California Manuscript Collections

Are our books and periodicals just not enough for your research? Do you need to hold the primary sources? No problem! We have about 2,000 manuscript collections covering much of California's history. These incredible records contain historic gems like letters, diaries, corporate records, and legal papers, from people like John Sutter and Caryl Chessman. You can access finding aids detailing the contents of many of our manuscript collections, on our catalog and on Online Archive of California. We also have records for our smaller collections in the California Information File II. If you have any questions about these resources, please feel free to ask.

More Manuscripts

Our catalog records just barely hint at the richness of our manuscript collections. If you find an interesting looking collection online, you can request a copy of the detailed paper finding aid. However, it won't list everything in a collection. The best way to fully explore our manuscript collections is to plan to visit us. If you have any questions, please contact us.

Remote Access

Not able to make it into Sacramento? If a manuscript collection is smaller than 20 pages and is in good condition, you may be able to place a copy order for it. If you wish to place an order or want more information please contact us. If the collection is too large to copy you may be able to place an order for the collection to be microfilmed.


We permit no-flash photography of these materials and can arrange for low-resolution copies of up to 20 pages of our manuscript collections, depending on the item's format and condition. We can even arrange to have a collection microfilmed if necessary. If you have any questions about these services, please contact us.

  Manuscript News

Close-up of document with heavily stylized text: Ax Your Tax. Photo of a handwritten document, written in cursive. Photo of a stack of three documents, handwritten in cursive. The top document has a sketch of a three-masted ship.