Afro Mexicans in Early Los Angeles: Exhibit Postscript

February 26th, 2015

This blog posting follows the flash exhibit Afro Mexicans in Early Los Angeles.

Photograph of the Reyes Family. Courtesy of the Miriam Matthews Photographic Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections

Arriving in Los Angeles shortly after the city’s settlement was Juan Francisco Reyes, a mulatto soldier from Zapotlán el Grande in Jalisco. He was both the first Black and the first Hispanic alcalde (or mayor) of Los Angeles from 1793 to 1795. Francisco Reyes was also the Spanish Crown’s first land grantee and the original grantee of the San Fernando Rancho – now the San Fernando Valley. Pictured (above from left) are his great-grandchildren: Margarita, Isidro, Jr., Francisca and Mariá Antonia Villa de Reyes, widow of Ysidro, Sr. who was grandson of Juan Francisco Reyes.

There were many familial intersections among these Californio (descendents of the pobladores or settlers) families. Mariá Antonia Villa de Reyes was the granddaughter of Mariá Rita Quinteros Valdez de Villa whose father was Ls Quintero, one of the pobladores. The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded California to the United States in 1849. An appeal was then filed with the Public Land Commission in 1852 patenting the 4,449-acre land grant to Mariá Rita Valdez de Villa. The land grant was known as Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas and encompassed the modern-day city of Beverly Hills and the areas of Coldwater and Benedict Canyons. As late as the 1920s a cottage, which was part of the Rancho Rodeo, stood on the corner of Alpine Avenue and Sunset Boulevard.

Ysidro Reyes, Sr., grandson of Juan Francisco Reyes. Photograph courtesy of the Miriam Matthews Photographic Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections

Refugio Reyes de Roberts, great-granddaughter of Juan Francisco Reyes, c. 1870s. Photograph courtesy of the Miriam Matthews Photographic Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections

Photograph of Rancho Rodeo de las Aguas. Courtesy of the Ana Begue Packman Collection, UCLA Library Special Collections.

Among the areas of my own research is the history and culture of Afro-Mexicans. In 2010 I was contacted by Terri de la Pena who is retired from the UCLA College of Letters and Science. Her cousin, Joseph “Joe” Peyton, had researched his family history extensively. Joe’s 6th Great Grandfather was Luis Manuel Quintero, 5th Great Grandfather Juan Francisco Reyes and 4th Great Grandmother Mariá Rita Quinteros Valdez de Villa – all prominent in local history. In one of my articles I referenced Joe’s ancestors. Joe needed research clues for finding his 7th Great Grandparents. Additionally, Joe had not be able to locate any artifacts or images of his ancestors. Happily, I have been able to refer him to relevant images such as those in this blog post.

Terri’s genealogy is equally fascinating as well. She is descended from the Marquez family of Santa Monica who came there in 1839. In 2014 her cousin Ernest Marquez donated a collection of early photographs of Santa Monica and Los Angeles to the Huntington Library. In an interesting aside, Terri, a writer, donated materials related to her first and second novels to LSC as part of the Mazer Collection. Terri is in the process of writing a book on her genealogy.

Photograph of Miriam Matthews, 1981. Courtesy of Charles Matthews.

Miriam Matthews was the first Black professionally trained librarian to be hired in California. A preeminent historian of Los Angeles and Californian African American History, she was a tireless advocate of educating the public about California’s diversity from its beginnings. In 1981, on occasion of the city’s Bicentennial year, a plaque honoring the 44 founders of the City of Los Angeles was placed in the placita of El Pueblo de Los Angeles State Historic Park. Each member of the 11 families are listed by name, race, sex, and age from the official Spanish Census of 1781.

Read more on Afro-Mexicans in early Los Angeles:

African-Americans and the Early Pueblo of Los Angeles
L.A.’s African Settlers
Damany, M. Fisher, Discovering Early California Afro-Latino Presence / Heyday Books, 2010.

