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“Pacific Wine and Spirit Review” Now Being Scanned

Posted by winelibrarian on January 3, 2009

By Bo Simons

Internet Archive ( ) has begun to digitally scan The Pacific Wine and Spirit Review (PWSR), a project funded by Wine Librarians Association (WLA).  When the WLA met on September 15, 2008, at Cornell, we voted to fund the digitization of the San Francisco Public Library’s run of this important Nineteenth Century wine trade periodical.  While no exact date when the run of PWSR will be available has been announced, this marks continued progress on an effort that stretches back decades.

Susan Goldstein, City Archivist of San Francisco, reported to us in December, 2008, that:  “that the first three cartons of Pacific Wine and Spirit Reviews are at the scanners. Three more boxes are at our Preservation Dept. where they’re mending paper tears and other problems before being sent out for scanning. So we’re on our way!”

This announcing email from Susan caps over twenty-three years of searching for a way to make this important resource available.  Historian William Heintz began this odyssey to make the PWSR available in 1985.  In a letter to then-librarian John B. McConnell at UC Davis dated October 23, 1985, Heintz lamented the fact that no institution had a complete run of the periodical, and none had microfilmed what they had.  McConnell started the process that got those years that UC Davis and UC Berkeley owned microfilmed.  Unfortunately that only covered 1906 through 1919.  The full run goes back to 1879.  Over the years the periodical went through several name changes, from The San Francisco Merchant to The San Francisco Merchant/Viticulturist and The San Francisco Merchant/Pacific Wine And Spirit Review and the Pacific Wine, Spirit and Brewing Review.  There were some false starts trying to get copies from the California State Library and the Library of Congress whose holdings did not pan out to be any more extensive.

San Francisco Public Library had a run that went from 1883 to the periodical’s final issue at the start of Prohibition in 1919.  The problem was that these issues were beautifully but tightly bound, with no appreciable gutter.  That meant that to microfilm this treasure, it would be necessary to destroy the bibliographic integrity of this one-of-a-kind archival treasure.

This impasse held for a number of years.  Heintz brought this to the attention of the Wine Librarians Association at an early in 2000.  We retraced some of Heintz’s steps to verify that only San Francisco Public Library had the fullest run.

Then in October, 2005 officers of the Wine Librarians Association, Secretary Gail Unzelman, Treasurer Callie Konno, and myself, the President, drove to San Francisco.  We met with Susan Goldstein, manager of the San Francisco City Archives, at her offices on the 6th floor of the new San Francisco Public Library.   We explained our mission to make the PWSR available.  We thought there might be some new, less invasive digital technology that would get us past the “destroy the resource to save it” choice that had stymied us.

Susan had a great solution.  She coincidentally had been communicating with the Internet Archive and the Open Content Alliance about digitizing some of the Archives treasures, specifically old San Francisco City Directories.  The Internet Archive is a project spearheaded by Internet visionary Brewster Kahle as an entirely legal alternative to the Google Books Project.  They were scanning only out-of-copyright materials.  They were using the latest high tech gentle-on-rare-books scanners, and charging only a fraction of the costs in order to get content up on the Internet Archive.  Susan thought that, if the Wine Librarians Association agreed to pay the ten cents a page scanning fee for the approximately 20,000 pages of for the thirty-seven years of the Pacific Wine and Spirit Review, she would move the project up to the top.

It took us three years, from 2005 to 2008, to surmount several hurdles on this project.  SFPL had to do a trial run with the San Francisco City Directories, to see if the scanning and interface provided by Internet Archive met with their criteria and standards.   The Wine Librarians Association then had to meet after the green light from SFPL to appropriate the $2,000 to fund the project.  We took that vote in September at Cornell, and now Susan has reported the start of the scanning.  Stay tuned for details.


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