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Henry Raup Wagner papers

Call Number: WA MSS S-1299

Scope and Contents

The Henry Raup Wagner Papers document his work as a bibliographer and historian of the American and Spanish-American West. The collection spans the dates 1917-1962, but the bulk of the material falls in the years 1930-1952.

The Wagner collection is organized into three series. Series I, Correspondence, provides information on Wagner's association with the rare book and scholarly worlds. Works from The Published Writings, Series II, chronicles Wagner's research and publication activity. Series III, Research Files, documents subjects Wagner studied and includes personal papers.

Series I, Correspondence , is arranged alphabetically by individual or corporate name. Appropriate cross-references have been made for significant individuals whose letters are filed under corporate bodies. The majority of the files contain letters to Wagner and copies of his replies.

Wagner sought research assistance from libraries and was in turn used as a source of information. Randolph Adams of the William L. Clements Library questioned Wagner on Mexican incunabula, and many libraries discussed their acquisitions and business affairs with him. Most of the letters from libraries, however, are form letters thanking Wagner for the books he donated.

Wagner's correspondence with scholarly societies focuses on publication issues. He served as editor for the Cortés Society, and was often consulted by the Quivira Society. Publishing questions even dominate correspondence with the Historical Society of Southern California, but since Wagner was the society's president from 1933-34, the letters document other business as well.

Wagner's letters show how he conducted researched, how he found publishers, and to whom he turned for comments. An excellent example is Nueva Bibliografía del Siglo XVI, Suplemento to a las Bibliografías de Don Joaquín García Icazbalceta, number 135 in The Published Writings of Henry R. Wagner. Icazbalceta was a Mexican bibliographer, whose grandson Joaquin Garcia Pimentel supplied Wagner with bibliographic information for his Suplemento, while G. R. G. Conway helped Wagner gather the history of Icazbalceta's library. Publishing Nueva Bibliografía proved a problem, as correspondence with the Bibliographical Society of America and the Grolier Club demonstrates. With the help of Pimentel, Federico Gómez de Orozco, and Jesús Guisa y Azevedo, Wagner eventually published the work in Spanish, an undertaking he discussed in depth with Lawrence Wroth.

Wagner enjoyed long friendships with George P. Hammond and Thomas W. Streeter. Their correspondence files are the largest in the series and cover all aspects of Wagner's scholarly career. Hammond, director of the Bancroft Library and active member of the Cortés Society and the Quivira Society, discussed the business affairs of these groups, particularly the formation of the Friends of the Bancroft Library. Wagner and Hammond also exchanged information on Mexican history and rare books. The correspondence of Thomas W. Streeter, bibliographer and collector, provides a fascinating account of the rare book world of the 1930s and 1940s.

Series II, Works from The Published Writings , is arranged according to the bibliography The Published Writings of Henry R. Wagner (chronologically by date of publication). In the "Box and Folder List," material is identified by numbers from the bibliography and short title. Series II contains Wagner's research files and papers concerning the publication of each work. He often bound these files, establishing a specific order; this arrangement has been maintained and applied to unbound papers.

The pattern of Wagner's arrangement is: a copy of the text, correspondence, notes, reproductions, and reviews. The offprint or typescript draft of each work is usually annotated by Wagner. Correspondence with the publisher or printer usually follows, along with receipts for binding and printing. Often research letters and comments from other scholars are included. Since Wagner gave copies of his works to friends and libraries, presentation lists and letters of acknowledgment may also be found in the correspondence. Notes and reproductions come next, though their order varies. Most of Wagner's notes are typewritten lists or prose sketches. Reproductions of primary documents (typescripts, photocopies, photographs) were used for research and often became part of the printed work as illustrative material. Finally, there are reviews, usually concerning his earlier books.

