Out of the Vault: Treasures from YOUR State Library

October 14, 2016

The California State Capitol Museum and California State Library have partnered on an exciting exhibit featuring priceless treasures from the permanent collections of the California State Library. The exhibit is exquisitely curated by Gary F. Kurutz, Curator of the State Library’s Special Collections, in collaboration with John Allen of the Department of Parks and Recreation. The display pictured above, designed by Renato Consolini, greets visitors to the stunning exhibit.

Founded in 1850 and thousands of miles from the learning and cultural centers in the eastern United States, the library’s staff saw a need to bring to the newly admitted state of California books, periodicals, maps, manuscripts, and visual resources to support not only the information needs of state government but also to support the education of its general populace. In so doing, state librarians over the last sixteen decades have created an astonishing collection of extraordinary rarities including one of the finest copies of the 1493 Nuremberg Chronicle, the first great illustrated book; the magnificent double-elephant folio of Audubon’s Birds of America (1827-38), called by many “the great national work;” a beautifully crafted hand-embroidered binding from the early 18th century; Thornton’s The Temple of Flora (1799-1804), the finest botanical book; and a gorgeous illuminated manuscript from the late Middle Ages.

California’s exceptional history is well represented in the display. Highlights include James Marshall’s hand-drawn map of the gold discovery site at Sutter’s Mill, the first book, newspaper, and periodical printed in California; original daguerreotypes (the first practical form of photography) from the Gold Rush era; and a superb copy of the first edition of John Steinbeck’s once controversial The Grapes of Wrath (1939). California vibrant popular culture is represented by colorful menus, cookbooks, travel posters, and Doc Ball’s California Surfriders (1946), the rarest and most prized book on surfing. California’s state library, as reflected in this exhibition, certainly ranks as the finest state government library in the nation. It is open to all, free of charge. For directions to and information about the museum visit their website at http://capitolmuseum.ca.gov/the-museum/general-info

– Gary F. Kurutz, Curator of Special Collections

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