Charles V and Cosimo de Medici. In GoT, each of the houses had signature armor often relating back to their sigil, for example House Tully had armor that looked like fish fins and the armor Jaime Lannister wears has a lion’s face on his shoulders. It would be interesting to see which armor in this volume looks the most like those worn by the various houses in GoT!

From the Tiny Town section (books under 13.99cm) of our Special Collections, we found Le Dragon de l’ile de Rhodes by Fredrich Schiller (1829), a book about a mythical dragon living on the island of Rhodes in 1340. Towards the end of the book, there are illustrations showing the knight, Dieudonné de Gozon slaying the dragon. After that he became known as Extinctor Draconis which is Latin for “dragon slayer.” In GoT, the Night King gains this title when he kills one of Daenerys’ dragons, Viserion. What will happen to the remaining two in the final season?

While there are several notable women in GoT skilled in leadership and fighting, Brienne of Tarth, a warrior currently loyal to Sansa Stark, has the most overt connection to Joan of Arc. In Jeanne d’Arc: Ed. illustrée d’après les monuments de l’art depuis le quinzième siècle jusqu’à nos jours by Henri Wallon (1876), there are various illustrations including a few gorgeous chromolithographs depicting this historic figure.

The next is probably one of our favorites (second to the book of armor): Natural Magick: in XX Bookes by John Baptista Porta (1658). A work of popular science first published in Naples in 1558. Not a book of magic spells as the name would suggest, but rather an anthology of natural wonders observed by the author and written in a time when science was still in its infancy. It provides a perspective based on the known world. Once you get over the “s” looking like an “f” in some of the words, it makes for a fascinating read! To assist with navigation through the text, pages were bookmarked with Game of Thrones references, from how to change your hair color like Sansa does from red to black to observations on Greek Fire. In the show, Greek Fire is known as Wild Fire, and it was used by Tyrion in the Battle of Blackwater Bay as well as by Cersei Lannister to destroy her enemies in the Sept of Baelor.

Lion crests in Royal Book of Crests…

Lastly, we had a couple of books from our family & local history collection. One was a book on heraldry, Royal book of crests of Great Britain & Ireland, Dominion of Canada, India & Australasia : derived from best authorities by James Fairbairn and Joseph MacLaren (1883). Various crests similar to the house sigils in GoT were bookmarked. One particular crest that drew everyone’s curiosity was the above image of a lion attacking a dragon. It left many of us wondering if this is foreshadowing what’s to come in this final season!

There you have it, a small sampling of what we displayed in our pop-up on Wednesday April 10th days before the final season premieres. It was so much fun, and we can’t wait for our next pop-up! If you have any suggestions, send them our way!

A huge thank you goes out to: our colleagues from J. Paul Leonard Library, the Sutro Library staff; all of our volunteers assistance; and our colleagues from Sacramento, Karina and Olena!

List of other materials shown in the pop-up:

  1. Carta de la Tierra Prometida [Map of the Promised Land] by Joseph Andrade (1752)
  2. The Dragon Empress: the life and times of Tzʻu-hsi, Empress Dowager of China, 1835-1908 by Marina Warner (1972)
  3. De Re Military by Flavius Vegetius Renatus (1532)
  4. The book of fate, formerly in the possession of Napoleon … now first rendered into English from a German translation of an ancient Egyption manuscript, found in the year 1801 by H. Kirchenhoffer (1828)
  5. Memoir on swords by Colonel Marey translated by Lieut.-Col. Henry Hamilton Maxwell (1860)
  6. C. Julij des ersten Rö. Keysers/ warhafftige beschreibunge aller namhafften fürtrefflichen kriege/ by Julius Cesar (1565)
  7. William the Conqueror coat of arms
  8. Braid of hair belonging to Charlotte Ferretti (circa 1938)
  9. Breviarium romanum ex decreto sacrosancti Concilii Tridentini restitutum… Pars autumnalis by the Catholic Church (1774)
  10. A display of heraldrie: manifesting a more easie access to the knowledge therof then hath hitherto been published by any, through the benefit of method by John Guillim (1660)

If you’d like to view any of the materials, please email us at and give us at least 2 business days advance notice of your visit. 

This post was written by Sutro Library’s Genealogy Librarian, Dvorah Lewis.

The Sutro Script Mystery: From Hand Calligraphy to Digital Fonts

A mystery begins with a brief, intriguing paragraph preserved in the Sutro Library scrapbooks. On February 15, 1963, Sutro Library’s legendary Librarian Richard H. Dillon, was quoted in the California State Library’s newsletter The Friday Intercom:

“Mr. Dorsey Alexander, a young calligrapher from Berkeley, has created a new ‘hand’ or alphabet script, which he hopes to use in advertising layouts. The script is based on some of the manuscript hands in volumes in the Sutro Library Renaissance Room collection, and out of gratitude, Mr. Alexander has called the new hand ‘Sutro Script.’ Mr. Alexander wrote Richard Dillon: ‘I am enclosing an alphabet modernized but inspired by the manuscripts you kindly allowed us to study. This note, of course, is written in the same hand. I am calling it Sutro Script because that seems appropriate.’”

