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[ Fulfilling a Legacy ]
[ The Nature of the Regla Papers and Their Value for Scholars ] [ Arrangement of the Papers and Use of the Guide ] [ Gaines Sequence ] [ Gastine-Fieler Sequence ]
[ Jesuit Haciendas Sequence ] [ Charts, Maps, Proclamations, Genealogies ]
[ Microfilm Sequence ] [ Index ]

Fulfilling a Legacy

John F. Guido, Head
Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections
Washington State University Libraries

If, as has been suggested, Latin America lacks the tradition of prominent people and families making their personal and professional papers available to the public, then certainly the collection of Regla Papers at Washington State University assumes more importance for scholars than might otherwise be expected. Indeed, as Professor Kicza indicates, the collection constitutes one of only a handful of extensive family business records in the United States from Mexican elite lineages dating from the colonial and early independence period.

What appears to give the Regla Papers their special importance is both their character and their extensiveness. Again, according to Professor Kicza, "they are of major importance to scholars investigating the formation of agrarian enterprises in Mexico, their operation, their impact on the larger society and especially Indian communities, the emergence and business behavior of elite families, their social relations, and the relationship between the colonial and national governments and these families and their businesses."

The name most closely associated with the Regla Papers at Washington State University is that of J.(ohn) Horace Nunemaker (1897-1949). Recognized as "one of the great scholars in his chosen field of Spanish literature, language, and history," he was at the time of his premature death Chairman of the Division of Humanities and curator of the mass of library and archival materials that was to be named the J. Horace Nunemaker Hispanic-American Collection.

It was Nunemaker who, while on a trip to Mexico to scout and buy books for the library around the time of the entry of the United States into World War II (December 1941-January 1942), acquired for Washington State University the first part of what was to constitute the Regla Papers. The material arrived in Pullman over a period of some little time, but in no order and not evidencing any previous arrangement. Dr. Nunemaker's students undertook paleographic transcriptions of some of the documents and Nunemaker himself published the records of two Inquisition trials found in the papers.1 In 1945 certain documents related to those acquired initially, but which could not leave Mexico and which Nunemaker apparently had arranged to have filmed, finally reached Pullman after innumerable delays and were added to the collection.

From the beginning it was Dr. Nunemaker's intention "to prepare a calendar . . . of the entire collection," thus disseminating it to a broad audience.2 His early death made this impossible. In 1949, however, the year of his death, Jacquelyn M. Melcher Gaines, a research assistant in Spanish, compiled a partial calendar in the form of a master's thesis.3 In the year following, Gaines continued the calendaring project, eventually doubling the size of the original calendar.4 Twelve years were to pass, however, before her Three Centuries of Mexican Documents: A Partial Calendar of the Regla Papers was published.5 Gaines's final effort, coming more than 20 years after the initial acquisition of the Regla Papers, and being incomplete and without an index, was, nevertheless, a step in the service of scholarship as envisioned by J. Horace Nunemaker.

In 1968 a large addition was made to the collection doubling it in size. Several smaller additions apparently also were made to the collection in the years before 1970, but the source or sources of these documents have been difficult, if not impossible, to track. They have been included here in the guide, however, and the lacuna regarding their provenance has been noted.

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Adelle Knox, a scholarly librarian in Holland Library at WSU, sought to shed more light on the collection. In addition to collecting and organizing—and sometimes supervising—the paleographic transcriptions made by Dr. Nunemaker's students and others, she prepared indices to the Gaines Calendar. She also undertook research into members of the Romero de Terreros family and other families related to the Counts of Regla, and into place names that appeared in the papers. The fruits of her considerable efforts with the collection were never published. They have been organized into a separate "Regla Supporting Materials" collection, however, and are available to
researchers on-site.

While scholars had discovered the collection and were beginning to tap into its riches, problems with the limited accessibility provided by the Gaines Calendar or, as was the case with the large addition in 1968, no access at all, continued to plague their efforts. In 1982-83, grant funding was secured from the L. J. Skaggs and Mary C. Skaggs Foundation of Oakland, California, to support a project to fully process and catalogue all the elements now comprising the Regla Papers preparatory to publishing a comprehensive guide to the collection.

