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Special Collections *: About our Rare Book & Manuscript Collections

This is a guide to the Department of Special Collections at the University of Southern California and its holdings, including rare books and manuscripts. Useful tools for locating items and scheduling class visits are also included.

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Special Collections serves as the access point for the Libraries' holdings of rare books and manuscripts.

University of Southern California
Doheny Memorial Library, 2nd floor, South wing
3550 Trousdale Parkway
Los Angeles, CA 90089-0189


USC Libraries Hours


Information for first time users

Searching for Rare Books

To learn more about searching for Rare Books in Special Collections, please visit the Reading Early Printed Books guide.

USC Libraries hold many editions of early and rare texts. You may find them through a book search in Homer. However, to find the physical books housed in Special Collections, limiting a search to Special Collections will help you identify the books that we have.

Using the "Advanced Search" tab in in a USC Libraries search will help you get to books you need. Here are a few tips to help you limit your search:

By period:

Limit a search by a range of dates in the "Publication Date" box (eg. 1450-1520)

Special bibliographic features:

Limit a search to books with illustrations in the “word or phrase” box (eg. “ill.” or “illus.") You can combine searches by using two "word or phrase" boxes and changing the "And" logic box to "Or"

By publisher:

Add the publisher’s name in “Any Field”

By subject:

Locate subject headings in the Library of Congress authority headings catalog:

Example of authorized heading: “Books of hours”

You can also search by RBMS thesauri terms.


Is your book rare?

Many factors come into play in determining whether a book is rare or not. A helpful resource is Your Old Books, which is available from the ACRL Rare Books and Manuscripts Section Website.

What are incunabula?

The Gutenberg Bible, printed in 1453, was the first work printed with movable type in the West.  All books printed after it, and before 1501, are called incunabula because they were published in the earliest years of printing before many modern conventions such as title pages and pagination had become standardized.

Below please find a pdf with a list of all the books printed during this period in our collections.

Book Collections

The G. Edward Cassady, M.D. and Margaret Elizabeth Cassady, R.N, Lewis Carroll Collection is a collection of nearly 3,000 rare books, manuscripts and realia created or inspired by beloved children’s literature author, mathematician and writer Charles Dodgson, better known by his penn name, Lewis Carroll. Most well known for his first children’s novels, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There (1872), Carroll was a nineteenth century, British polymath with works spanning many disciplines, including but not limited to geometry, early photography, politics, logic and puzzles.

In 2000, San Francisco pediatrician and USC Alumnus Dr. George Cassady donated the collection, which is named for his parents, to USC Libraries, along with $100,000 to create an Alice symposium with the Huntington Library in 2006. Dr. Cassady continues to add to the book collection, which includes first editions, translations, artist books and specially illustrated editions of the ‘Alice’ books and Carroll’s other works. Illustrated editions include work by famous artists like Salvador Dali, Barry Moser and Ralph Steadman. Stage adaptations, film versions, Victorian-era playing cards and pop-up books are also included in the collection, along with Letters, manuscripts and critical works on Lewis Carroll. The collection also includes the Wonderland Award Archive of student work. A portion of the Lewis Carroll Collection is housed in the Horton Reading Room, Room 208, Doheny Memorial Library.


Illustrations: (Left) "Alice's Wonderful Dream" (artist unknown) from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll published circa 1903 by Homewood Publishing Company, (Right) "In Looking-Glass House" (artist unknown) from Through the Looking-Glass and What Alice Found There by Lewis Carroll, published in 1917 by DeWolfe, Fiske & Co. (Photos courtesy of USC Libraries).

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Professor Ralph Tyler Flewelling, as director of philosophy at USC and with the support of the Seeley Wintersmith Mudd Foundation, began developing the Hoose Library of Philosophy during the mid-1920’s. From the first, his plans embraced the acquisition of books possessing a combination of scholarly and bibliophilic qualities; by the time it was installed in impressive new quarters in Mudd Memorial Hall in 1930, the library contained a modest group of such volumes. Comprising approximately 2,500 volumes, they include manuscripts, incunabula, and such works asThomas Hobbe’s Leviathan (1651), and John Locke’s Essay Concerning Humane Understanding (1690). 

The eighteenth and nineteenth centuries are more systematically served. The Gomperz library of philosophy, formed in Vienna by the philosopher-scholars Theodor and Heinrich Gomperz during the latter part of the nineteenth century and first part of the twentieth, was widely regarded as the finest of its kind then in private hands. Shortly before World War II, again with the support of the Mudd Foundation, the University purchased a major part of the collection, including some 3,500 volumes of first and early editions of European philosophy published between 1700 and 1850. Amounting to less than a third of the entire acquisition, these so-called "modern" books nevertheless constitute by far its most homogeneous part--and by reason of their scarcity and importance, the most valuable. Here may be found the earliest collected editions of the leading philosophers of the Enlightenment and Romanticism periods, as well as encyclopedias from Moreri through Bayle and Chauffepié to the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des arts et des métieres.  The collection also houses  distinguished individual works such as Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759) and Wealth of Nations (1776); Condillac’s Traité des sensations (1754); Helvétius’ De l’esprit (1758); and Hume’s Treatise of Human Nature (1739-1740)--the latter with marginal corrections in the hand of the author. The library also houses all of the works of Immanuel Kant in first edition (with the exception of The Inaugural Dissertation, 1770), as well as almost all of the works of the prolific Fichte, Schelling, Wolf, and Schopenhauer in their original forms. A remarkable group of books by the early mechanist Julien Offray de la Mettrie, most of them rare and some extremely rare, provides an introduction to the troubled world of modern materialism.