What manuscripts could have inspired Mr. Alexander, and perhaps his friends—for he does say “…you kindly allowed us to study”? When they visited the Sutro Library Collection in 1963, was their focus the rare Yemenite Hebrew manuscripts from the 13th and 14th centuries, or the brilliantly colored, illuminated manuscripts from the European monasteries of the Middle Ages? Perhaps it was the hand-written Italian documents from Venetian families of the 15th to 17th centuries, or the incunabula collection of early printings from the 1460’s onward that sparked inspiration. Maybe it was the striking Japanese ukiyo-e woodblock prints, or the Chinese trade painting books and scrolls from the mid-19th century they viewed. Could it have been one of the codices of Techialoyan manuscripts, an item in the Mexican Collection, or the broadside advertising posters from the Sutro Baths collection?   

The Sutro Library Collection holds them all. It could have been any one, or several, of them!

At this time, the location of that 1963 letter from Mr. Alexander to Mr. Dillon illustrating the new “Sutro Script” hand is unknown. That note to Librarian Richard H. Dillon is the only reference to a script named in honor of the Sutro Collection we have found to date. Until the letter is discovered, the exact appearance of the script may remain a mystery. Was Mr. Dorsey Alexander’s “Sutro Script” employed by other calligraphers after 1963, and might it live on in advertising layouts past and present?

Starting with the man himself, an Internet search of the name “Mr. Dorsey Alexander” offers some promising items. WorldCat lists a book titled Spring, “Hand lettered and designed by Dorsey P. Alexander” 16 unnumbered pages, published in Berkeley, CA (1963) by Cody’s Books.

The Turtle’s Quill Scriptorium (originally located at 1290 Queens Rd., Berkeley, CA) is identified as the publisher of several charmingly titled books including Zooabet in 1967, Birds in 1968 by Joyce and Dorsey Alexander, and The Sea: Excerpts from Herman Melville published Christmas 1969, limited edition of 300, woodcuts by Joyce Alexander, text lettered by Dorsey Alexander.

By 1978 the Turtle’s Quill Scriptorium had relocated to Mendocino, CA. The Princeton Alumni Weekly of May 8, 1978 noted on p. 56, regarding the Class of ’37: “Dorsey Alexander is retired to Mendocino, CA where he and his wife, Joyce, have a publishing venture, ‘Turtle’s Quill Scriptorium,’ which has already published 15 books. He does the calligraphy while Joyce does the illustration.” Publications from that time and location include: Thaddeus: A Factual Account of the Founding of the First Mouse Symphony, by Joyce Alexander, Dorsey Alexander, 1978; Happy Bird Day & Poems, Woodcuts/Calligraphy by Joyce and Dorsey Alexander, 1980; A Flurry of Angels from Literature, Illustration by Joyce Alexander, Calligraphy by Dorsey Alexander, 1986; and A Packet of Rhymes: Scottish and English Folk Poetry from the Nursery, Linocuts by Joyce Alexander, Calligraphy by Dorsey Alexander, 1989.

Dorsey P. Alexander died January 18, 2009, in Mendocino, CA. A memorial published online on January 29, 2009 described him as an “expert calligrapher [who] produced over 24 books with his wife, Joyce, as illustrator under the name ‘Turtle’s Quill Scriptorium.’”

If this Mr. Alexander was indeed the “young calligrapher” who studied manuscripts in the Sutro Collection in 1962 or 1963, he appears to have lived a very productive life working in calligraphy design and book publishing. There are no references to advertising layout design or his Sutro Script. Is there a Sutro Script hand alphabet out there, somewhere?

Where does an Internet search for “Sutro Script” and “calligraphy” lead? It takes us to “fonts” and “families of fonts,” and then — “Sutro Family of Fonts”! Here we meet an energetic graphic designer by the name of Jim Parkinson.

Based in Oakland, CA and founder of Parkinson Type Design, Mr. Parkinson has been prolific in his career of type and font design, spanning nearly 55 years. Jim Parkinson’s Wikipedia page states he studied advertising design and painting at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland and graduated in 1963. He worked for Hallmark Cards for a time, then returned to Oakland and freelanced as a lettering artist doing work for rock bands, sign painting, advertisements, and packaging.

Where does the Sutro Family of Fonts come in? Quoting Parkinson’s Wikipedia page:

“Although Parkinson’s lettering sensibility is rooted in old wood type and signage from the 19th century and during the first part of his career he used pen and ink for finished pieces, in 1990 Parkinson put away his pen and ink and embraced digital technology while working for the San Francisco Chronicle, designing fonts.”

“Sutro” is among the 39 typefaces designed by Jim Parkinson listed in the Wikipedia article at:

Ah-ha! A Sutro Digital Family of Fonts exists!

