Who has the greatest collection of wine & viticulture literature in the world? The Shields Library at UC Davis, that’s who! To quote the August 22nd BCC announcement of this 15 September field trip, “The wine library at UC Davis houses more than 30,000 books in more than 50 languages, manuscripts, historic records, research data, and materials in every medium, from wine labels to videos.”
Yours truly, along with 14 other BCC members, on our 9:30 arrival at the library, were greeted by Axel Borg, the library’s wine & food science bibliographer, and spent the next 4 and a half hours being regaled with all the treasures that this library has amassed over the years. We started in the Maynard Amerine room, named after the man who exerted a profound influence on the collection. Amerine [1911 - 1998] was a “pioneering researcher in the cultivation, fermentation, and sensory evaluation of wine.” No doubt many of the booksellers & collectors reading this blog will hold one of publications, the 1996 BIBLIOGRAPHY On GRAPES, WINES, OTHER ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES, And TEMPERANCE [co-authored by Axel by the way].
After giving us an overview of the collection, and its history, we eventually found our way to Special Collections, where Axel tantalized us with one interesting & fascinating item after another… here I wish I’d taken notes, for memory fails me as to most specifics, other than the 1287 deed for a vineyard land transfer & a cute little accordion miniature that on first blush appears to be a wine cork. That said, my fellow attendee, Anne Smith, did, however, take notes, so see her soon-to-be-published BCC piece for more specifics on the books Axel had at show-n-tell.
Next on the agenda was a buffet lunch, which, given we were a willing captive audience, included a presentation on projects UC Davis has in the works… one is a interactive social map showing wine-related connections. Intriguing, to say the least. Another is the digitization & searchable compilation of wine price lists, et al. For food & drink historians, invaluable.
We ended the day in the Harrison Western Research Center, which holds more than 21,000 volumes related to the history of the Trans-Mississippi West, collected by Michael & Margaret Harrison. Noteworthy in that collection were Catlin’s North American Indians, and Ansel Adams & Mary Austin’s Taos Pueblo. I confess, the bookseller in me was covetous, but I also assure you, I left empty-handed.
And so ended this engrossing trip. My thanks to all the staff at the BCC & UC Davis who made this day possible. It was wonderful.