You are currently browsing the tag archive for the ‘special collections’ tag.

Daily Aztec

When the planes hit the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, U.S. newspapers had already printed and distributed their morning copies. Some newspapers included the headlines in their evening edition, but those with a single daily printing, like The Daily Aztec, carried the tragic news in the following day’s paper.

It’s interesting to take a look back and see how The Daily Aztec covered momentous events, such as 9/11 and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.newspaper2 In years past, copies of The Daily Aztec were bound in large, heavy volumes, which made it cumbersome to search for your item of interest. Now, the library has The Daily Aztec online…in all its incarnations (it was previously called The Aztec, Normal News Weekly, and The Paper Lantern). The issues date from now back to November 26, 1913, when it was called Normal News Weekly.

SDSU Student Newspapers” are one of the many digital collections featured on Special Collections and University Archives’ Website. The online newspapers are in PDF format, which means you won’t have ink rub off on your fingers!


In conjunction with our science fiction exhibit, “Strange Data, Infinite Possibilities,” the library is sponsoring a lecture series featuring three speakers who are well known to science fiction readers…and who also happen to have either studied or taught at San Diego State University!

Greg Bear
Friday, March 22, 2:00 p.m.
SDSU alumnus Greg Bear sold his first short story to Famous Science Fiction at age 15 and, along with high-school friends, helped found San Diego Comic-Con. At SDSU, he was a teaching assistant for Professor Elizabeth Chater’s science fiction course and went on to be a very successful writer of hard science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Bear is the recipient of two Hugo Awards and five Nebula Awards and has had more than 60 works published. His newest book, Halo: Silentium (Tor Books, 2013), will be available for signing at this wonderful kick-off event.
 Greg Bear
Larry McCaffery
Thursday, April 18, 2:00 p.m.
Growing up in the 1950s, Larry McCaffery was first exposed to science fiction via the work of Ray Bradbury, Theodore Sturgeon, Philip K. Dick, and Alfred Bester—and by the stream of “B movies” that were appearing. By the 1980s, he was teaching sci fi classes and discovering the many interactions occurring then between science fiction, film, rock music, and postmodern culture in general. During the next 20 years, he published a collection of interviews with innovative American sci fi authors (Across the Wounded Galaxies, 1991) and several fiction anthologies that featured sci fi authors, including Storming the Reality Studio: A Casebook of Cyberpunk and Postmodern SF (1992).
 Larry McCaffery
Vernor Vinge
Thursday, May 16, 7:00 p.m.
From 1972 to 2000, Vernor Vinge taught math and computer science at San Diego State University. In 1982, at a panel for AAAI-82, he proposed that in the near future, technology would accelerate the evolution of intelligence itself, leading to a kind of “singularity” beyond which merely human extrapolation was essentially impossible. Vinge sold his first science fiction story in 1964. His novella True Names (1981) is one of the earliest stories about cyberspace. Rainbows End (2006) looks at the implications of wearable computing and smart environments. Vinge has won five Hugos, including three for Best Novel. His latest novel is The Children of the Sky (2011).
 Vernor Vinge

All lectures will take place in Love Library Room 108, directly adjacent to the Donor Hall. For more information on the lecture series or the exhibit, please contact Special Collections at 619-594-6791. For information on visitor parking, please visit the parking information Web page. A map for disabled access is also available.

Strange Data, Infinite Possibilities exhibitIf you’ve been in the library lately, you’ve probably noticed that the walls of the Donor Hall are covered with weird, wonderful graphics and the display cases are full of vintage science fiction books, Star Wars and Dune figurines, and other mementos of imaginary worlds far, far beyond the borders of our galaxy. “Strange Data, Infinite Possibilities” is the latest exhibit created by Special Collections, and it contains items from several of the library’s largest sci fi collections, including the new Edward E. Marsh Collection.