According to Parkinson’s website, the “Sutro Family” of fonts was designed in 2003 and evolved out of Parkinson’s work with Slab Serifs. Over time he has been “adding some things and dressing it up a little.” This typeface now has fourteen styles, published by Parkinson Type Design. The type is available at:

In broad strokes, both Alexander and Parkinson were studying in the Berkeley and Oakland area in 1963. Perhaps they knew each other? Richard Dillon describes Dorsey Alexander as a “young calligrapher from Berkeley who has created a new ‘hand.’” If our Mr. Alexander was in the Princeton Class of 1937, and graduated at approximately age 22, that would have made him about 48 years of age in 1963. Jim Parkinson would have been 21 or 22 years old in 1963.

We know Dorsey Alexander, and possibly someone else given the “us” mentioned in his letter, came to Sutro to view the manuscripts in the Renaissance Room in 1962 or early 1963. It could have been Alexander’s wife Joyce Tocher Parkinson, or a friend like Jim Parkinson, or someone else—including an entire class of students! Ahh, the possibilities!

Dorsey Alexander remained a respected calligrapher throughout his career, and sadly we have no examples of his Sutro script design. Jim Parkinson began as a pen and ink calligrapher and moved into digital technology for font design in 1990, publishing the Sutro Family of fonts in 2003. Perhaps this font family was originally inspired by material in the Sutro collection—or is the name coincidence only?  I wonder…

Our search continues for the letter from Dorsey P. Alexander to Librarian Richard H. Dillon, thanking Dillon for access to the Sutro collection and illustrating his new hand, “Sutro Script.”

Who doesn’t love a mystery?

This blog post was written by Sutro Library’s wonderful volunteer, Pat Munoz.

Greetings, From Sutro Library!

She also spoke of puzzling over artifacts “until their language became clear.” All artifacts can be read, once their language is learned, for what they have to tell about their own production and about the place they held in the lives of those who previously possessed them.[1]

My name is Jose Guerrero, and I have just joined the California State Library as the Cataloging and Metadata Librarian for their San Francisco branch known as the Sutro Library. My job is to make sure that the magnificent holdings of the Sutro Library are accurately described so that researchers from near and far know what we have and can request to view it in our reading room! I moved here from central Pennsylvania, but I was born and raised in East Los Angeles and graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz. I also worked for antiquarian booksellers in San Francisco for several years. It’s been wonderful getting to know my new colleagues at the California State Library and San Francisco State University, as well as getting reacquainted with this city!

In the above quote, G. Thomas Tanselle is referencing Ana Somers Cocks, formerly a curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum. I first read “Libraries, Museums and Reading,” from which this passage is taken, many years ago and the words “puzzling over artifacts” never left me. As a cataloger, I am not necessarily supposed to assemble the puzzle, but I do make sure that all the pieces are there. Author names are like corner-pieces, subject headings are like the picture on the box that give you an idea of what it looks like put together, and physical descriptions make sure that pieces from different puzzles aren’t mixed together.[2]

I am excited to work with the Sutro Library’s antiquarian collection because there is much for our users—students of San Francisco State University, the people of California at large, and visiting scholars—to read and discover. Books held an important place in the life of Adolph Sutro, and the people who owned his books before him. “A book must be opened,” Tanselle writes, “simply to look at it fully as an object, for without examining the paper that makes up its bulk, and the inked markings on that paper, one has seen only a small fraction of the object.” I hope to facilitate this kind of interactive experience—of opening, examining, and interpreting texts—among our readers and visitors. If you don’t think of books as interactive technology, here are some reasons to reconsider:

“Scraps of Booksellers’ Catalogues” is a book made entirely of advertisements for books taken from other 17th and 18th century British books. The volume’s disbound leaves create an entirely new object reflecting, perhaps, interest in certain printers or eras of printing.  Sutro had a voracious appetite for books from this period, as the thousands of 17th and 18th century English pamphlets he amassed can attest to.

Legal printing, though often overlooked, is charged with meaning as this 1901 Mexican legal brief demonstrates. It looks like a book, but the pages are perpendicular to the spine. It may have been a mock-up, or galley proof, used by an editor to make corrections. Or, it could be a temporary binding  meant to get the text to the bindery and bound in more durable covers. Joined at the rear are scraps of the newspaper Regeneracion, edited by Mexican anarchist Ricardo Flores Magon, from August and October issues for 1900. Though deteriorated,[3] the crumbling newsprint preserves a possible link between the printer, Eduardo Dublan, the legal printer who was active in liberal politics of the time, and Magon.[4] These contemporaries both produced commentary on the politics of the porfiriato (the name given to the era that Mexican dictator Porfirio Diaz was in power), one as a printer and the other as a journalist. Printed objects interact with the society that produces them, as well as collectors and readers and binders and libraries.

