Local and national Jack London literary scholars are using the word "fantastic" to describe the almost half-million dollars worth of papers, letters, first-edition books and original magazine articles by the world-reknowned author that were recently donated to Sonoma State University's Special Collections library.
Carl Bernatovech's unique personal collection was purchased for more than $400,000 by Waring Jones of Minnesota. Jones then donated the collection to Sonoma State University due to the University's proximity to London's ranch in Glen Ellen, California which draws visitors from all over the world.
"This donation will bring international attention to the University," said SSU Special Collections librarian Sandra Walton.
Bernatovech, who also collected historical works including those about Abraham Lincoln and the Civil War, spent more than 30 years amassing his collection of London's works. It was considered one of the finest personal collections in the world.
Walton said the donation is very unique for a state college. "Waring Jones wanted to make sure a liberal arts college had access to the materials so that many more undergraduate students and community residents could have easy access to primary source material," she said.
The only other Jack London collection of such major significance is at Huntington Library in Southern California which has London's original manuscripts and various personal letters.
Nearly 50 boxes of the material arrived from Bernatovech's estate in Pennsylvania earlier this year and are being carefully unpacked. Cataloging of the material must be handled to archival standards and will be overseen by Dr. Susan Nuernberg, an English professor and London scholar from the University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh. She will spend her sabbatical in 2001 overseeing the establishment of the collection for public viewing at SSU and offering courses on Jack London through the School of Extended Education.
Some of the Bernatovech collection is now on view at the Jean and Charles Schulz Information Center on the SSU campus, including a collection of Jack London movie posters printed on linen, first edition books, and framed pictures and photos.
What distinguishes this collection is the mint condition of the materials as well as its unusual comprehensiveness, says Winnie Kingman, executive director of the Jack London Foundation and owner of the Jack London museum and bookstore in Glen Ellen.
"The pristine quality of the materials is rare," said retired SSU history professor Clarice Stasz, a London scholar. "Many features of the collection, such as the movie posters and films, will be of interest beyond those studying Jack London."
The donation will form the core of the Special Collections unit of the library and around it will be built the Sonoma County Writers room.
Thanks to this donation, the Special Collections unit recently received the donation of the diary of Charmian London on microfilm from Milo Shepard, a London descendant. Charmian was Jack London's wife. The only other microfilm copy in existence is at the Huntington Library.
What is in the Bernatovech collection?:
Prof. Clarice Stasz, retired history professor, Sonoma State University, author of a biography on Jack and Charmian London called "American Dreamers." (707) 664-2959 or email@example.com
Dr. Susan Nuernberg, English Department, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, (920) 424-7283 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sandra Walton, Special Collections, Sonoma State University, (707) 664-2552 or email@example.com
Peter Howard, Berkeley rare-book seller, Serendipity Books, (510) 841-7455 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Sonoma County Writers Room:
Other Jack London collections:
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