Compiler's Notes: Barstow Collection
Where do I begin! Through the Grace of God, through a Bahá'í I did not even know, I was given 70 boxes and 17 large filing cabinet drawers full of unorganized papers and periodicals that had belonged to a Mr. Dwight Barstow, then deceased about 15 years. That's a lot of paper! We had to rent a small moving truck to cart it to our home. About half of the bulk was not worth saving. I threw that half out, page by page, paper by paper, looking at each one. What was left is the most incredible private Bahá'í archive imaginable!
Dwight Barstow never married and left no heirs. His lifetime accumulation of papers has been stored for fifteen years in a garage of a friend of his, who finally decided to give it to someone who would sort them, store them, save them, or do whatever was best to be done with the material. My name was suggested to her by a mutual friend and I agreed to do it. That was February, 1999 and I've been busy with the material ever since.
Dwight became a Bahá'í and moved to the LA area in the late 40's. He began to collect old Bahá'í periodicals such as Star of the West, which led him to a position where he could help others collect such things as well. That grew into an operation he called the Bahá'í Periodical Exchange (BPE). Through the BPE, he helped dozens of folks and communities complete their periodical collections. Once a collection was completed, he endorsed having them professionally bound. I was told that in his effort to collect old Bahá'í periodicals, he made a habit of befriending "little old ladies" in the greater LA area. He befriended in particular the ones who had no Bahá'í heirs to whom to leave their Bahá'í papers, books and periodicals. And so his collection grew. I now have the remnants of his collections (not the books), which include tens of thousands of American Bahá'í News, as well as Star of the West and the older World Order magazines, as well as some other periodicals which are even more rare. (Do you know anybody who could use some old Bahá'í News? firstname.lastname@example.org)
One of the most surprising items I found while sorting through his boxes was typed copies of Tablets from `Abdu'l-Bahá to the early American believers. What was particularly surprising to me was that he had hundreds of them. I gathered together and photocopied these pages of typed copies of Tablets. The documents were so old that when handled, little pieces of paper flaked off. I wanted to photocopy them so I could read them without damaging the pages. Also, having come upon these wonderful, mostly unpublished documents so undeservedly as I had, I did not feel they were mine to keep without sharing them with others. I thought they looked like something that at least some Bahá'ís would like to read, rather than housing them in an archive where few, if any, would have access to them. The stack of photocopies made from them is more than three and a half inches high, 868 pages, a little less than two reams of paper. That is 9 pounds of paper! Whew!
I created a system of numbering the documents so that it is easy for me to identify them within the collection, in order to correspond with others regarding the documents, and to keep them separate from my other collections. I assigned each photocopied page a different number, and I marked the same number in pencil on the back side of each original, corresponding document. This allows me to refer directly to the original of any photocopied document, and to easily refer to any document with others to whom I have given copies.
Every page I numbered starts with "BC#" (Barstow Collection number). That way, there is no confusion with other numbers found on some of the documents made by previous owners. If a document has more than one page, each page of it is marked with the same document number, with different letters behind it. For example, document #200, a multi-paged document, is marked, BC# 200-A, BC# 200-B, etc., until end. Behind the last page of the document, I put a dash behind the letter to indicate that is the last page, as it is not always obvious. This system for numbering documents, with code letters first, has proven to be rather serendipitous, as I am now using it to keep all of my other collections organized and separated.
Once having photocopied and numbered them, I wanted to offer them to Bahá'ís, so I made an offer on Bahá'í Announce to see if anybody wanted them. I did get about 50 requests. I then photocopied the now numbered photocopies and shipped them worldwide, charging for costs and postage.
Reading and e-mail:
The next step was to actually read these photocopies. I read the same generation of photocopies as the ones I had shipped, so that if a word was undecipherable on my copy, I could look it up on the original. For those who received copies, I made an e-mail list. Via e-mail, I sent information regarding undecipherable words, tips about how to store and read the photocopies, and the history of the pages, which I call the "Barstow Collection", or BC. I e-mailed information to recipients when I identified where one was published, or if I found duplicate documents within the collection. If I learned that the document was available on the internet, I sent them the link to find it electronically. Additionally, I sent copies, by e-mail, of the few documents that I have reproduced by typing, as well as additional documents that were overlooked at the time of photocopying. Also, if anyone else had information to share about one of the documents, they too, could share it.
