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San Fernando Mission to Receive Books, Letters From California History Collection

March 05, 1987|SAM ENRIQUEZ | Times Staff Writer

Several hundred letters and rare books from the Carrie Estelle Doheny Collection will be moved to the San Fernando Mission for permanent display, a spokesman for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles said Wednesday.

Officials Monday announced plans to sell the bulk of the vast Doheny art and book collection, which contains more than 7,000 pieces, including a Gutenberg Bible, to raise funds for the archdiocesan seminary system.

But many early California travel narratives, reference books and missionary letters--correspondence from Father Junipero Serra, for instance--will be housed in a library at the San Fernando Mission in Mission Hills, archdiocese archivist Msgr. Francis J. Weber said.

Those works will provide the mission with "one of the most complete California history collections in the state," he said.

The bulk of the works, which will be called the Carrie Estelle Doheny Collection of Western Americana, will be books published before 1930, Weber said.

"We could have that portion of the collection here as soon as six weeks," he said.

The collection, which is of interest chiefly to scholars, will be made available to the public by appointment.

It is uncertain how much of the Doheny collection will be retained by the archdiocese, spokesman Father Joseph Battaglia said. Church officials and representatives of Christie's, the auction house that will handle the sale of the collection beginning in the fall, will decide March 9 which items will be sold, he said.

Most of the material not auctioned will go to the San Fernando Mission, although some of the collection will be kept in other archdiocesan libraries, Battaglia said. In the material going to the mission will be a collection of letters written by Doheny family members.

The Doheny collection of paintings, rare manuscripts, antique furnishings and tapestries has been housed in the Edward Lawrence Doheny Memorial Library in Camarillo, next to St. John's Seminary. The library and seminary were dedicated in 1940.

Edward Doheny, an early California land developer and oil magnate, was a great admirer of Western art and student of early California history. After Doheny's death, his widow offered to build a library and to donate her collection to the Los Angeles Archdiocese.

The collection's centerpiece has been its Gutenberg Bible, thought to be one of only 47 surviving editions of what is considered the first book printed with movable type. The Doheny Bible, which contains only the Old Testament, was added to the collection by Doheny's widow in 1950.

The only other Gutenberg Bible in California is in the Henry E. Huntington Library in San Marino.

A series of eight auctions to be held over the next two years is expected to generate between $17 million and $24 million. The money will be used to improve school facilities and to help pay for the training of priests, church officials said.

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