Let’s return to “Scraps of Booksellers’ Catalogues.” A sequence of  advertisements for Scottish printers Robert and Andrew Foulis opens with a handwritten caption: “Commenced business in 1740 – issued beautiful editions of the Classics.” One of these “beautiful editions” is De consolatione philosophiae, a 6th century philosophical work that was popular throughout medieval Europe. The Sutro copy bears the bookplate and handwritten commentary of Francisco Lopez Portillo, a colonial administrator in 18th century Guadalajara. It is also marked with the firebrand of the conventual library of San Francisco de Mexico. Enhancing the Sutro catalog record with descriptive information will help this book—not just the text, but the firebrand and bookplate and inscription too—move into the hands of its next user; the next step of an already long journey from 6th century treatise, to medieval bestseller, to the Glasgow printing office of the Foulis brothers, to colonial Mexico, to San Francisco, California.

Soon, much of what you just read about Sutro Library materials will be in our catalog which can be searched from virtually anywhere in the world. I am eager to play my part in the discovery process, and assist my colleagues whose instruction and outreach efforts have already done so much to help our materials tell their stories through exhibitions, classes, and volunteer opportunities. I hope to share more of the Sutro’s holdings in the future—in person and through this blog—as I continue to learn about our collection and community!

Jose Cruz Guerrero, Cataloging and Metadata Librarian, Sutro Library

[1] Tanselle, G.T. Libraries, Museums and Reading. Charlottesville, VA: Book Arts Press, 1992. First delivered as a talk, the audio is now available through the Rare Book School’s SoundCloud page along with many other presentations.

[2] This too can have interesting results, as Harvard librarian John Overholt has recently pointed out!

[3] Digitized copies are available at Archivo Magon. It was by referring to these scanned versions that I was able to date the newspaper scraps, whose dates have all been chopped off.

[4] When the Mexican government outlawed the printing of Magon’s writings, he relocated to the United States and became a central figure in the anarchist movement of southern California.

“Dad al César lo que es del César”

[The following entry is from guest blogger, Carlos Tapia, a Sutro student volunteer and a student at SF State University majoring in History. He supplied all the text and images that follow.]

“Dad al César lo que es del César, y a Dios lo que es de Dios”. Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s. These words were preached in a sermon delivered by Father Pedro Josef Mendizabal on September 30, 1810 in Queretaro, Mexico.

carlos 1
Title page of Fr. Mendizabal’s sermon

It was delivered just a couple days after Father Miguel Hidalgo’s famous “Cry of Dolores” (El Grito de Dolores), which incited Mexico’s war for independence. However, unlike Hidalgo’s speech for an independent Mexico, Mendizabal’s sermon stressed the need for the suppression of Mexican revolutionaries. While delivering his sermon, Mendizabal wastes no time in vilifying the revolutionary insurgents and reiterates that the people must remain loyal to their faithful king. Although Mendizabal’s stance is from a religious point of view, it nonetheless offers intriguing insight into the relationship between religion and monarchy as well as how faithful the Catholic Church was to King Ferdinand. Thus the words, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s”, perfectly summarizes Mendizabal and the Church’s stance on the Mexico’s independence movement.



The beginning paragraphs of Mendizabal’s sermon, which comprise the first reading, is where the majority of his arguments are presented and in my opinion is where my curiosity spiked. Like any religious figure would begin speaking, Mendizabal warns his audience of a grave threat, of people who pretend to be Catholic worshipers but in reality are wolves in sheep clothing. In turn, the people must take up arms, just as the Archangel Michael did, and destroy the enemies of peace. He follows this up by asking the people whose rosette and cockades do the people wear and whose image is featured on the Spanish Medallion? Mendizabal answers, “King Fernando of course, ‘Rey Catolico de España y de las Indias’. Thus give to King Fernando what is his, and to God what is his” (Mendizabal 2). The entirety of Mendizabal’s sermon can be attributed to that specific prayer of Caesar, which again emphasizes the relationship between God and a monarch. Mendizabal asks another question which goes as follows, “Can we, with clarity, become true vassals of Fernando, uphold the rights of his throne, and be true Christians if we follow in the perverse footsteps of Dolores, de Allende, Aldama, Abasolo, and their evil minions? Not for certain, but I will state the answer in my sermon” (2). It is plainly observant that Mandizabal is strongly opposed to the Mexican insurgents and plays on the people’s fear of not being faithful Christians if they were to support such individuals. It also once again stresses the idea that any unlawful acts against the king is a direct act against God. Further on into the first reading, he once again warns the people to, “not be seduced by their promise of false happiness” and calls the named revolutionaries as disciples of the infamous Napoleon (4).


Despite Mendizabal’s outcry against Dolores and other insurgents, he somehow manages to also call for unity through an interesting approach. In a brief section, Mendizabal discusses about the history of Spanish blood ties. He mentions the Gachupin, the Spanish father, grandfather, and uncle born on the opposite side of the ocean. He also mentions the Criollo, the Spanish son, grandson, and nephew born in the New World. By enforcing the shared blood ties, Mandizabal argues that, “other than being true sons of the Church, we are also without doubt equal vassals of Fernando” (5). Mendizabal plays an interesting point regarding race, which to me is unique because it calls for unity between two distinct races that nonetheless share the same blood. He also argues that the two should not murder one another. However, he finishes the first reading by stating that if the people give to God what is God’s, “he’ll take up arms against Allende, Aldama, and the evil minions of Dolores” (6).