The exhibit features works from many science fiction genres: fantasy, utopian and dystopian fiction, early weird fiction, postmodern, and cyberpunk, to name a few. While the famous and familiar are well represented—Star Trek, Blade Runner, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Greg Bear, and H.P. Lovecraft—it’s the offbeat little gems that caught my eye. Shouldn’t everyone’s bookcase contain a copy of Judith Merril’s Galaxy of Ghouls, the subtitle of which reads:  A Handy Guide for Vampires and Werewolves of Spells and Sorcery of Switches on Witches of Shape-Stealers and Soul-Swappers of Demons and Damnation?

Science fiction materialsThere’s more to “Strange Data” than just books. The exhibit features pulp fiction, sheet music, and original correspondence from authors such as Isaac Asimov. Ray Bradbury’s unproduced screenplay for The Martian Chronicles and L. Ron Hubbard’s original manual typewriter are on display; both items were part of Edward Marsh’s generous donation. My favorite item in the exhibit is Jeff Wayne’s 1978 concept album The War of the Worlds, which was narrated by Richard Burton and contains the hauntingly beautiful “Forever Autumn,” sung by Justin Hayward of The Moody Blues.

Set aside an hour one afternoon or evening and take a look at this exhibit. It’s worth your time.

edward goreyArtist/writer Edward Gorey would have turned 88 today. Known for his melancholy, sometimes surreal but also amusing illustrations, Gorey produced an amazing volume of work during his lifetime. He is perhaps best known for illustrating editions of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats by T.S. Eliot. Viewers of the PBS Mystery! series will remember Gorey’s eerie-yet-whimsical Edwardian-esque opening credits.

Blue Aspic

The SDSU Library has a large collection of Gorey’s work, thanks to SDSU alumnus Andreas Brown, who was a friend and benefactor of Gorey’s. The collection is housed in Special Collections and University Archives on the 4th floor of Manchester Hall/Library Addition. In fact, in spring 2004, the library presented an extensive exhibit of Gorey’s work titled “From Prodigy to Polymath: The Singular Journey of Edward Gorey.” The previous year, Special Collections featured a smaller exhibit titled “Poetic and Poisoned: The World of Edward Gorey.”  I’ve included a few photographs of the exhibits below. Brown also donated Gorey’s personal library to SDSU, and it currently is being cataloged.

If you would like to spend some time with Edward Gorey, view our catalog entries for the Edward Gorey Collection and select some you would like to see. The staff in Special Collections can access the items for you.

Display case from the exhibit "From Prodigy to Polymath: The Singular Journey of Edward Gorey."

Display case from the exhibit “From Prodigy to Polymath: The Singular Journey of Edward Gorey.”


Display case from the exhibit “From Prodigy to Polymath: The Singular Journey of Edward Gorey.”

Display case from the exhibit “Poetic and Poisoned: The World of Edward Gorey.”

Display case from the exhibit “Poetic and Poisoned: The World of Edward Gorey.”

Display case from the exhibit “Poetic and Poisoned: The World of Edward Gorey.”

Display case from the exhibit “Poetic and Poisoned: The World of Edward Gorey.”

You may have read the recent article in the San Diego Union-Tribune about the world-class science fiction collection donated to the SDSU Library by Escondido resident Edward Marsh. If you haven’t, you should, because this is a pretty spectacular collection of rare books, art, and artifacts. Let’s just say that when I saw a fraction of it arranged on the tables in Special Collections, I felt like I was looking at the El Dorado of science fiction, comics, fantasy, and pulp fiction. It’s breathtaking. Most of the collection is from the golden age of science fiction, and most of the works and photographs are signed first editions.

Below are some of the photos I took when Special Collections held a preview.




SDSU Library Receives $2.25M Collection (San Diego Union-Tribune, January 25, 2013)
Library Receives $2.25 Million Sci Fi Collection (SDSU’s NewsCenter)

Flamsteed's Atlas Coelestis

A hand-colored copy of Flamsteed’s Atlas Coelestis, dated 1753

You may have read in the news recently that a team of astronomers, including several researchers from SDSU, have discovered two planets orbiting a pair of suns roughly 5,000 light years from earth. Named Kepler-47, it is considered to be the first multi-planet system orbiting two suns (a binary star).