By Alva Stevenson, Program Coordinator

And the Oscar goes to…

February 24th, 2015

Birdman wins Oscar for Best Picture!

If you missed the Birdman exhibit in this year’s series of flash exhibits on the eight films nominated for Best Picture, here’s a second chance to see it. In honor of Birdman’s win, the exhibit, curated by archivist Lori Dedeyan, will be on view again this week. Stop by to see how Alejandro Iñárritu’s film is connected to Special Collections materials that include Mahler songs, early editions of Don Quijote, and volumes of Carver and Tolstoy from Susan Sontag’s library.


The Illustrated Body: Printing, Anatomy, and Art in the Renaissance

February 19th, 2015

Engraving print portrait of Aldus Manutius

In the second half of the fifteenth century, in the years following the invention of printing with movable type, and the appearance of the earliest printed books, printers began looking for ways to enhance and beautify their texts with illustrations.  An ideal means of printing images in books turned out to be the carved woodblock, traditionally used to print textiles. Woodcuts are so compatible with letterpress printing because both are relief processes, in which only the raised printing surfaces of drawings or letters are inked, the non-printing areas having been cut away.  Thus, once an image had been carved into a woodblock, and the block had been assembled into a page along with lines of type, and locked in a chase, both text and image could be printed together.

Printers now found new purposes for woodcuts, which at first had been used in a limited way primarily for playing cards and single-leaf portraits of saints.  They illustrated devotional texts and Bibles to teach and inspire the faithful, who could identify more easily with the divine through the power of images, and it is not surprising that the first woodcut-illustrated book printed in Italy was Cardinal Torquemada’s Meditationes, printed by Ulrich Han in Rome in 1467. 

With the waning of the Middle Ages and the development of the new humanistic spirit came new types of books and new readers.  Woodcut book illustration began to flourish around 1475: woodcut images appeared in books of popular fables such as Aesop’s Fables, not only to beautify the page, but also to amuse the reader, and underscore the moral lesson of the tale.  Woodcuts served as mnemonic aids and helped to create memory systems and memory places, as in Publicius’ Ars oratoria. They filled the pages of instructional manuals, mathematical and scientific texts, guidebooks, and architectural treatises; and brought to life the texts of classic authors such as Ovid, Virgil and Livy, as well as the many early editions of Dante. The popularity of woodcuts continued through most of the 16th century, until printers turned to engravings in response to a demand for greater precision and detail.

This exhibit was mounted in conjunction with “The Illustrated Body: Printing, Anatomy, and Art in the Renaissance,” an international symposium held at UCLA on February 27-28, 2015 to celebrate the 500th anniversaries of the death of the great scholar-printer Aldus Manutius, and the birth of Andreas Vesalius, father of modern anatomy. 

The books displayed here have been drawn from Library Special Collections’ extensive holdings of Renaissance books, including the great Ahmanson-Murphy Aldine Collection, the Ahmanson-Murphy Early Italian Printing Collection, the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana, the John A. Benjamin Collection of Medical History, and History and Special Collections for the Sciences.  These “illustrated bodies” document the changing face of woodcut illustrated books over the course of almost one hundred years, and represent a great variety of styles, ranging from the blunt woodcuts of Aesop done in a popular folk style, and the mysterious line drawings of Aldus’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, to the magnificently-detailed anatomical woodcuts of Vesalius’ Fabrica.

Portrait of Vesalius from De humani corporis fabrica

The exhibit was curated by librarians Russell Johnson and Jane Carpenter. Karen Konnect of konnectDesign created the design elements; Octavio Olvera designed and executed the exhibit installation; and Cindy Newsome provided planning assistance and administrative coordination. 

Pet Pictures Before Instagram

February 18th, 2015

Before LolCats, Grumpy Cat and family dog Instagram accounts, how did people get their fix of adorable animals? In Southern California, the Los Angeles Times filled the need for pet pictures through Features run throughout the year.

