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SCU Digital Collections

About this collection


The Mission Santa Clara Manuscript Collection consists of hundreds of manuscripts primarily written and collected by the Franciscan missionaries from the founding of the Mission in 1777 until the arrival of the Jesuits in 1851.


Archives & Special Collections has arranged and described the Mission Santa Clara manuscripts and created an initial finding aid for the collection, which has been published on the Online Archive of California. The collection is arranged into nine series: Series I: Sacramental Records; Series II: Informes (Mission Reports); Series III: Fr. Viader’s Miscellany Book; Series IV: Ecclesiastical and Governmental Correspondence; Series V: Secularization and the Formation of California’s First Diocese; Series VI: Personal Legal and Financial Records; Series VII: Music Manuscripts, Series VIII: Alta California Manuscripts, and Series IX: Pictorial Materials, Ephemera and Reproductions. The choirbooks are located in Series VII, Box 19.

We have digitized samples of items from each of the series and they can be accessed at the Mission Santa Clara Manuscripts collection.


images of choirbookThe main manuscript in Series VII is this large Choirbook for which Father Narciso Durán, from Mission San José, was the scribe. According to Craig Russell the Mission Santa Clara Choirbook, along with two other written by Father Durán, “constitute the richest and most invaluable anthologies of music from the mission period.” Father Durán´s Choirbook, which measures 21”x16”, consists of 149 vellum pages; its wood lids are covered with leather and their corners with beautifully decorated bronze.

The Choirbook contains the musical settings for many Masses, including the Ordinary (the invariable sections) as well as the Proper of the Saints and of the Time (the music that changes throughout the liturgical year to commemorate individual Saints as well as events in the life of Christ). Although based at Mission San Jose, Fr. Durán had a close musical collaboration with Mission Santa Clara, which led to his including the feast of Santa Clara “Día de Santa Clara fiesta de esta Misión” in this Choirbook (see page 23 and following). Ten pages are dedicated to commemorate the Mission’s patron saint (with music for the Proper and Divine Office). Other feasts particular to the Mission included in the Choirbook are those of San Francisco and our Lady of Guadalupe. Durán’s Choirbook represents different genres of music: plainchant, measured music for two and four voices (in colorful red and black notation), as well as music to be performed with instrumental accompaniment.


The Mission Santa Clara Manuscript collection has a smaller Choirbook written by the scribes Florencio Ibañez and Pedro Cabot, Franciscan missionaries (in Mission San Antonio and Mission Soledad). This Choirbook, partly written in 1812, consists of 85 pages and is bound in hide. Most of the music in Father Ibañez´s Choirbook is to observe the Proper of the Time and the Proper of the Saints (including San Francisco); it includes Requiem music as well. This Choirbook also reveals an intense devotion to the Lady of Guadalupe. The dominant music genre in the Choirbook is plainchant in Latin. The most striking element in Father Ibañez´s Choirbook is the use of a drum after singing the Alleluia for Pentecost, an incorporation of a Native American worship practice.



 The Mission Santa Clara Manuscript Collection also two brief music manuscripts: a Mass in the key of C (Mode 5) for four voices written in colored notation (the manuscript consists of five leaves); and a Mass of Saint Dominic, probably written out by Fray Pedro Cabot (two leaves).

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