In the second sermon, Mendizabal explains how the ten commandments have been violated by the insurgents. The numbering of the commandments mentioned in Mendizabal’s sermon is different compared to today’s but they still mean same. Beginning with the fourth commandment of honoring your father and mother, he applies this concept to not parents born in Europe, but also towards the Spanish Sovereignty and the motherland (7-8). For the fifth commandment, which upholds the divinity of the Creator, Mandizabal argues that the insurgents have seduced those who are ignorant by encouraging ideas that contradict the commandments. Lastly, the seventh commandment that Mendizabal mentions, states that thou shall not steal. For Mendizabal’s argument, he states that the insurgents have stolen the hard sweat and work of the people and have destroyed the rights that they were born with as well as stealing the good and riches of their parents (9). Mendizabal ends his sermon with a prayer to God and calls for victory against Napoleon, to stop those that threaten to destroy the Catholic religion, and calls for peace and tranquility.

Mendizabal’s sermon was a well written transcript in that it discussed the notions between church and state in the 19th century and the racial discussion between the ganchupin and the criollo. Aside from those two discussions, what I personally thought was intriguing was drawing comparison between the American Revolution and the Mexican War for Independence from a religious standpoint. Just as Mendizabal placed heavy emphasis on King Ferdinand’s given authority from God, the same can be said between King Edward III and the Church of England. King Edward III was the head and face of the Church of England, which many colonists, especially those deeply religious, saw that any act of rebellion was an act against the Church and God. That was one revelation that heavily sparked my interest to further delve into Mendizabal’s sermon and explore what similarities and differences did the church play in both American and Mexican independence. Mendizabal’s sermon is one that will catch the attention of anyone interested in notions of religion, government, and race.

–Carlos Tapia, SFSU History undergraduate class of 2019 and student volunteer at Sutro Library

List of References:

Mendizábal y Zubialdea, Pedro Josef de.:
Sermón que en el tercer día del solemne novenario de Nuestra Señora del Pueblito conducida en secreto … /predicó … Pedro Josef de Mendizábal..
   México : Arizpe, [1810].
  11 p. ;  20 cm..

Location Sutro Library ; Vault ; BX816.M6 C65

The Marvelous Mrs. Ferretti

Charlotte Anne Boon Ferretti Family Papers

I remember feeling apprehensive when I received an email from a lawyer executing a will that instructed over a dozen genealogical binders be donated to the Sutro Library. I felt this way not because I didn’t want to go through them (I am an archivist after all!) but because I feared the majority would be sent back. In the past, boxes or even trash bags of donor’s research have been known to show up without any notification or documentation denoting its origins. Sutro Library, similar to most libraries and archives, must be mindful of our space constraints, which makes us particular about the family papers we do keep: original primary sources and bound family histories. It is an uneasy and an even painful process to go through these binders knowing we cannot keep the meticulously filled out charts or copies of the original documents and other sources— all of which someone spent their lifetime researching. That isn’t to say there aren’t libraries out there who keep research notes, there are, and I will leave a few examples at the end of this post.


Now, let’s return to the two gargantuan boxes that arrived in my office housing a total of 15 black binders filled to the max with research. As I slowly began to review the contents, turning each heavy page of plastic sleeves stuffed with materials, the proverbial weight on my shoulders lightened. Among the four-generation and family unit charts, there was a narrative told through the scrapbook-like pages adorned with photos and blurbs typewritten by the donor. This was the donor’s form of a family history, and while it was not bound, it was still a fascinating collection. But wait, there’s more! In these binders, there were original manuscripts, records, photographs, objects, including a letter written by a great great grandfather and not one, but two locks of hair! One belonging to the donor herself.

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And who was this person to have such fortitude and foresight to collect her family’s papers and paraphernalia with the goal of donating them to Sutro Library? Charlotte Anne Boon Ferretti born on May 16, 1932 in Fresno and died on April 30, 2018 in Madera. In addition to being a mother, a grandmother, an avid reader, a genealogist, a gardener, an equestrian, and lover of all animals, Charlotte was an exceptional family historian and archivist.

Here are more highlights from the collection curated by the marvelous Charlotte:

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The Confederate money was not the first piece within this treasure trove that caught my attention, though I did get up excitedly from my desk to show my colleagues. Rather it was a section devoted to someone who lived far more recently, Charlotte’s daughter who had died almost 30 years prior to her mother. The collection on Diane Marie includes childhood photos, diplomas and other academic certificates of achievement, and even cards drawn by her as a child.

Charlotte didn’t just provide the basic details of each family member. She also provided personal effects showcasing the family member’s personality and creativity. In her own binder, Charlotte included a drawing she sketched that won a prize in the fair as well as the pedigree chart of her horse, Sir Napa Champ.