In September 1953, the LA Times ran a layout on National Dog Week, highlighting Paul Shelton’s new family member adopted from the Ann Street Animal Shelter.

Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Negative 83205

A profile on Great Dane Alexis von Essen and his heroism award ran in 1953, after he alerted his family to a house fire, allowing them to escape.

Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Negative 83205

We certainly can’t forget the Pet Show at Polytechnic Elementary School in Pasadena in April 1953, when Bert Walker entered the competition with his pet goat.

Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive, Negative 81107

These are only a few of the thousands of family pets, stray animals and zoological mischief featured in the LA Times and UCLA Library Special Collections’ Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive is lucky enough to hold the negatives.

By Jen O’Leary

As Seen on TV: Marie Stopes and Downton Abbey

February 12th, 2015

Marie Stopes Downton Abbey exhibit

Recently, the name “Marie Stopes” came up on the popular television show, Downton Abbey. On episode 2 of season 5, which aired on PBS on 11 January 2015, Lady Mary is shown holding a book by Marie Stopes and mentions the author as she instructs Anna Bates to run an errand on her behalf. Lady Mary sends her lady’s maid because the errand apparently would be too indecent for a woman of Lady Mary’s social stature to do herself—the implication is that Mary needs something pertaining to contraception. This is the second time the television program referenced Stopes, the first time being in the previous season.

Marie Charlotte Carmichael Stopes (1880 – 1958) was a British author, scientist, and renowned activist for women’s rights and birth control. Her first book, Married Love, first published in 1918, broached the topic of sex and family planning for married couples and was both controversial and influential. Stopes went on to write many additional titles on this topic. She also opened the first family planning clinic in Britain, which both promoted the use of and provided patrons with access to contraception.

Due to the wide success of her first book, Married Love, and because it prompted fans to write to her with questions on the subject, Stopes published Wise Parenthood as a follow-up in November 1918.

Wise Parenthood, with a dark cover and slender appearance, most likely was the book referenced on the January episode of Downton Abbey. The book not only resembles the one Mary held in her hand but its content matches the theme of the episode. Wise Parenthood provides information about different options for birth control, including condoms, withdrawal, and the rhythm method. The book especially recommends a rubber cervical cap with a quinine pessary, which was a smaller form of the modern diaphragm. In that episode of Downton Abbey, Mary wanted to obtain birth control to use during her liaisons with Tony Foyle, the Viscount Gillingham. While it was never explicitly shown on Downton Abbey, the rubber cervical cap was what likely was in the brown bag Anna brought Lady Mary from the pharmacy, as this was the method of birth control that Stopes most highly recommended in her book.

Last week, Stopes came up yet again. This time, Anna’s husband, Mr. Bates, confronted his wife with a small cardboard box and the book opened to the title page, clearly showing Married Love. He accused her of trying to avoid bearing a child with him. We think the producers of Downton Abbey showed the wrong book, because Married Love focused on fertility and planning a family with children, whereas Wise Parenthood explained how to use contraceptive methods as part of family planning.

History & Special Collections for the Sciences, the unit of UCLA Library Special Collections at the Louise M. Darling Biomedical Library, holds an extensive collection of works by Marie Stopes, which were purchased from bookseller C.C. Kohler in 1997. The collection contains many different editions of her works as well as titles by Stopes that have been published in a variety of languages. Stopes was a prolific writer on the topic of contraception, but she also wrote on other subjects and published several plays and books of poetry. Volumes from the Marie Stopes collection are available for use in our reading room.

The two-case exhibit about Marie Stopes and Downton Abbey is the second in a series of Winter quarter projects by LSC graduate student intern Hilary McCreery. It will be on view throughout February.

Hilary McCreery

Russell Johnson
History & Special Collections for the Sciences
UCLA Library Special Collections

Kissing by the Book: “Rime” and Romance in Special Collections

February 11th, 2015

Love in the Renaissance was an art form itself. Poets, musicians, and artists all strove to capture the triumphs and tribulations of erotic love, a theme that left its mark on the printed books of the era. Drawing on and transforming the courtly love traditions of the troubadours, the great Florentine poet Petrarch returned to the theme of love time and again in his Rime and Canzoniere and began is I Trionfi with a Triumph of Love.

