Snake Bit Jones and More: History Colorado's Fiction Collection
A little-known part of History Colorado's archives is our small but interesting fiction collection.
Our Research Library is a closed-stacks library, which basically just means that our collection items are kept in secure storage areas that can be accessed only by library and curatorial staff. Since library visitors aren’t able to browse the shelves in person, they use our collection catalogs and work closely with our librarians to identify materials from the collection they want to see. Collection items are then brought out to the reading room for visitors to use and enjoy. This system works well for most of the things our researchers want to see—manuscript collections, maps, historic newspapers, photographs—but it does present an odd situation for our fiction holdings.
Most of us are accustomed to being able to browse shelves to find a novel or short story that appeals to us. Since that’s not possible in a closed-stacks environment, our fiction collection is often unknown to researchers. I’m one of a fortunate handful of people who gets to spend a lot of time in our closed stacks, so I catch glimpses of our fiction holdings pretty regularly. Here are a few fun things to know about this small but mighty section of our collection.
The fiction collection is eclectic. We’ve got everything from leather-bound first editions to mass-market paperbacks in dozens of different genres, and the dates span from the late 19th century through the 1990s. For some western authors such as Dane Coolidge, William MacLeod Raine, and Eugene Cunningham, we have a dozen or more titles, while for others (including James Michener), we have only one or two books.
We’ve waxed and waned in our collection of fiction material. Almost all of the fiction on our shelves has some sort of a Colorado connection (perhaps the story is set in Colorado, or written by a Colorado author, or published by a Colorado-based company), but our approach to collecting fiction has changed over time. With limited space and resources to devote to preserving material, we can’t possibly collect every book published that has a connection to Colorado. Our curatorial staff review each offer of new material with an eye toward overall fit with current collecting priorities.
Some of the titles are worthy of double-takes. Staff favorite titles include Snake Bit Jones; The Hermit of the Culebra Mountains, or The Adventures of Two Schoolboys in the Far West;Hell’s Hip Pocket;The Imprudent Rifle;A Good Rooster Crows Everywhere; and More Damn Tourists.
To browse more titles or plan your next read, try a word search in our online library catalog for the term “fic.” Our fiction collection is available to view here in the Hart Research Library anytime during open hours, Wednesday–Saturday, 10am–3pm. While we’re not able to check out our library materials for you to take home, we’ve got a bright, comfortable reading room full of Colorado sunshine, and we’re free and open to the public. Contact our librarians at email@example.com if you’re looking for specific titles or would like to know more about our library!