Richard H. Peterson, Book Review Editor
Mission in the Sierras; a Documentary History of San Antonio de Padua. Compiled by Msgr. Francis J. Weber. Hong Kong: Libra Press, 1981. 202 pp. No price given.
Reviewed by Rhoda E. Kruse, Senior Librarian, California Room, San Diego Public Library.
A number of years ago this reviewer represented the San Diego Historical Society at the First Annual Missions Conference held at Mission San Miguel. A high point of that conference was a field trip to Mission San Antonio de Padua. And what made that field trip memorable was seeing the mission in its unspoiled rural setting. No houses, no TV aerials, or other urban clutter marred the view. Mission San Antonio is the only mission so fortunate, and the experience of seeing the building much as it was almost two hundred years ago is unforgettable. Msgr. Weber emphasizes this unique feature in the latest in his series of documentary mission histories.
The documents and excerpts from printed sources are purportedly in chronological order; but upon closer study, one finds this arrangement not consistently adhered to. For instance, Item One, “Foundation of the Mission (1771),” is a quotation from Fr. Maynard Geiger’s 1959 biography of Fr. Serra. Item Two, also dated 1771, is a translation of part of an actual document of that period. This type of discrepancy, which recurs several times in the course of the book. will probably be more upsetting to the historian than the layman. To this reviewer, it is one evidence of this book’s need for further editing. Others include repetition of the same information, over and over again. Authors of the quotations and dates of original publication of their articles vary, but they seem to have been drawn from the same sources. Also, Msgr. Weber frequently supplies a brief paragraph of introduction concerning the original publication of the document or article he is quoting; in a number of these, the date in the paragraph varies from that in the chapter heading, often by up to ten years. So many “typos” cannot fail to raise a reader’s quizzical eyebrow. Lastly, several of the articles mention illustrations which, though necessary to an understanding of the text, are not reproduced in Msgr. Weber’s book.
The book’s time frame includes over two centuries, from the mission’s inception to its battles with the U.S. Army in the 1970s. A number of the sources quoted are relatively obscure. Hence it contains much information of interest to historians and others. Even with its flaws the book merits purchase. However, it is regrettable that what could have been a better book, isn’t.