Fifteenth-century Castilian writer Diego de San Pedro imagined the despair of frustrated love as being akin to emotional imprisonment in his Cárcel de amor (The Prison of Love). Another enduring trope of courtly love was to portray the pursuit of one’s lover as a hunt. Cardinal Egidio (Canisio) da Viterbo wrote the Caccia amorosa enigmata (1520), an erotic poem in ottava rima; featured here is the first edition, of which only two copies are recorded. Tullia d’Aragona, a sixteenth-century Italian philosopher and writer, featured women as arbiters of the ethics and morality of love in her Dialogo della signora Tullia d’Aragona della infinità di amore. In this treatise, Tullia celebrates the dual nature of human love as both sensual and spiritual, and defends her sex against misogynist attacks by men.

Emblem books, such as that compiled by the English poet and translator Philip Ayres Emblemata amatoria (1683), used familiar tropes of courtly love to illustrate the joys and sorrows of romantic yearning. Ayres added his own compositions and translations, such as “Love’s my Pole Star” as he reproduced copperplates from earlier books, such as Amorum emblemata (Antwerp, 1608) and Thronus cupidinis (Amsterdam, 1618). Conduct manuals and courtesy books instructed young lovers on the proper rituals of courtship, some in a humorous and cheeky tone, such as this Dictionary of Love (1795).

Novels, as well as poetry, take up the theme of love. Jane Austen’s beloved regency novel Pride and Prejudice contains one of the most enduring love-stories of her period (featured here is a first edition from the Sadleir Collection). That love and courtship continue to fascinate modern readers “is a truth universally acknowledged.”

Curated by Dr. Sara Torres, UCLA Department of English

Best Picture Nominees Flash Exhibit Series: Birdman

February 5th, 2015

For a film that was written as self-reflexive exploration of performance, theater, and the long arc of an actor’s career within the film industry, it seemed appropriate to continue on that track and search the film itself for more references. There were many to be found, some more explicit than others.

For example, one much-noted reference was the similarity between Riggan Thomson’s history and Michael Keaton’s own life. To that end, a juxtaposition of the costumes of Keaton’s real-life superhero role, Batman, and Riggan Thomson’s Birdman (which ended up being somewhat more extravagant in its execution) shows striking similarities.

Publicity image of Michael Keaton in Batman Returns. From the E! Entertainment Library Collection of Picture Files and Tabloids (PASC 352)

Musically, Birdman‘s soundtrack, which was actually disqualified from nomination in its category due to the high ration of classical music to original compositions, built its mood through the use of several orchestral and operatic works. Below we see the scores for Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4 and three of Mahler’s Five Ruckert Songs.

Sheet music from the Mehli Mehta Collection of musical scores (PASC 191).

As we know, Birdman‘s story is centered on the theatrical production of Raymond Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. From there, the connections continue, on the level of literary reference, the life of the writer, and the use of both as a reflection of Riggan Thomson’s character. As Birdman director Alejandro González Iñárritu explained in an interview, “[Raymond] Carver was supposedly reading Tolstoy’s Confession before he died. And A Confession was written when Tolstoy was at the peak of his career, at basically the same age as Carver was, and going through an intense crisis… I love Tolstoy and I love Carver… We are all looking for the same thing: affection. That’s what our character was questioning.” Both of these books were taken from the library of Susan Sontag.

Tolstoy’s A Confession and Carver’s What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. Books from the Library of Susan Sontag (Collection 892).

Also shown in the exhibit was an eighteenth-century English edition of Don Quixote featuring twenty-eight copperplate prints. The use of the ridiculous as a tool for the hero, or antihero, and a distance-bridging device appealed to Iñárritu, who elaborated: “If you stretch tragedy, it will always become comedy. That’s the comedy that I like. And I always thought about Riggan Thomson as a Don Quixote of La Mancha, where humor comes from the disparity between his solemn, furious attempts and ambitions to become a serious artist and the ungovernable reality that is contrary to his wishes.”