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The Feuchtwanger Memorial Library was given to the University of Southern California by Marta Feuchtwanger, the widow of the German exile writer, Lion Feuchtwanger. In all, the Library contains nearly 30,000 volumes. Some 8,000 of the rarest books are housed on the USC campus, while 20,000 volumes remain on long-term loan at the Feuchtwanger's former residence, Villa Aurora, in Pacific Palisades.

Photo by W. Bondy, courtesy of Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, USC Libraries.



Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958) fled Europe during World War II and lived in Los Angeles from 1941 until his death in 1958. He began his literary career as a theater critic and turned his talent to writing plays in the 1910s and 1920s. He first became internationally known, however, for his historical novel Jud Süss published in 1925. During his seventeen years in Southern California, he wrote primarily historical fiction including: Waffen für Amerika, also called Die Füchse im Weinberg (1947-48; Proud Destiny), Goya oder Der arge Weg der Erkenntnis (1951; This is the Hour, a Novel about Goya), Spanische Ballade, also called Die Jüdin von Toledo (1955; Raquel, the Jewess of Toledo), and Jefta und seine Tochter (1957; Jephta and his Daughter). Feuchtwanger's library reflects his interests in different historical periods and contains several noteworthy smaller collections of primary and secondary sources focusing on such subjects as Greek and Latin classics, Jewish and biblical history, the Enlightenment, French Revolution, German literature, and exile literature.

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Although artists have been involved in the illustration, design and printing of books for centuries, it was not until the late 20th century that the artist’s book began to be regarded as a distinct genre. Paying homage to the visionary work of English author William Blake - and with roots in Dadaism, surrealism and Russian Futurism - an artist’s book is limited only by his or her imagination.

The USC Libraries hold an extensive collection of rare artists’ books in Special Collections, including several examples of limited-edition works by award-winning artist Carol Schwartzott, including Beyond Ichthyology: Selected Artistic Adventures (2005).

Artist's books are typically handcrafted bound volumes that include a variety of art forms. 



 Carol Schwartzott, Beyond Ichthyology: Selected Artistic Adventures (2005. Photo courtesy of USC Libraries.

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Numbering some 65,000 volumes, this author-based collection of North American writing emphasizes the period from 1850 to 1975.  






Tip Top Weekly no. 449, November 19, 1904. This illustration is for "Frank Merriwell's Jeopardy or The Wolves of the Woods" by Burt L. Standish.

The collection contains Hamlin Garland's (1860-1940) library. A younger contemporary and acquaintance of Mark Twain, Garland became known for writing in realistic fashion about the upper Midwest when it was still the frontier. Later, his interest turned to the Rockies and the Far West; he spent his last decade in Los Angeles lecturing at USC, where he was welcomed as the "Dean of American Letters."  Special Collections also houses Garland's papers; see the "About our Archival Collections" tab in this guide.


The American Literature Collection also contains files of Ambrose Bierce's seldom-seen journalism. Bierce is usually known for his Devil's Dictionary and for the much-anthologized "Incident at Owl's Creek Bridge" and other Civil War stories. Most of his other writing was for various papers and magazines; USC houses a large amount of this material. The Collection also includes letters and articles written by his younger contemporary Jack London, including many of his largely forgotten books. 

Another area of strength is the materials collected by Lawrence Lipton that include recordings, magazines, and ephemera from Los Angeles's answer to the Beat Poetry movement in San Francisco, Lipton having been the guru and catalyst of the Venice "coffee-house scene." 



The American Literature Collection dates back to 1949. To date, there have been seven curators:


•    Lloyd Arvidson    1949 - 1966
•    Glenn Bunday     1966 - 1976
•    Heddy Richter     1976 - 1981
•    William Jankos    1981 - 1986
•    Loss Glazier        1986 - 1988
•    John Ahouse       1990 -  2005

•    Melinda Hayes     2005 -


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Special Collections

Unique on the West Coast, the Boeckmann Center was established in 1985 with generous support from Mr. and Mrs. Herbert F. Boeckmann II and encouragement from faculty with related instructional and research interests. The Boeckmann Center serves as a link between the library's collections and services and the scholarly activities of faculty and students in the areas of Iberian, Latin American and Chicano/Latino studies. The Center's materials include an 80,000 volume donation from Mr. and Mrs. Boeckmann and several smaller distinguished collections, including the Luis Andres Murillo Cervantes Collection and the Radell and Lorente Cuban and Cuban Exiles Studies Collections. The collection achieves its distinction by virtue of the geographical coverage which includes the Luso-Hispanic world, the historical and chronological coverage from pre-Columbian times to the present, and the interdisciplinary and multilingual nature of its holdings covering the social sciences, humanities and arts in Spanish and Portuguese, with selections in English, French, German and other European and native Latin American languages.

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University Archives (faculty publications)

Max Reinhardt Collection (published plays in German)

Hancock Collections & Archives (books and other published materials in natural science)

Holocaust Studies Collection (primary and secondary sources on the Holocaust)

Regional History Collection (Southern California history)

Maximilian collection (books on Mexican Emperor Maximilian and his times)

Charles Darwin collection (books by and about Darwin, his grandfather Erasmus, his son Francis, and the theory of evolution)


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