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In another example of personal effects, along with the remarkable passport for her aunt, Vernie Gilmore, who was a nurse in World War I, Charlotte kept her aunt’s short stories and poems. One of which is a fascinating telling of her time as a nurse, titled “The Day I Knew A Miracle” personalizing this specific moment in time. And that’s really what we’re after with genealogy: the personalization and contextualization of one’s family history.

I truly am in awe by this collection and feel honored to have been the one to begin processing it. In a blurb found amongst the Confederate money, Charlotte speaks directly to her would-be repository, the Sutro Library:

“It is my hope that whomever becomes the possessor of my family history will care for this collection and keep it for the part of our country’s history that it is…”

We will fulfill Charlotte’s wish by caring for this collection and further processing it so that one day it will be accessible through a finding aid (aka inventory) enabling others to continue where she left off. Until then, the public is welcome to view these materials (some of which will have restricted access given the nature of the documents).  We ask you contact us first via email and notify us at least two business days prior to your visit.


Tips for those interested in preserving and donating their family papers:

  1. Email the repository of interest first, and if they cannot accept it, they will more often than not refer you to someone who can.
  2. Compile your research into a bound volume especially if you would like to donate to Sutro Library, preferably hardbound not spiral as the latter is not a friend of long-term preservation and access. Blog post by the Library of Congress regarding this request:
  3. If you’re not ready to donate your family papers, please make sure they are housed in appropriate storage and a climate-controlled location to ensure their preservation. Feel free to contact Sutro Library if you have any questions or visit the National Archives website providing tips on preserving documents and photos:
  4. As mentioned above, there are libraries out there that accept research notes. Examples include: Anderson Public Library (Indiana); City of Fairfax Regional Library (Virginia); W. Dale Clark Main Library (Nebraska); and Huntington City Township Public Library (Indiana). This is not an exhaustive list, and similar to tip 1, we encourage you to reach out to local repositories, especially ones that are in the same region of where your ancestors lived.

A detailed obituary of Charlotte Anne Boon Ferretti was published in the Merced Sun-Star on May 9, 2018:


Written by the Genealogy Librarian, Dvorah Lewis.

Between the Pages

I wonder if you’re like me and grab any scrap of paper that happens to be handy to use as a bookmark.  I’ve used grocery lists, notes from my husband, those annoying subscription cards that fall out of magazines, ticket stubs, receipts, postcards, newspaper articles I’ve clipped to read later, post-it notes with reminders to call the dentist… the list goes on and on.  When I’ve finished a book, before putting it on my shelf, passing it on to a friend, or trading it in at a second-hand bookstore, I flip through the book to remove the bits of paper that have been marking my place.  At least, I think I do.  I’m sure I’ve left plenty of things behind for the next reader to find.

As I look through books in the Sutro Library’s collection I sometimes come across things that other people have left tucked between the pages.  Such discoveries don’t happen often.  The books in the Sutro Library vault have probably passed through many hands before arriving there, and things left between the pages have most likely long since fallen out or been removed.  But occasionally something remains.  When I look through the books I’m generally checking their condition – making sure there’s no mold, investigating the extent of worm damage, confirming that the binding is still secure and no pages are coming loose.  It is always a wonderful surprise to find some small treasure instead of evidence of decay or damage.

For instance, in a book of poetry by an author identified only as Mrs. Hemans, published in 1839, I found a small strip of mesh embroidered with the word “modesty.”


Perhaps it is only a coincidence that the piece of needlework marks a page with a poem entitled “Woman and Fame,” but the sentiment of the poem and the simple exhortation of the stitched word make a perfect pair.  The narrator of the poem rejects the temptations of fame in favor of simpler rewards, which she deems more appropriate for women.

Though hast a charmed cup, O Fame,

A draught that mantles high,

And seems to lift this earthly frame

Above mortality.

Away! To me—a woman—bring

Sweet water from affection’s spring.

Someone has written a brief note on one of the first pages of the book:  “Presented to Miss M Smith by A Friend.”  I wonder about that “Friend.”  Why did he or she give the book anonymously?  Were they genuinely trying to save Miss Smith from a ruinous course of action?  Or was the book given by an interfering busybody who was shocked by the advanced or ambitious Miss Smith?  Did Miss Smith quail and repent when she saw the needlework and read the poem?  Did she carefully preserve the stitchery as a reminder in case she should stray from an “appropriate” path again?  Or did she snap the book shut with an immodest laugh and toss it aside, never giving the poem or the reminder to be modest another thought?

