Skip to main content

William Gates papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: MSS 279

Scope and Contents

Containts transcripts, printers' proofs, grammars, vocabularies, dictionaries, glyph studies, botanical studies, commentaries, articles, editions of codices, personal correspondence, 44 original manuscripts, imprints, maps, charts, drawings, photographs, notes, memoranda, Maya Society materials, genealogies of Maya families, and Mayan glyphs on moveable type. Many of the items are reproductions. The materials relate to the languages history and archaeology of the Indian peoples of Central America, and emphasizes the Mayan and Aztec civilizations. Dated 1521-1947.


  • 1524-1947


Language of Materials

Materials in English, Spanish, French, and Native American languages.

Conditions Governing Access

Open for public research.

Conditions Governing Use

It is the responsibility of the researcher to obtain any necessary copyright clearances. Permission to publish material from William Gates papers must be obtained from the Supervisor of Reference Services and/or the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Board of Curators.

Biographical History

William Gates (1863-1940) was an author, linguist, archaeologist, collector, publisher, museum director, and president of the Maya Society.


152 boxes (76 linear ft.)

2 oversize boxes (2 linear ft.)

1 oversize folder (0.5 linear ft.)


Arranged in eleven series: 1. William Gates correspondence, 1899-1947. 2. William Gates papers on collecting activities, 1898-1940. 3. William Gate research notes, 1898-1940. 4. Writings, 1912-1922. 5. Institutional affiliations, 1912-1940. 6. Maya Society records, 1930-1940. 7. William Gates personalia, 1898-1940. 8. William Gates Mesoamerican source materials, 1593-1924. 9. William Gates collection of texts in native languages, 1521-1940. 10. William Gates ethnohistorical materials in European languages, 1521-1940. 11. William Gate photographs, postcards, and other material, 1960-1960.

Custodial History

The bulk of the collection was created by Gates over several years and was managed under the Maya Society, of which Gates was president. Upon Gates' death in 1940, the collection fell to his sister, Edith McComas, who was vice president of the society for many years. Many surplus publications were disposed of, and most original manuscripts that were once part of the collection were sold to Princeton University. Through the efforts of Dr. M Wells Jakeman, a Maya researcher who had previously appraised the collection for the estate, and other persons, Brigham Young University purchased the collection in 1946. Additional correspondence was donated by Ethel Jane Bunting in 1978.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Bulk of collection: Purchased; Edith McComas (sister of William Gates); 1946. Additional materials: Donated; Ethel Jane Bunting; 1978.


Utah and the American West and LDS cultural, social, and religious history (20th century Western & Mormon Manuscripts collection development policy, 5.VII, 2007).

Related Materials

See also the Garrett-Gates Mesoamerican Manuscripts Collection (C0744; Princeton University), the William Gates papers (Manuscripts/Collection 18; Tulane University), and the William Edmond Gates papers (MS-0148; Johns Hopkins University).

Register of William Gates papers
Under Revision
Gareth W. Lowe
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English in Latin script.

Repository Details

Part of the L. Tom Perry Special Collections Repository

1130 HBLL
Brigham Young University
Provo Utah 84602 United States