The 1761 English edition of Don Quixote. Call Number PQ6329 A5 S6 1761

The exhibit also elaborated on the possible references in design and technical execution for Birdman, including the similarity of the film’s opening credits to those of Pierrot Le Fou, a 1965 film by Jean-Luc Godard.

Photo of Godard (right) from the Jean Renoir papers (PASC 105).

From there, a book written by Godard’s contemporaries, French New Wave directors Eric Rohmer and Claude Chabrol, called Hitchcock: The First Forty-Four Films, was used to bring attention to Hitchcock’s 1948 film Rope, which was notable for being edited so as to appear as a single continuous shot through the use of long takes and strategic transitions.

Thematically, Birdman echoed another film: Opening Night (1977), by John Cassavetes. The exhibit used publicity photographs of Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands from our Portrait File (PASC 204) to introduce a discussion of the film, in which theater actress Myrtle Gordon, played by Gena Rowlands, is unwilling to accept herself as, and yet unable to separate herself from, the character she is portraying – a “second woman” no longer in her prime. Like Riggan Thomson in Birdman, Gordon moves disastrously through the play’s tryouts; both are faced with characters which have frightening implications for the actors themselves: Gordon’s tired “second woman,” and Thomson’s character, a man who “is nothing.” In the end, however, both Thomson and Gordon achieve resounding success during opening night by undertaking radical acts of improvisation on the stage.

Most of the action takes place backstage in both films; seen here, both Thomson and Gordon wait in front of their respective doors for their cues to enter the stage.”

Film stills from Opening Night and Birdman [not archival material]

As a film Birdmandeals with the absurd and the miraculous, the presences of which are often intertwined. The works explored here can also be said to deal with these themes, in both their grandiose and everyday manifestations: the absurd miracles of faith, love, dynamite, booze-drenched performances that receive standing ovations, identity and restoration, the mad attainment of a romantic dream… The list goes on.


By Lori Dedeyan

Best Picture Nominees Flash Exhibit Series: The World of “Grand Budapest Hotel”

January 27th, 2015

They’re Back!  Our Series of Flash Exhibits on Oscar Nominations for Best Picture

Each exhibit runs for 2 days only—stop by Library Special Collections to catch all of them before they’re gone in a flash!

Suddenly the world is talking again about the Viennese writer Stefan Zweig, whose work inspired Wes Anderson’s Grand Budapest Hotel, a zany comedy, but also a nostalgic meditation on a pre-war Europe whose values of beauty and civilized tolerance were slipping away as Hitler rose to power.  Anderson drew inspiration from Zweig’s only novel, Beware of Pity, and his autobiography The World of Yesterday: Memories of a European, in which the author mourns the end of that era. 

Zweig was at the center of European intellectual life in the 1920s and early 1930s, with an impressive circle of friends that included writers, poets, composers, and thinkers like Freud, Einstein, Joyce, Rilke, Schnitzler, and Strauss.  Displayed here are Schnitzler’s signed copy of Zweig’s reminiscences of the Belgian poet Emile Verhaeren, which Zweig had had privately printed for a group of his friends; and the 1916 first edition of Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, which Zweig later translated into Italian as a result of his friendship with Joyce.

The hotel of Grand Budapest Hotel—the “real” star of the film—was modeled after one of the great old European hotels, the Grand hotel Pupp (renamed Hotel Moskva in 1950), located in the spa town of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic, and pictured here in a travel pamphlet from the Susan Sontag library (Collection 892).   

The albumen print of the Empire Hotel in Buxton, Derbyshire, one of the great English railway hotels, was taken by the Scottish photographer William Dobson Valentine, who signed his photos “J.V.” in honor of his father, James Valentine, also a well-known photographer (Photograph Album Collection (Collection 94)). 