Not every work listed in Series II is fully documented. Of the described material, copies of the text and correspondence are the most common. The background material for The Plains and the Rockies (7, 8), Spanish Southwest (26), Discovery of New Spain (118), Rise of Cortés (124), and Nueva Bibliografía (135) is exceptional. The files for these works are good examples of the contents of Series II, Works from The Published Writings.

The Plains and the Rockies files include evidence of the physical production of the 1920 edition and both 1921 editions. Wagner often issued two editions of his books, one normal copy and one enhanced with photo-reproductions. Orders for facsimiles, correspondence with the printers, printing and binding receipts, presentation and purchase lists, trace the creation of these fine editions.

Spanish Southwest files, which include numerous typescripts, especially of individual bibliographic entries, notes, and correspondence with libraries, gives evidence about Wagner's research methods. Though correspondence usually relates only to publication and public reaction, Wilberforce Eames's letters, here and elsewhere, cover both research and printing.

Discovery of New Spain contains correspondence with the Cortés Society, publisher of the work. Some of these files are of general interest, documenting the group's publishing activities. Similarly, correspondence files in Series II for the Antiquarian Society, the Bibliographical Society of America, the California Historical Society, the Hispanic America Historical Review, the Historical Society of Southern California, and the Zamorano Club, all of which published works by Wagner, contain much general information about the group.

Rise of Cortés is the most fully documented work in Series II. Every type of material is included, together with notes for Wagner's lecture on Cortés to the Zamorano Club. There is a complete typescript draft and a set of photo-reproductions used as plates. Notes for the work consist of a series of typewritten prose sketches, lists, and transcripts of historic documents.

Series III, Research Files , is arranged alphabetically by headings, many of which were supplied by Wagner. The material is similar to that in Series II and is arranged the same way. Though most files contain a typescript and some pre-draft material, there is no correspondence or publication information. Of particular interest is "Spanish Southwest 1795-1845," a short typescript, which may be an introduction to a continuation of Spanish Southwest, 1542-1794 (26). The series contains a great deal of material related to a bibliography of Texas, including an extensively annotated version of C. W. Raines's Bibliography of Texas (1896). Some of Wagner's more personal papers are also housed in Series III.


  • 1917 - 1962
  • Majority of material found within 1930 - 1952


Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

The Henry Raup Wagner Papers are the physical property of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University. Literary rights, including copyright, belong to the authors or their legal heirs and assigns. For further information, consult the appropriate curator.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The papers were donated by Henry R. Wagner.


17.5 Linear Feet (37 boxes)

Language of Materials


Catalog Record

A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog

Persistent URL


The papers consist of correspondence with scholars and members of the rare book world, notes and drafts related to Henry Wagner's published works, and other papers related to Wagner's research.


Henry Raup Wagner, known for his contributions to the bibliography and scholarship of the American and Spanish-American West, attended Yale College and Law School. Wagner eventually entered the mining business, spending most of his career working for the Guggenheim's American Smelting and Refining Company. Retiring in 1917, he married Blanche Henrietta Collet and settled in California. Most of Wagner's scholarly work dates from after his retirement.

Wagner's interest in rare books began in the 1880s. Although his collecting fields changed over the years, he eventually focused on Western Americana, using his collections to write bibliographies such as The Plains and the Rockies and The Spanish Southwest. In addition, he wrote on a variety of topics from the cartography of the West coast to Fernando Cortés.

Wagner was active in the California Historical Society, the Cortés Society, and the Quivira Society, and served as president of the Historical Society of Southern California in 1933-34. He was a good friend to many libraries. He not only donated works to the Bancroft Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library, the John Carter Brown Library, and the Yale University Library, but also served on committees to promote and support these institutions.

Further information on Wagner and his work can be found in his autobiography Bullion to Books (1942). The Published Writings of Henry R. Wagner (New Haven: William Reese Company, announced for 1987) contains a biographical essay by Stephen A. Colston, and a list of books about Wagner.

Guide to the Henry Raup Wagner Papers
by Susie R. Bock
August 1987
Description rules
Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository

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Access Information

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