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The Huntington purchases collection of early photographs of Santa Monica and Los Angeles
E.G. Morrison (ca. 1827–1888), Visitors to Santa Monica Beach, ca. 1880s. Albumen print, Ernest Marquez Collection. The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

SAN MARINO, CA.- The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens added a trove of rare photographs to its collections recently with a strategic acquisition by its Library Collectors’ Council. At its 17th annual meeting earlier this month, the Council assisted in the purchase of the Ernest Marquez Collection, an unrivaled set of 4,600 images of early Southern California, including scarce pictures of 1870s Santa Monica and Los Angeles.

The Council also helped purchase rare pamphlets on Santa Barbara’s early history; a collection of letters illuminating British foreign strategy in the Middle East in the early 19th century; the first modern military handbook, published in France in 1529; and an American family archive of nearly 150 letters and other documents spanning a period from the American Revolution to the Civil War.

“The range of the purchases this year speaks volumes about the breadth of the Library’s collections,” said David Zeidberg, Avery Director of the Library at The Huntington. “We couldn’t be more delighted with these new additions. Each group of items does a beautiful job of building on the Library’s strengths.”

The Library Collectors’ Council is a group of 34 member families who help support acquisitions. It was formed to augment the collections by helping to purchase materials that the institution otherwise couldn’t afford.

Highlights of the newly purchased materials:

Historic Photographs Depicting Santa Monica and Los Angeles
The newly acquired Ernest Marquez Collection of photographs records Santa Monica’s transformation from rustic hamlet to international symbol of the California good life, with prints from the 1870s to the 1950s. In the mid 1870s, the Southern Pacific Railroad was on the brink of connecting upstart Los Angeles to the rest of the nation, and the new township of Santa Monica welcomed city dwellers to its beachside tent cities. Photographers opened studios catering to the incipient tourist trade, and the illustrious San Francisco photographer, Carleton E. Watkins, visited in 1877 and 1880. The collection includes elusive images by some of the region’s earliest practitioners, including William M. Godfrey, Francis Parker, Hayward & Muzzall, and Watkins.

“This photo archive was amassed over a 50-year period by a descendent of Mexican land grantees who owned the 6,000-acre Rancho Boca de Santa Monica or present-day Rustic and Santa Monica Canyons, Pacific Palisades, and portions of the city of Santa Monica,” said Jennifer A. Watts, curator of photographs at The Huntington. “The resulting group of photographs is the best and most comprehensive collection of its kind in private hands.” Watts emphasized there is little to no duplication with The Huntington’s already superb collection, and that this is The Huntington’s largest purchase of photographs since 1939.

Santa Barbara’s Early History
Also purchased were 383 rare pamphlets, maps, and ephemera related to the early history and development of the city and county of Santa Barbara, Calif., and the adjacent counties of San Luis Obispo and Ventura from 1867 to 1927. The material was selected from the collection of Clifton F. Smith (1920–1999), author of Flora of Santa Barbara who had been the librarian at the Santa Barbara Botanic Garden.

Over a 40-year period, Smith assembled 1,700 rare and unusual imprints from the Santa Barbara region and left them to to his friend Dennis Kruska, who went on to produce a detailed bibliography in 2003.

“The opportunity to select from this collection allows us to fill important gaps and acquire unique and unrecorded imprints,” said Alan Jutzi, Avery Chief Curator of Rare Books at The Huntington. The Library’s interest in the region grew substantially in 1950 when it bought the 8,000-piece archive of Charles Fernald (1830–1892), the “first Yankee king” of Santa Barbara, who was a judge, landowner, and civic leader.

The Smith collection covers topics of substantial historical importance: transportation and roads, water resources and fire suppression, parks, tourism, regional promotion, commerce and land development, agriculture and horticulture, city planning, and cultural and educational institutions.

Dispatches from Persia
A collection of 92 letters acquired by the Council shines new light on British foreign strategy in the Middle East from 1792 to 1814. The group consists of private and confidential correspondence between Harford Jones, leader of an envoy to the Persian court, and his patrons, Henry Dundas and Robert Dundas, the 1st and 2nd Viscounts Melville, respectively.

The letters, which were in private hands until now, will enrich scholarly interpretations of the Melville-Jones agenda, tensions between the British Crown and the East India Company, and British strategy in the Middle East. Also included are transcriptions, and in some cases translations, of French and Persian bulletins, and several firmauns (proclamations from the Shah's court).

“The Huntington’s renowned collections spanning British foreign policy, central imperial administration, the East India Company, military action, and politics make our repository the ideal home for this collection,” said Vanessa Wilkie, the William A. Moffett Curator of British Historical Manuscripts at The Huntington.

The First Modern Military Handbook
The Huntington also acquired a 1529 French edition of The Book of Captains, or Livre contenant les appurtenances aux Capitaines, the first modern military handbook and the most influential military treatise of the first half of the 16th century. First published in Italian in 1521, the practical manual was meant for the lower ranks and was more in demand than any other military book at the time. The four books within this work by Battista della Valle (1470–ca. 1550) concern fortification, defense, artillery, fireworks and telegraphy, assault and the machines used for assault, and other practical tools for an army on the move, including movable bridges, extraction of subsurface water, and portable clocks. It also covers battle orders, ethics, and dueling.

“The Book of Captains also contains a surprising list of firsts,” said Daniel Lewis, Dibner Senior Curator of the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology at The Huntington. The book includes “the first writings about fortification to appear in print, the first printed account of making fire by rubbing two sticks together, and the first description of a water clock with 24 counterweights.”

Letters of Edmund Kirby and his Family, 1788–1863
This collection of nearly 150 letters and other items document the life of a remarkable military family, whose service to the country spanned from the American Revolution to the Civil War. The largest portion of the collection consists of letters that Edmund Kirby (1794–1849), a paymaster in the U.S. Army, wrote to his family between 1827 and 1848. Additional items from Kirby consist of his commissions signed by James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, and James K. Polk. The collection also includes the letters that Kirby’s son, Edmund Kirby Jr., wrote from West Point and from the battlefields of the Civil War, and a small group of letters addressed to Edmund Kirby’s father, Ephraim Kirby, a veteran of the Revolutionary War and a prominent New England Jeffersonian.

“This is a rare find that covers an astonishingly broad range of subjects,” says Olga Tsapina, the Norris Foundation Curator of American Historical Manuscripts at The Huntington. “Not only does it contain richly detailed reports from the battlefields of the Black Hawk, Mexican, and Civil Wars, it offers a wealth of new information on the history of the United States Army, especially its paymasters, a category of American military professionals that has been largely overlooked.”

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