Finally, from the Arts Library’s Artists’ Book Collections, we’ve borrowed Matthias Herrmann’s Hotel Diary, which expresses the artist’s own struggle with AIDS.  All of the photographs were shot in hotel rooms throughout the world, in cities like Dublin, Helsinki, Salzburg, Stockholm, Toronto, and Zurich.

By Jane Carpenter

Happy Birthday, Marion Davies!

January 9th, 2015

In 2013, the Department of Pediatrics of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA transferred to Library Special Collections (LSC) a scrapbook containing materials related to the silent film actress Marion Davies’ original children’s medical clinic in the 1920s as well as the gift that made the Marion Davies Children’s Center at UCLA possible. Several items from this scrapbook are on display at History & Special Collections for the Sciences, the LSC unit located on the 4th floor of the Biomedical Library.

The Marion Davies Foundation Children’s Clinic was founded in the Sawtelle area of Los Angeles (now a West Los Angeles neighborhood) in 1926. It was intended to provide services to underprivileged children in the area.

Each year, the Annenberg Community Beach House (at 415 Pacific Coast Highway), which William Randolph Hearst built for Davies the same year she opened her clinic, hosts tours and programs in honor of Marion Davies’ (1897-1961) birthday. This year, the event will be at the Beach House in Santa Monica on Sunday, January 11. For further information about the event and to RSVP, please visit:

The two-case exhibit is the first in a series of Winter quarter projects by LSC graduate student intern Hilary McCreery Holly. It will be on view throughout January.

Russell Johnson
History & Special Collections for the Sciences
UCLA Library Special Collections

Exhibition: “One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature” at the Grolier Club

December 22nd, 2014

One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature

If you visit New York City over the holidays or shortly thereafter, be sure to take in a terrific new exhibition at the Grolier Club: One Hundred Books Famous in Children’s Literature.

“Powerful narrative, unforgettable characters, illustration that stirs the imagination, and insights that engage the mind and heart – literature for children is forged from the same enduring elements as literature for adults. Children’s books with these qualities often shine for generations, with some achieving landmark fame; and a few such books ultimately go on to enter the canon of classics of children’s literature. … These classics and others – many famous today, some only in their time – will delight adults and children alike” [Grolier Club short press release/information sheet, accessed 21 December 2015; the banner illustration, above, also is from the Grolier Club’s exhibit website and press releases].

UCLA Library Special Collections loaned four items from its Children’s Book Collection (CBC). About one-tenth (1,865) of the CBC’s titles and editions have been digitized and made freely-available through the Internet Archive, of course, but an exhibition such as the Grolier’s allows one to see and appreciate physical books alongside manuscripts, ephemera, original artwork, and “50 historic artifacts which demonstrate the relationship between the 100 books and the culture of their time” (Note from WorldCat catalog record 897364212).

Curator Chris Loker has posted eye-popping photos of the show and the Grolier’s lovely exhibition hall at: .

The published catalog for the show is available at the Grolier and its exclusive distributor, Oak Knoll Books (think, “Valentine’s gift”!). Libraries, collectors, and researchers no doubt will use the catalog as an important reference tool, following the Grolier’s other “One Hundred Books Famous in …” or “Grolier 100” catalogs including English Literature (1902), Science (1964), and Medicine (1995).

For media coverage of the exhibition, read reviews in the Wall Street Journal and Publishers WeeklyThe New York Times suggests its review will appear Friday, December 26th.

The Grolier Club is located at 47 East 60th Street, a short walk from the Museum of Modern Art. The library and exhibit hall are closed on holidays.

If you make a special trip to New York to visit the Grolier (and who wouldn’t!), consider going during “Bib Week” (Bibliography Week, 20-24 January 2015).

The exhibition will be on view through 7 February 2015.


Russell Johnson Curator/Librarian
History & Special Collections for the Sciences
UCLA Library Special Collections