Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor
Indian Life at the Old Missions. By Edith Buckland Webb. Reprint Edition. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982. Illustrations. Maps. Bibliography. Index. 326 Pages. $35.00
Indian Life at the Old Missions is one of the most beautiful books to come across the book review editor’s desk. This is a University of Nebraska reprint of Edith Buckland Webb’s 1952 book, which was neither well distributed nor widely reviewed in its original edition. Thus this reprint is welcome, although the price will keep the book out of the hands of many. (That is not to say the price is unfair, as the book features quality paper, fine illustrations, and is oversized). Indian Life at the Old Missions is the culmination of almost a lifetime of work by Webb. She was an artist who launched a project to paint each of the California missions; eventually this was expanded to include a model of each mission. The research for the artistic projects produced this book, as Webb’s interest in her research overcame her artistic objectives. She worked extensively in published literature, manuscripts, interviewed many old people, and visited the missions. Her book dealt with the founding of the missions, but focused on life in them. She dealt with food, dress, agriculture, water, orchards, buildings, artisans, gristmills, stock and vaqueros, hides and tallow, wool, weaving, wine and olive oil making, Indian artists and musicians and pageantry. Although touched with her generation’s romanticization of mission life, the book is restrained for the period. If used with some care, Indian Life at the Old Missions is still a very useful book.