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Hoose Library of Philosophy: Collections, History, Art & Architecture and Digital Humanities Projects and Resources: GOMPERZ COLLECTION

A brief guide to the USC James Harmon Hoose Library of Philosophy and its rare book and manuscript special collections, history, and art and architecture. USC Libraries news, events, projects and services.

Definitions for Primary, Secondary and Tertiary sources

This information was copied directly from Librarian, Christal Young's Research Guide for HIST100 to learn more please click on the link to go directly to the HIST100 Research Guide. 

Primary vs. Secondary sources continued....

Understanding both the history of the discipline you are interested in and understanding the cultural, political, and social era of the particular text you are studying depends on reading and knowing history. History’s major activity is to gather evidence regarding the past, evaluate that evidence within the temporal scope of the period under study, and then access how that evidence contributes to our understanding of that period.

Historical research relies on a wide variety of sources, primary and secondary and oral tradition.

Primary Sources:

  • Eyewitness accounts of events
  • Oral or written testimony
  • Found in public records or legal documents, minutes of meetings, newspapers, diaries, letters, artifacts such as posters, billboards, photographs, drawings, papers
  • Located in university archives or special collections, or local historical society collections or privately owned collections

Secondary Sources:

Are scholarly interpretations and critiques of the historical period of interest that you are studying. In the study of modern history the difference between primary and secondary sources are usually clear. In ancient and medieval history this distinction is not so clear.

  • Secondhand accounts of events
  • Oral or written
  • Found in textbooks, encyclopedias, journal articles, newspapers, biographies, media such as film or tape recordings

Oral Tradition:

Helpful Research Guides

Gomperz Collection

Gomperz Collection

The Gomperz Library of Philosophy, formed in Vienna by the philosopher-scholars Theodor and Heinrich Gomperz during the latter part of the 19th century and first part of the 20th, was widely regarded as the finest of its kind in private hands. Shortly before World War II, with the support of the Mudd Foundation, the University purchased a major part of the collection, including some 3,500 volumes of original and early editions of European philosophy from about 1700 to 1850. 

Here may be found not only the earliest collected editions of the leading philosophers of the Enlightenment and Romanticism, and the encyclopoedias from Moreri through Bayle and Chauffepié to the Encyclopédie, ou dictionnaire raisonné des arts et des métieres, but also such individual works as Adam Smith’s Theory of Moral Sentiments, 1759, and Wealth of Nations, 1776Condillac’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. Here too are all but one (The Inaugural Dissertation, 1770) of the books of Immanuel Kant in first edition, including his three great Critiques and Allgemeine Naturgeschichte und Theorie des Himmels (1754); as well as all, or virtually all, of the works of the prolific Fichte, Schelling, Wolf and Schopenhauer in their original forms. A group of books by the early mechanist Julien Offray de la Mettrie, most of them rare and some extremely rare, provides introduction to the troubled world of modern materialism

The Gomperz Collection is housed in Special Collections.

To learn more about our Gomperz Collection for research and instructional services please contact me via my contact information located on the far right of this page or  Special Collections.

You may also contact:
Claude Zachary, University Archivist and Manuscript Librarian 
(213) 740 2587 
DML 220


Who were the Gomperz family?


Heinrich Gomperz was the son of Theodore Gomperz, the famous historian of Greek philosophy. Heinrich was connected to the logical positivists in Vienna before the 'Anschluss'. He came to USC right after the Nazi take over of Austria. Both he and his father had been rare book collectors.

Source: Public Art in LA by Ruth Wallach,

Source: A&E History Channel,

How did USC acquire the Gomperz collection?

Excerpt from thesis:

"In 1938, the property of all Viennese Jews was

confiscated by the government. This of course included

the Gomperz Library, Before the confiscation could be

effected, however, two important steps were taken to keep

the library from the Nazis. (1) Five to six thousand

volumes were given away or sold in Vienna. None of these

were philosophical works. Subject matter included German

literature, Austrian and Viennese history, European art,

psychoanalysis and medicine, and music (including the

scores of many classical compositions). Maria Zohrer,

Gomperz' one-time secretary,,arranged for the books to be

spirited away to the basement of a building a few blocks 

away This was done none too soon. Hitler had been

informed of the fabulous Gomperz library, and had

decided that he wanted the collection for himself. During

the war, the building containing the books was bombed.

But the books, packed in 85 crates taking up as much space

as a three-story building, were unharmed. When news of the

confiscation had reached Gomperz, he signed over the library

to the University of Southern California. The university, in turn,

spoke to the State Department. The U.S. ambassador in Vienna

warned the Nazis not to seize the library, which was now American

property. After the war, the Mayor of Vienna (who had

known the secret hiding place) revealed the hiding place

of the books to the U.S. Army. The University, when

notified, stated that Gomperz’ signing of the books over

to it was merely a "gentlemen's agreement" to protect the

collection, valued at more than $40,000. So, in 1948, the

university purchased 8363 bound volumes and more than

1000 pamphlets. These materials, plus the 3200 purchased

in 1937^ constitute the University of Southern California's

famous "Gomperz Collection.'" (pgs 9-10)

USC Libraries

Profile Photo
Dr. Melissa Miller
Dr. Melissa L. Miller
Faculty Head, Hoose Library of Philosophy / Humanities Librarian

Assistant Professor, Marshall School of Business: Master of Management in Library and Information Science (MMLIS) program

Subject Areas: Humanities; Philosophy; Religion; Classics; Anthropology; Linguistics


Additional research guides