The project team consisted of John F. Guido, Head of Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections, project director; Terry Abraham, formerly Manuscripts Librarian, supervisor; Dr. Lawrence Stark, Assistant Archivist, computer consultant, and later supervisor, and indispensable colleague; and three graduate students: Eric Dieterle, William Crampton, and Tomas Gomez. Professor John Kicza rendered valuable assistance throughout as advisor to the project. José Vargas, Archives Technician, assisted in a number of important ways, not the least of which was his intimacy with the Spanish language, as well as his knowledge of paleography.

The Skaggs Foundation renewed their grant support for a second year (1983-84), thus making it possible to bring the project to about a 90 percent completion level. It might be appropriate to note here that the Skaggs Foundation funds not only permitted us to undertake and all but complete the processing and cataloguing of an important body of historical documents, but to do so with the assistance of computers. At the time, the Regla project was in fact one of very few developmental projects in the country, if not indeed the only one, experimenting with the application of computers to archival projects. Today, some ten years later, computers are almost as commonplace in archives as in libraries.

While staff efforts were concentrated on completing the processing and cataloguing projects, solicitations were made for funds to publish a guide to the collection. The response was most gratifying. The plan of J. Horace Nunemaker to prepare a calendar of, or at the very least, produce a less time-consuming guide to the collection, articulated some 40 to 45 years before, appeared to be within our grasp.

Then something happened which threatened to undermine, if not negate, much of what had been accomplished. Early in 1988 the staff of Manuscripts, Archives and Special Collections discovered that a theft, or series of thefts, had taken place involving our collections. Among the hundreds of stolen books and thousands of pages of manuscripts purloined were unique materials from the collection of Regla Papers.

Publication plans for a guide were, for obvious reasons, put on hold, where they remained for several years. It was not until 1992 that the materials were retrieved from the control of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which broke the case and provided evidence for the prosecution of the perpetrator(s), and returned to Washington State University. With both relief and anticipation, publication plans were reinstituted in 1993.

It is with pleasure that I am able to acknowledge here those persons who have made possible the publication of this long-awaited guide to the Regla Papers. Just as all of us, past and present, who have been involved with the project are indebted to the Skaggs Foundation for their trust and confidence, so we are indebted to these people for their commitment, and perhaps more especially, their patience: Albert W. Thompson, Princeton, New Jersey; Robert and Adelle Knox, Altadena, California; Edward C. and Faythe N. Kundert, Laguna Hills, California; J. H. Nunemaker, Spokane, Washington; Mary E. Erikson, Lummi Island, Washington; Jacquelyn M. Gaines, Lummi Island, Washington; Josephine A. McClaskey, Seattle, Washington; and Irma Rooney, La Mesa, California.

I am equally sure they would have the thanks of J. Horace Nunemaker, if he were alive, for helping us fulfill his legacy by means of this guide after the passage of some 50 years. Finally, I am certain the guide and the efforts of everyone who has been involved with its compilation and production will earn the gratitude of Latin American scholars and researchers for making more accessible the papers of the Romero de Terreros family and other colonial and early national Mexican families.


1. J. Horace Nunemaker, "Inquisition Papers of Mexico. I. The Trial of Simón de León, 1647," Research Studies 14 (March 1946), 3-87. Josephine Yocum McClaskey, "Inquisition Papers of Mexico. II. The Trial of Luis de la Cruz, 1656," Research Studies 15 (March 1947), 3-107.

2. J. Horace Nunemaker, "Manuscript Papers of the Condes de Regla," Hispanic American Historical Review, xxv, No. 3, August, 1945.

3. "Calendar of the Unbound Papers and Documents in the Papeles de los Condes de Regla." Pullman, The State College of Washington, 1949. (Typescript, 167 l.)

4. "Calendar of the Unbound Papers and Documents in the Papeles de los Condes de Regla." Pullman, The State College of Washington, 1950. (Typescript, 341 l.)

5. Three Centuries of Mexican Documents: A Partial Calendar . . . was actually the publication of the extended typescript version of the "Calendar of the Unbound Papers and Documents . . ." described above. It was first published in Research Studies, 30, Nos. 3, 4 (1962); 31, Nos. 1, 2, 3 (1963), and later in 1963 reprinted as a separate publication by the Friends of the Library, Washington State University.