I made an index-type table of contents by hand, as I read, so that I would be able to find quotes I liked again. Now I have typed the index to share it with others.
Seldom when I sent notices out to the BC list has there been reason for anyone to respond. Nevertheless, a few have written to say thanks. I call it "fan mail" and I love it! This is my favorite:
"I will never be able to adequately thank you for this work you are sharing with me. My schedule has only permitted me to get through the first few documents. But your stream of information and clarifications has kept me anxious to really dive into this collection. Thank you a thousand times a thousand times!"
Before reading these documents, I had read every book published in English of the Bahá'í Writings. Every book I read gave me new information that was not in any other book. It took me 30 years to endeavor to undertake such a feat as finding and reading all those books. Before having done so, I had thought each book would have basically the same information as every other book, simply restated in a different way. What I found was that although every book does have restated material, it also has different material found nowhere else, answers to questions that for thirty years, I did not even know had been answered in the Bahá'í Writings. I was once told by a seeker that they had been told by a friend, "One thing about the Bahá'ís is they sure don't know much about what is in their Writings." How profound!
The Bahá'í Writings are a vast ocean, wonderful and exciting. It is impossible to define, at this point, exactly how vast. Now I have learned so much more additional information from reading these BC Tablets, answers to questions I had not read anywhere else, just as in every other book of the Bahá'í Writings. So much is not published! And so much that is published is so vastly under-read. So many solutions and answers are already given, but lost to obscurity. If we do not know the Teachings, how can we found a civilization built upon them? I leave you with this quote, something from the BC, written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual by Rúhíyyih Khánum, dated July 5, 1947:
"It is very easy indeed for him to understand how you, with your training [a psychologist], are often tested and irritated by your contact with some of the believers. But then you must remember that your advantages of a reasonable mind and a scientific education have not been given to all, and you cannot expect acceptance of Bahá'u'lláh's Teachings to endow people with these things automatically. But think of the kind of human beings, if brought up in the society He envisages, and taught in the homes, schools and universities which were the mirror and product of His teachings, which would be produced! There you would really have a new race of men.
I hope you find the index useful,
Shoghi Effendi, a.k.a., Shoghi Rabbani, spelled the name Shoghi several different ways until he finally settled on the above spelling. The documents of the Barstow Collection cover the time period wherein he experimented. The different spellings of Shoghi, as seen in the index, show how the name was spelled on the various documents.
"We have a letter written by Shoghi Effendi. . .to one of the secretaries of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in America. . .He signs his name "Choki Rabbani". He seems, in his early years, to have spelt his name this way, also sometimes "Shawki" or "Shogi". It eventually became "Shoghi", which conveyed more clearly its correct pronunciation in English. In a notebook of these Beirut days he has written his name out with its complete transliteration, Shawqi Rabbani, showing he was aware of this rendering - but he never used if for his own name."
Priceless Pearl, by Rúhíyyih Rabbani, page 20.
Handwritten names found on the upper right hand corner of some of the documents indicate the name of one who once owned the document, not unlike someone writing their name on the inside cover of a bound book for identification purposes. These Tablets were often loaned to others as we do books. These names do not reflect to whom the Tablet was written or who typed it.
In the index are notes that refer only to my private collection. Notes that say omit, moved, or refer to, or moved to, another file. This is because, I rearranged my photocopies and tossed a few, and added a few, as I read them. Please feel free to rearrange your copies as I did, or to totally ignore these types of notes.
With the electronic version of the index displaying on your computer screen, one can use the word search. I typed the index with this feature in mind.
Type a + (a plus sign) in word search and one could find all the Tablets available in electronic copy. With "date" one could find every date mentioned in the index. "Clarified" brings up undecipherable words that needed clarification and so on. Additional search words as to topics are; afterlife, before life, next world, Bible, historical, autobiographical, WWI, war, violators, covenant breakers, race, prayer, prophecy, station, dream, vision, women & business.