The library has a very well-used copy of The Works of Benjamin Franklin, published in Philadelphia in 1818.  Marguerite Milton Wells has pasted her book plate on the inside of the front cover and someone named H. Scott has written his or her name boldly in ink on the title page.  Perhaps it was Marguerite Wells or H. Scott who carefully annotated the lengthy book in pencil and copied out an inspiring verse on one of the back pages.  Somehow, however, I imagine it was not either of them, but rather a little sister who put the paper doll between pages 190 and 191.  And perhaps it was the same little sister who added a scribble to Franklin’s 1784 letter reproduced on page 190.  I hope the little girl didn’t fret over the loss of her doll too much. And I hope her older sibling wasn’t too angry about the scribble!


picture3Colyn Wohlmut, a librarian that worked at Sutro Library until August 2018, once asked for my help holding a book open as she carefully used tweezers to remove leaves, long since dried out and now crumbling into tiny shards, which someone had pressed between the pages of a book.  I was interested to see her place the pieces of the leaves into an envelope.  Colyn told me that while organic matter left in a book is an invitation to hungry insects, the leaves are part of the book’s history and will be safely preserved.

Indeed, even things that might seem innocuous can cause damage when left in a book.  For instance, you can see where something left in this book has permanently stained the pages.


Even something as seemingly harmless as a plain slip of paper can cause damage.  If the paper isn’t of archival quality, it contains acids or other chemicals which can create discoloration.


So what should you do if you find anything between the pages of a book in the Sutro collection?  Leave the item in place and let a librarian know what you’ve found and where.  A note or marker might be an important part of the book’s history, or it might be damaging the book, or both!  But whatever the object is, think of it as a reminder of readers who’ve come before you and spend a moment imagining how it might have made its way into the book.


This post and all of the images are by Isabel Breskin, intrepid Sutro Volunteer.

If the Shoe Fits……

Cinderella reportedly said, “One shoe can change your life.” While Cinderella’s one shoe brought her to Prince Charming, our books’ shoes will bring them a lifetime of structure, security, and protection. Why would books need shoes you ask? Good question.

The Sutro Library has a stunning collection of libros de conventos (Convent Books, aka convento books), mostly bound in limp vellum, which means that the book does not have a stiff cover (or boards as they are technically called) and instead is very flexible (very similar in behavior to modern day paperbacks). These convento books were added to the collection when Adolph Sutro, traveled to Mexico in 1889 and purchased at auction the contents of the Abadiano Bookstore. Since the books are so flexible and in various sizes, shelving them can be tricky. At one point in the not-so-distant past, the State Library was committed to putting all these valuable books in phase boxes (a fancy word for a custom box) but the project stalled at some point, and now we have some books boxed, and some that are not. Fast forward to today and the unboxed books are starting to swell and distort.


Ideally, we would resurrect this past effort and make phase boxes for the rest of the convento books since boxes protect books from light, dust, and small leaks. Yet boxes do not let you see the limp vellum spine with the book’s handwritten title, and they also cost more money and labor to make. Since the past phase boxes were made in Sacramento, we wanted a more local solution.

Enter professional conservator Gillian Boal. Gillian learned of our desire to have a structured housing solution for our convento books but with the ability to see the book’s spines. She casually mentioned book shoes, and we quickly agreed it was the desired solution. The book shoe is a kind of box that is made out of conservation grade cardboard that the book slips into. Each custom box would fit snugly around all parts of the book except on the top and the spine. And, just like your shoes, you don’t want to make the shoe too tight or too lose. The shoe provides much needed structure for the books as well as:

  • Protects the sides of decorated or fragile bindings, such as those covered in textiles, from their neighbors;
  • Reduces wear to the book due to being pulled in and out of shelves;
  • Allows books to be moved without the binding being touched.

Gillian printed out information on how to make the shoes from the Northeast Document Conservation Center. The State Library purchased the conservation cardboard and Gillian made a prototype for our SFSU museum studies students to replicate.

Alan Scardera was the first SFSU Museum Studies graduate student to take up the project. Alan studied the documentation and prototype Gillian left behind and soon was making his own book shoes. I expressed a desire to have some sort of string or tie to keep the shoe as snug as possible and Alan figured out how to weave unbleached linen tying tape through the structure.

alan making boxes


img_6790Alan soon trained SFSU History graduate student, Allison Bermann, on how to make the shoes and the physical conditions of our convento books are rapidly improving. With the help of the California State Library Foundation, we were able to purchase enough glue and tying tape to keep Alan and Allison in steady production these last three months, and for many months to come.

img_7032The eventual goal is to have all the limp vellum bound books from Mexico in a shoe. While stage one of the project is focused on quarto-sized books, we will eventually move into folio and tiny-sized books as well. One challenge we noticed, however, is that some of the books are too fragile or have decorations that do not allow for easy slipping in and out of the shoe without causing further damage to the book’s bindings. For those shoeless books, another solution will have to be found.

The book shoe is a huge step forward for this part of our collection and would not be possible without the generosity of the California State Library Foundation and most especially, the dedication and talent of the SFSU graduate students working on the project. Their devotion to making these books secure is deeply appreciated because everybody loves a good pair of shoes—even books!

img_7033.jpgFor More Information:

The book shoe was developed by Nicholas Pickwoad while consultant at the National Trust in England. The commercial design was developed by Christopher Clarkson, then at West Dean College, Chichester, England, and Anthony Cains, Trinity College, Dublin, Ireland. The instructions to make your own book shoes can be found here:

If you are interested in damage to rare books and different supportive housing for damaged books, more information can be found here:

A formal definition of limp bindings can be found here:

This post and all of the images are by Mattie Taormina, Director, Sutro Library.


