Treasures of the library — according to those in the know

Romance language librarian Claude Potts holds one of the big books in the Main Stacks.

Romance language librarian Claude Potts holds one of the big books in the Main Stacks.

What treasures are hidden away inside the vast holdings of UC Berkeley’s libraries? To find out, the foremost authorities were consulted: the librarians.

“What are your favorite items in the collections?” they were asked. Their answers ranged from larger-than-life tomes to an eye-popping novel, from an early writing by Mark Twain to an original musical sketch by Beethoven. 

In the photo above, Claude Potts, romance languages librarian, is holding one of the library’s bigger books.  

“If you go down to Level D in the folio section (of the Main Stacks, in Doe Library), you will encounter undoubtedly the largest books in our collection,” says Potts. Folios are unusually tall books, often used to highlight the intricate details of maps, art, and architecture. Some folios, such as double elephant folios, can measure up to 4 feet long. The volume Potts is holding is a linguistic atlas that shows how word pronunciations differ across regions of France.

Bob Hirst, general editor of the Mark Twain Project, comes up with what he calls his favorite happening. Thirty-five years ago, He was flipping through the Clemens family Bible, and stumbled upon a scrap of paper that he believes Twain printed as a young typing apprentice.

“If that’s correct (and I believe it is) it became the oldest piece of paper we knew he had actually ‘written’ anything on,” Hirst says.

Click the link below to read more about the library’s many treasures. 

Read more on the library website