Manuscript Database Help

About the Manuscript Catalogue

The manuscript database was created to catalogue unique written or drawn materials (as distinct from published materials). These include log and record books, hand or typewritten manuscripts, letters, and drawings. As of this writing the database comprises the nearly 2,000 handwritten notebooks that constitute the lion's share of manuscript materials in the collection. These include individual observers' logbooks, telescope, instrument, and program logs, reduction books, meteorological and seismographic records, and others, dating from 1879 to the end of the twentieth century. Of the 85% that are dated, more than 90% were written before 1950, and nearly 40% before 1900. (Note that the Meridian Circle log books are not included in the catalogue at present.)

The data used to catalogue the notebooks are mostly those found on their covers, i.e., author(s), title, start and end dates, and program. But because the books were created by many hands, over many decades, and for a variety of purposes, their labeling is not uniform. About a fourth do not have authors' names and as many lack titles, and as noted above, some are even undated. To help with searches, we have assigned every book to at least one of ten categories. These are described below.

For the most part, the catalogue includes the information the cataloguer was able to learn from a book's cover and a quick look inside. Though more thorough descriptions of the contents would add value and utility to the catalogue, that work is beyond our current resources (that the catalogue exists at all is entirely thanks to Collection Project volunteers). However, as of this writing about 80 notebooks have been digitized and included in the catalogue as PDF files. That number is being slowly added to, with the aim of digitizing all the most interesting and historically important books. A PDF icon next to a book in a search result indicates that a digital copy is available. (N.B.: Most of the digitized books have been divided into two files to reduce download time, but the files are still large and may be slow to transfer. All digital files are copyright University of California Regents and the Lick Observatory Historical Collections Project.)

Search Terms

Note that if more than one search term is selected, only items matching all are returned.

Search by Category: All books belong to at least one of the listed categories, many to more than one.

Observer's Logs Up until about the middle of the twentieth century, the practice at Lick Observatory was for each astronomer to maintain his or her own separate observing logs which remained at the observatory as part of its permanent record. Over the decades, the personal observing logs came to number more than 750.

Program Logs This category includes the nearly 350 books whose titles identify them with a particular observing program, such as radial velocity observations or double star measures.

Telescope & Instrument Logs A comparatively small number of books (just over 100) have been assigned to this category—generally those which clearly attach to a particular telescope or instrument more than to an individual or program. However, a far greater number of books were used with or make reference to particular telescopes or instruments, so this category should not be regarded as conprehensive.

Eclipse Expedition Books In 1889 Lick Observatory inaugurated a forty-year program to observe total solar eclipses around the world. These books contain records of those expeditions. As with the Telescope and Instrument category, this is not comprehensive, as references to eclipse work also appear in other books.

Reduction Books More than 600 books are included in this category. Reduction books contain the usually computational records of the reduction and analysis of data gathered at some earlier time.

Mills Southern Expediton Logs These 100+ books, dating from 1903 to 1929, are associated with the work of the Lick southern observing station at Cerro San Cristobal, Chile.

36-inch Spectrograph Logs This category comprises the more than 280 log and reduction books associated with the Old and New Mills Spectrographs, for many years the workhorse instruments of the 36-inch Refractor.

Clock Books These books contain records of the observatory clocks and the once-critical timekeeping practices on Mt. Hamilton.

Meteorology & Seismology Weather and earthquake records.

Indices These few meta-books index other parts of this collection.

Search by Title Word(s): This search looks for matches in the "Title" and "Telescope/Instrument" fields. It will accept multiple, space-separated words, but remember that only records matching all search terms are returned.

Search by Author: Nearly three quarters of the notebooks are associated with one or more authors (the remainder being anonymous). Individual observers' logs, data reduction books, and others (see "Search by Category" above) bear the names of the astronomers, students, and assistants who contributed to them. Many have multiple authors; some individuals contributed to numerous books, others to only one. All authors' names represented in the collection are listed on this part of the search form. (N.B. Only one author's name may be selected for a given search, but all books to which he or she contributed—whether as sole or co-author—will be returned.)


This catalogue owes its existence in large measure to the work of two volunteers. Andrew Macica spent many hours in the plate vault on Mount Hamilton, taking each of the nearly 2,000 volumes in hand, patiently entering its particulars in the database. Paul Bricmont brought his keen eye, skill, and attention to detail to photographing the pages of the digitized volumes and assembling them into PDFs.