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The Bancroft Collection of
Western and Latin Americana

About Hubert Howe Bancroft
The Bancroft Collection
California History Lectures

Hubert Howe Bancroft, 1832-1918

Hubert Howe Bancroft was born in Granville, Ohio, on May 5, 1832. After working for some time in the Buffalo, New York, book store owned by his brother-in-law, George H. Derby, Bancroft went to California in 1852 to establish a West Coast outlet for the shop. In 1855, after selling the initial stock, he went east and returned with sufficient books and stationery to open a San Francisco store the next year. Within two years the firm began to grow into a publishing house, issuing such items as law books and legal stationery, texts and maps for schools, and music, as well as printing colored labels for cans.

In 1860, as an outgrowth of assembling research materials for the publication of a Pacific Coast handbook, Bancroft began a collection of regional writings. This was the beginning of his astounding book collection. Within a decade he had 16,000 volumes, encompassing in area not only California and the Pacific Coast as the central focus, but also British Columbia and Alaska to the north, the Rocky Mountains to the east, and Mexico and Central American to the south, and extending back in time from the native Indian cultures of all these regions and the subsequent era of Spanish control. The collection continued to grow as the result of collecting trips to the east and to Europe, as well as through extensive purchases at a number of major auctions, most notably of the José Maria Andrade collection, E.G. Squier's Central American collection, and the José Fernando Ramirez collection.

Eventually the collection came to include not only books and pamphlets but also manuscripts, maps, newspapers and other periodicals, and transcriptions of manuscripts made by his corps of copyists from originals in private hands, or in governmental and church archives. He and his staff also created original materials by interviewing pioneers whose recollections might not otherwise have been preserved, resulting in hundreds of early oral histories termed "dictations."

As Bancroft continued to acquire materials, he also planned a vast publication project of a series of histories of western North American, in the end numbering 39 volumes. First came five volumes on The Native Races (1874-75), then three volumes of the History of Central America and six more on the History of Mexico, followed by two on the Northern Mexican States and Texas, and one treating Arizona and New Mexico. All of them preceded his central topic, a seven-volume History of California (1886-90), followed by nine more volumes on other parts of the west, and a number of more informal works.

The Bancroft Collection

In 1905 the University of California purchased the book and manuscript collections of the eminent historian, Hubert Howe Bancroft. These collections formed the nucleus of The Bancroft Library, which has continued to collect, with great energy, printed and manuscript material relating to the history of western North America, from the western Great Plains to the Pacific Ocean and from Alaska to Panama. The greatest concentration of material relates to California and the West Coast, as well as Mexico and Central America, which are collected intensively to the present. The history of most other Western American states is collected up to 1900, except such broad, overlapping issues as water and the environment, which are collected without regard to date. Also represented are early Pacific voyages of exploration and discovery; continental expansion west of the Mississippi, including the Louisiana Purchase, fur trade, overland journeys to the West; Hawaii and the Philippines, British Columbia and the Yukon. In addition to books and manuscripts, the Bancroft Collection, as it has come to be called, includes maps, newspapers, photographs and other pictorial documentation, microfilms of original documents in private hands and in foreign archives, and other materials. For more detailed information see:

About the Latin Americana Collection
About the Western Americana Collection

California History Lectures

The Bancroft Library is pleased to present a series of seven lectures of California history, first recorded before a live audience in its Edward H. Heller Reading Room on the University of California, Berkeley campus and broadcast on KQED FM. These one-hour lectures include a 10-minute question and answer period with the audience, moderated by Dr. Charles Faulhaber, Director of The Bancroft Library. In announcing the broadcasts on KQED FM, Ms. Jo Anne Wallace, Vice President and General Manager of KQED Public Radio stated, "We are delighted to be joining with an esteemed institution like The Bancroft Library to demonstrate that history can be exciting. We believe our KQED listeners will find these talks both extremely interesting and highly educational." Dr. Faulhaber added, "We hope the programs will stimulate interest in and support of The Bancroft Library, which contains indispensable resources for understanding the history of California and western North America. These programs will help us develop the public's understanding of the depth of resources at Bancroft. We hope this will be the first in a long series of interesting and informative Bancroft programs with KQED Public Radio."

Listen to lectures:


Bancroft Library
Building Bancroft: The Evolution of a Library. Berkeley, CA : The Bancroft Library, 1995.
Bancroft, Hubert Howe
Literary Industries. San Francisco: History Co., 1890. The Works of Hubert Howe Bancroft, v. 39.
Bannon, John Francis
Herbert Eugene Bolton: the Historian and the Man, 1870-1953. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1978.
Becker, Robert H.
"Library Resources: The Bancroft Library--Then and Now," California Historical Quarterly, 52:3 (Fall 1973), pp. 267-271. R.
Caughey, John Walton
Hubert Howe Bancroft, Historian of the West (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1946).
Hammond, George Peter
Reminiscences. [Berkeley, CA : G. P. Hammond, 1986]
Hoehn, Philip
"The Cartographic Treasures of The Bancroft Library." The Map Collector, no. 23 (June 1983).
Rawls, James J. and Walton Bean
California: An Interpretive History, 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill, c1993.
Thwaites, Reuben Gold
The Bancroft Library. A Report Submitted to the President and Regents of the University of California upon the Bancroft Library. Berkeley, Calif.: 1905.

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