California Gold Rush – Lewis B. Rock diary

A woman with three men panning for gold during the California Gold Rush (found on Wikipedia)

L. Tom Perry Special Collections is pleased to announce the availability of a new digitized collection: Lewis B. Rock diary (MSS SC 161). This is a handwritten diary of a man involved in the California Gold Rush. In his diary, Rock writes about his voyage by ship from Boston to San Francisco and his subsequent experiences in the gold fields of California in 1850. This is a great item for anyone wanting to do more research on this fascinating period of history in the American West!

For more items on the California Gold Rush found in Special Collections, go to this site.

Meet a book artist: Thomasina Taylor

Special Collections recently acquired several miniature books published by Thomasina Taylor, a Utah County-based printer and bookbinder, for our Fine Press Collection.

Thomasina in her studio with some of her miniature books and fine bindings.

As an undergraduate, Taylor worked as a student employee in L. Tom Perry Special Collections. Her experiences sparked an interest in books which led her to pursue a joint Master’s of Library Science/Master’s of Fine Arts degree in Book Arts at the University of Alabama. Since graduating, she’s returned to Utah, setting up a small studio in Spanish Fork. She enjoys letterpress work and historic bindings. Her work can be found in the library catalog by searching for the name of her press, Ilene Books.

Founder’s Lecture for Wilson Folklore Archives

On January 25, 2018 the annual Founder’s Lecture sponsored by The William A. Wilson Folklore Archives and The Charles Redd Center for Western Studies was held. Lisa Gabbert a professor from Utah State University gave a presentation on Infanticide at St Ann’s Retreat up Logan Canyon. The Retreat originally started as a private series of homes.  As time went by it was sold eventually making it in to the possession of a Utah diocese. The nuns primarily came to rest. Eventually rumors started of the nuns becoming pregnant by the monks. When their children were born, supposedly the nuns drowned them in the swimming pool where it was possible to hear the little babies crying. In the last part of the 20th century some young people broke into the retreat and were taken captive by a group that was trying to protect St. Ann’s.  The group was put into the empty swimming pool and attached to each other in a way that every time they moved was painful. The police came and tried to make sense of the situation. Eventually the “protectors” spent time in jail for their treatment of their captives.

Today the retreat is covered by barbed wire and there is a Facebook page with photos of people trying to get into the retreat and asking if anyone knew the identities of those in the picture.

We have St. Ann’s stories in our archive if you are interested in reading more.

Please plan to come participate in next year’s January lecture.

Frankenstein turns 200

Mary Shelley’s famous tale of horror, Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus, made its first appearance in print on Jan. 1, 1818.  The novel gained notoriety almost immediately as another entry in the wildly popular genre of Gothic fiction, and has stood the test of time as a literary classic and one of the first pieces of science fiction.

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the novel has been reinterpreted many times, both in print and and on film. To celebrate the 200th anniversary of the novel, we’ve created a a creepy portrait gallery of Mary Shelley’s monster from our print and archival collections:

Illustration by Everett Henry from the 1934 edition published by the Limited Editions Club (call number: Limited Editions Club Collection 1934 no. 7):

Illustration by Barry Moser from the 1983 Pennyroyal Press edition (call number: Vault Collection Quarto 094.2 P385 1983):

Boris Karloff and Dwight Frye in Frankenstein (Universal, 1931), from the Film Stills Collection:

Ilona Massey, Lon Chaney, Jr., and Boris Karloff from Frankenstein Meets the Wolfman (Universal, 1943), Film Stills Collection:

Accessing Student Newspapers

The student body at Brigham Young University has produced a range of newspapers, starting with the BYA Student in 1891. While the library has worked to scan these publications for easy online access, system limitations have reduced searchability of the text. To help improve access, the University Archives has been developing a keyword index of text from these student publications–available at Currently, the index includes content from between 1891 and 1957. Additional years will be added in the coming months.

The index will support searches for university history projects, or for genealogical research. Entries are linked to the scanned copy of the original newspaper.

Collecting Nativity Scenes

Many people collect different types of Christmas decorations from ornaments to nativity sets. Many nativity sets are made in factories but reflect the art of the country. Others are made with natural materials by hand.Here is a Polynesian nativity made of Polynesian materials.

Often when you think of Nativity Scenes from Egypt, you think of olive wood.  However, these two nativity sets are carved from camel bones. 

While Egypt is a Muslim country they cater to the tourist and nativities are easily available. However, Mali in West Africa is a Muslim country where if you want a Nativity you must pay a carver to custom make it. This is a large set with many animals as part of it. My daughter has done extensive work in Mali and knew a man who was acquainted with a local carver and was able to get this set made for me.

A Christmas Welcome to the Saviour Guest

Special Collections’ latest exhibit features Christmas tales and poems from the 19th century. It brings together items from across our major collecting areas: the Americana, Victorian, Rare American Literature, Fine Press, and Literary Manuscripts collections. This is a great chance to see the breadth of our literature collections—from a first edition of A Christmas Carol to poetry written in pioneer-era Utah—and of course, to celebrate the holiday season! “A Christmas Welcome to the Saviour Guest” was curated by Special Collections’ fall undergraduate interns.

Victorian Leisure: Sports

Before the Victorian period, leisure time (and the means to pursue recreation) was largely something only the upper classes could afford. By the mid-nineteenth century, however, the middle class was able to pursue recreation — and as a group, they wanted their leisure activities to be moral, respectable, and productive. The Victorian middle class was interested in sports, especially since they helped develop discipline, teamwork, and physical strength. They established sporting clubs, parks, and other institutions which promoted recreation and athletics. Below are a sample of sporting books from the Victorian Collection from the second half of the nineteenth century, promoting both traditional sports like hunting and new activities like bicycling!




Crochenit baby booties

Barbara Lewis with painting she did.

I’ve written before about the housewifery project that I am working on.  I had an interesting interview recently with the mother of 11 children, Barbara Lewis.  She is well-organized and talented.  She never had all 11 at home since they spanned a 25 year age group.  After we had  our interview, she showed me some of the creative things that she and her family had done over the years. Not all of these would qualify as folklore except for the fact that she taught herself or learned one-on-one.

Painting in fruit basket.

Family tree created by Barbara’s daughter.

History of the Doctrine and Covenants exhibit

A new exhibit titled “History of Doctrine and Covenants, 1833-1921” is on display now in L. Tom Perry Special Collections. This exhibit takes the viewer through the history of the Doctrine and Covenants, from handwritten manuscripts to being published in book form in 1835. Later editions with significant additions or deletions are also displayed, including the 1844 Nauvoo edition (added the section on the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith), the 1879 edition (footnotes added by Orson Pratt), and the 1921 edition (removed the Lectures on Faith, which had been there since 1835). Also shown is an 1835 letter from Oliver Cowdery to Newel K. Whitney regarding original copies of a revelation, and James E. Talmage’s journal where he documents revisions he was asked to make in 1921 as part of the Doctrine and Covenants Committee.

This exhibit will be on display in the Reading Room in Special Collections until the end of 2017. Come see this new exhibit and learn more about this significant book of modern day scripture!

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