Campus: Sonoma State University -- November 9, 2000


White Fang poster"Fantastic" Collection of Jack London Papers, Movie Memorabilia, Personal Letters Donated to SSU

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.



FACT SHEET:

What is in the Bernatovech collection?:

  • 62 different first-edition works by London in their original dust jackets and inscribed by the author.
  • 350 first appearance-in-print magazine articles of London's works.
  • correspondence between Jack London and his wife Charmian, and their friends.
  • movie memoriabilia from films produced from his stories, including lobby cards and early movie posters printed on linen.
  • framed pictures of Jack London.
  • many books about the author and his era.

Waring Jones:
Has been coming to Sonoma County and Glen Ellen for over 40 years, A journalist, producer, playwright, book collector and benefector, has contributed to theatres and libraries and has a sizeable Jack London collection of his own.

Carl Bernatovech:
Disabled Vietnam War veteran, collector of rare history books including those on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln as well as local history. Member of the Union of Operating Engineers, Local #542. Died in 1997 at age 53 in Pennsylvania.

Sources:
Winnie Kingman, Executive Director of the Jack London Foundation, owner of the Jack London Bookstore and Research Center, (707) 996-2888 or winniek@vom.com.

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 clarice.stasz@sonoma.edu

Dr. Susan Nuernberg, English Department, University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh, (920) 424-7283 or nuernber@vaxa.cis.uwosh.edu

Sandra Walton, Special Collections, Sonoma State University, (707) 664-2552 or sandra.walton@sonoma.edu

Peter Howard, Berkeley rare-book seller, Serendipity Books, (510) 841-7455 or pbhoward@serendipitybooks.com

Sonoma County Writers Room:
London donation forms core of the Special Collections unit. Other writers represented are from the early days of the Russians and Richard Henry Dana to contemporary authors M. F. K. Fisher, Alice Walker, Richard Brautigan and his daughter, Gary Snyder, among others.

Other Jack London collections:
Huntington Library, San Marino, Calif. (original manuscripts, papers); Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley, Calif.; Utah State University, Ogden, Utah (many of Charmian London's papers); Centenary College, Shreveport, Lousiana; Jack London Museum and Bookstore, Glen Ellen, Calif.


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