Cooking with Aunt Babette

Receipts of Jewish Identity

Hanukkah came early this year during the first week of December, and I searched in our catalog looking for Jewish cookbooks and found Aunt Babette’s Cook Book. I was surprised to find no listings of: latkes (potato pancakes were listed, however); sufganiyot (while doughnuts were listed, jelly-filled was not); and kugel (there were a couple of recipes, but none similar to the one I grew up eating). The shock at my lack of findings disappeared as I realized most of the recipes were of German dishes. As a descendant of Eastern European Jews, most of Aunt Babette’s recipes hold no meaning and are unrecognizable to me. In fact, if I hadn’t known the cookbook was donated by a Jewish family;  recognized the significance of the publisher’s symbol (a Star of David) on the title page; or learned about the publisher’s familial connection to the leader of Reform Judaism, Rabbi Isaac Mayer Wise (this last one took a bit of research), then I would not have guessed this volume was a Jewish cookbook.



There’s hardly any dish listed in the index that is explicitly Jewish. Only one word is written in Hebrew, charoset (apple and nut mixture eaten during Passover) and this is ironically under the section titled: Easter Dishes. In addition to the avoidance of Jewish words or references to Jewish holidays, the recipes appear to be a reinterpretation of what it means to keep kosher and includes recipes which mix meat with milk and even include pork! One could easily misinterpret Aunt Babette’s as a German American cookbook for middle-class women and not Jewish.



What I find interesting about Aunt Babette’s is that it is so much more than a cookbook: it’s a guidebook providing tips and hints for a woman to effectively manage the household. According to Aunt Babette (pseudonym of Bertha F. Kramer): just like it’s the man’s duty to be the head of his business, it is the woman’s duty to be the head of the household. Among the recipes, there are instructions and other tips for becoming an effective housekeeper, from how to put on a Pink Tea party (hint: everything is pink) to curing a sore throat with strips of bacon. She even offers advice on the treatment of servants and how their treatment will lead to better service:

“How pleasant is a home where kindness reigns.”


While Aunt Babette’s Cook Book cannot claim the title as the first Jewish cookbook (that belongs to Esther Levy’s Jewish Cookery Book published in 1871), Aunt Babette’s is one of the most popular of its time having various printings for over 25 years. By the time of its first printing in 1889, the first wave of German Jews who immigrated to America half a century earlier would have already been established in American society, and most of them identified with the Reform Movement having renounced more traditional customs like keeping kosher. With the publisher’s familial ties to the movement and recipes including shellfish and other non-kosher foods, this cookbook was clearly written for German Reform Jews.

Also happening in the late 1880s, the next wave of Jewish immigration had already begun, this time Eastern European Jews. Is it possible that this cookbook could have been used (or at least was the intent of the publishers as well as the German Jewish community overall) as a guidebook for incoming Jewish migrants? Perhaps it was thought that its pages would inspire and encourage them to not only join Reform Judaism (Eastern European Jews immigrating to America would have been Conservative or Orthodox at this time), but also to assimilate to hegemonic customs? Or could this have also been a guidebook for non-Jewish women of the middle class? By providing recipes that mixed meat with milk alongside a section detailing how to set the Seder table for Passover (listed under Easter Dishes), perhaps the other intent of this cookbook was to assuage anti-Semitism, e.g. fear of the other?

Fear of the other is a concept to remember in the context of this book’s publishing. The Jewish Christmas tradition of eating Chinese food on December 24th and 25th is representative of a shared immigration history that both the Jewish and Chinese communities share. Chinese restaurants are one of the few places open during the holiday and, geographically, when these two groups immigrated to New York they lived closer together. Since both groups were outside of the Christian tradition, these groups were linked together often due to their “otherness.”  Additionally, traditional Chinese food did not include dairy and gave the allusion of keeping kosher. Jennifer 8. Lee, producer of The Search for General Tso, a documentary on Chinese cuisine from Shanghai to America, stated in an interview with The Atlantic that the connection Jews felt toward Chinese food “reveals a lot about immigration history and what it’s like to be outsiders”.

Aunt Babette’s cookbook is representative of an early response to this immigration history. It casts out the “otherness” rather than embraces it, thereby making it hard for outsiders, both non-Jews and Jews alike (especially Eastern European), to recognize this as a Jewish cookbook. While Aunt Babette may not have provided me with a recipe for Hanukkah, she did shed light on the Jewish immigrant experience.

Additional Resources:

Sutro Library carries the 6th edition of Aunt Babette’s Cook Book. To view this in person, please give us 2 business days advance notice of your visit. Other editions are also freely and remotely available online through

From our families to yours: Happy Holidays!


*Written by the Sutro Library Genealogy Librarian, Dvorah Lewis.