The ruins of the Great Stone Church at San Juan Capistrano Mission

Zorro was born at a California mission.<br>
<br>
Figuratively speaking, that is. Author Johnston McCulley's first story about the black-masked crusader, published in 1919, was titled "The Curse of Capistrano" and set at Mission San Juan Capistrano. The first Zorro movie followed soon after.<br>
<br>
This revelation (on Page 71) is just one among many sacred and secular nuggets to be found in "The California Missions: History, Art, and Preservation" (Getty Publications, 276 pages, hardcover, $39.95), a new coffee table book that's both scholarly and, in the words of historian Kevin Starr, "sumptuous." It has 170 color illustrations, 100 more in black-and-white, enough to give your fourth-grader a substantial advantage when time comes for that build-a-mission-with-Popsicle-sticks assignment. (It lacks, however, a picture of Zorro. And there's not much practical information for a traveler.)<br>
<br>
Of course the missions story is tricky to tell, given the countless souls the friars intended to save, the tens of thousands of Native American lives lost, and the romantic fondness so many people have for the look of those old buildings. In their quest of photos, sketches and paintings, authors Edna E. Kimbro (who died in 2005), Julia G. Costello and Tevvy Ball, working for the Getty Conservation Institute, used sources as diverse as the <a class="taxInlineTagLink" id="OREDU00000197" title="UC Berkeley" href="/topic/education/colleges-universities/uc-berkeley-OREDU00000197.topic">UC Berkeley</a>'s Bancroft Library to the National Gallery of Art, where a trove of startling watercolors and drawings turned up.<br>
<br>
Here, only slightly sensationalized, are 10 more facts from the book, along with some images.<br>
<br>
-- Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times staff writer
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( Courtesy San Juan Capistrano Mission / From The California Missions, Getty Publications )

Zorro was born at a California mission.

Figuratively speaking, that is. Author Johnston McCulley's first story about the black-masked crusader, published in 1919, was titled "The Curse of Capistrano" and set at Mission San Juan Capistrano. The first Zorro movie followed soon after.

This revelation (on Page 71) is just one among many sacred and secular nuggets to be found in "The California Missions: History, Art, and Preservation" (Getty Publications, 276 pages, hardcover, $39.95), a new coffee table book that's both scholarly and, in the words of historian Kevin Starr, "sumptuous." It has 170 color illustrations, 100 more in black-and-white, enough to give your fourth-grader a substantial advantage when time comes for that build-a-mission-with-Popsicle-sticks assignment. (It lacks, however, a picture of Zorro. And there's not much practical information for a traveler.)

Of course the missions story is tricky to tell, given the countless souls the friars intended to save, the tens of thousands of Native American lives lost, and the romantic fondness so many people have for the look of those old buildings. In their quest of photos, sketches and paintings, authors Edna E. Kimbro (who died in 2005), Julia G. Costello and Tevvy Ball, working for the Getty Conservation Institute, used sources as diverse as the UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library to the National Gallery of Art, where a trove of startling watercolors and drawings turned up.

Here, only slightly sensationalized, are 10 more facts from the book, along with some images.

-- Christopher Reynolds, Los Angeles Times staff writer

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