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20 December 2019

Our Library Collections: Oversized Books

One in a series by CGS member Chris Pattillo, highlighting some of our holdings at the CGS Library in Oakland. For a fuller listing of books, journals, and more, consult the CGS Library catalog in WorldCat.

Ormerod's History of Cheshire
One of the sections of our library you may not think to look at is located at the back wall of the library. It is there that we shelve all of our oversized books–books that don't fit on the standard sized shelves. These would be filed in sections associated with the topic they cover except for the fact that they are just too big.

Many of the oversize books are quite old. Our section begins with three volumes of Ormerod’s History of Cheshire, a massive history of the county of Cheshire in north England compiled by George Ormerod and first published in 1819. These books are leather bound with decorative gold detailing on the binding. They stand 19” tall and weigh about ten pounds each–so take care when lifting one down from the top shelf.

We have a very large collection of genealogical columns from the Boston Evening Transcript spanning the period 1894 to 1941. Remarkably, these are the original columns on newsprint, each cut out from the newspaper and carefully pasted onto the book pages. Each day’s column fits on one page. The patient person(s) who created these record books helpfully underlined each family name in red, making it easy to find the genealogical information being sought. (The names are all indexed in our card files.) The columns cover a broad range of information, from wills and marriage announcements to individual queries or comments.

A portion of our collection of genealogical
columns from the Boston Evening Transcript

We have two volumes of pedigree charts collected by the California Genealogical Society from the early to mid-20th century. These family pedigrees were filled in on pre-printed forms, with space for eight generations on both the maternal and paternal sides. The first chart, for John Hart Allen (1843-1918) and his wife, Mary Helen Kerr Strohan, both of New York, is pretty sparse but others are much more complete. Some include snapshots, news clips or other memorabilia. Each chart is fascinating to look at.

The Tartans of the Clans of Scotland, published in 1886, caught my eye because of its elaborate binding. The cover page says that the book is “also an introductory account of Celtic Scotland; Clanship, Chiefs, Their Dress, Arts, etc., and with Historical Notes of Each Clan.” The bulk of this book consists of large (10” x 7”) high-quality color reproductions of each of the tartans followed by a one-page description of the clan.

man in kilt
From The Tartans of the Clans of Scotland
picture of tartan
An example of one of the tartans

Ireland in Pictures (copyright 1898) is another of the many gifts from George R. Dorman. This book consists of 400 black and white photographs of places in Ireland. Each image has a lengthy and informative caption describing what is depicted. A detailed table of contents makes it easy to find a specific place, useful if you were looking for a photo to augment your family’s genealogy.

Ireland in Pictures is just what it says, plus short narratives
The oversize section includes a lot of geographic history books, a few genealogical dictionaries, and a number of atlases. Two more volumes of interest are Edwin A. Sherman's Fifty Years of Masonry in California (volumes II and III, published in 1893). It begins with a chapter on the origin of Royal Arch Masonry, followed by chapters on Freemasonry in America and in California. This book is well illustrated with photos and engravings of historic sites and portraits of notable Freemasons. My great-grandfather and grandfather were both active in Oakland Masons, so this is a book I’ll be coming back to.

A source that could augment my own family's story
Next time you find yourself in the library, look at the back wall and see what might waiting there for you.

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