Tuesday, August 28, 2018

AN OLD LIBRARY: Mission San Juan Capistrano, California

Library, Mission San Juan Capistrano
Two weeks ago, when my family was visiting in Los Angeles, we made a day trip to San Juan Capistrano in Orange County and visited the Mission. A historical site, it provides a glimpse into what life was like in the early days of California. I was interested to see that even then, books played an important role in the life of the Mission.
Bell in the central courtyard of the Mission
According to a survey in 1834, Mission San Juan Capistrano owned a total of 209 books. The books in the library were meant to help the padres in their conversion of the Native American communities. Through books like Ano Cristiano, the Juanenos became acquainted with the countless saints and the Catholic calendar. After years of working with the local people, Friar Geronimo Bosoana created an invaluable record of the traditions of the Acjacheman people in his own book, Chinigchinich.

The padres needed books to establish, manage, and lead the Mission. They also relied on them for spiritual training and as means of spending time. Today, much of what we know about the Mission has come from journals, books, research papers, and oral history. The books range in their condition and many of them need conservation. Collectively, they are a treasured element of the Mission’s museum collection.


Books in the library date from the 1770s to the 1900s. They are made from vellum, paper, ink and leather.

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