What you may not know is that the SDSU Library’s Special Collections Department has a remarkable collection of historic astronomy books and manuscripts, including works by Johannes Kepler, the German mathematician and astronomer for whom NASA’s Kepler Mission is named. The Historic Astronomy Collection also contains classic works by Copernicus, Brahe, Galileo, and Newton, to name a few.

The collection contains some extremely rare and valuable astronomy books that were printed between 1501 and 1650, including the collection’s crown jewel, Copernicus’ De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium. Lovely hand-colored celestial maps and accounts and predictions of astronomical events also provide a unique glimpse at humankind’s early steps toward understanding the universe.

Take a few minutes to browse our celestial collection online or stop by and see these unique works in person. It’s worth your time. And speaking of time, the collection also contains a fascinating body of work on horology—the science of time-keeping!

Comic-Con co-founders Mike Towry and Richard Alf

Comic-Con co-founders Mike Towry (left) and Richard Alf (right) in the early 1970s.

Considering the mega-event that Comic-Con International has now become, it’s hard to believe that the engine driving its creation was a small but enthusiastic cadre of local teen-agers. But that’s exactly how it came about.

One of those teen-agers was Richard Alf, a San Diego native and son of an SDSU psychology professor. Richard not only had a galaxy-size knowledge of comics, he had three things his fellow co-founders did not—a car, some cash from an already thriving mail order comics business, and a genius for organizing. In 1970, he served as co-chair of what was then “San Diego’s Golden State Comic-Con.” The following year, he became its chairman. Richard eventually gave up his volunteer positions at Comic-Con, opening his own comic book store—Comic Kingdom—in the mid-1970s, and later branching out into other businesses. However, he remained a well-known and respected authority on comics and all things Comic-Con.

Richard passed away in January 2012 at age 59. His mother, Martha Alf, gifted his papers to the SDSU Library’s Department of Special Collections in summer 2012. The new collection, “The Papers of Richard Alf,” consists of approximately 20 linear feet of various materials and document types related to Comic-Con conventions, his comic book business and store, original art by Jack Kirby and Scott Shaw, and material on the Empire Sign Company and other ventures he was involved in.

At Comic-Con 2012, a session titled “A Tribute to Richard Alf” was held on July 13, honoring the late co-founder. Rob Ray, the library’s head of Special Collections, served on this panel. The program description read: “Richard provided business sense, funds, transportation, energy, hard work, enthusiasm, good cheer, and social vision that proved essential to establishing Comic-Con as a viable institution.” The Alf papers should help document how Richard achieved this, and they’re a vital addition to the library’s unique and growing comics collection.

More about comics at the SDSU Library:
Comic Arts Committee Web Page

Harold K. BrownCongratulations to Harold K. Brown, the library’s 2012 recipient of the Monty Award! Brown was honored at an April 14 gala dinner and awards presentation at the U.S. Grant Hotel in downtown San Diego.

Brown is a prominent civil rights and community and economic development leader. He is an SDSU alumnus (class of 1959) who later became the first African American administrator at San Diego State University. While at SDSU, he organized the Black Studies courses into the Afro-American Studies Program and, as an associate dean in the College of Business Administration, he established the college’s Center for Community Economic Development.

More recently, Brown was instrumental in establishing the Harold K. Brown Civil Rights and African American Experience Collection, which is housed in the SDSU Library’s Special Collections and University Archives Department. The collection is an exceptional, full account of the struggles and progress of San Diego’s African Americans as told through unique, digitized personal papers, photographs, and oral histories.

Sponsored by the Alumni Association, the Monty Award is a symbol of achievement and success presented to distinguished alumni from each of SDSU’s seven academic colleges, Imperial Valley Campus and Library and Information Access. Distinguished service awards also are given to an exceptional alumni volunteer and an outstanding university employee.

If you would like to learn more about Harold Brown or the Collection, please visit the links below.

Harold K. Brown Oral History
Harold K. Brown Papers
SDSU NewsCenter Article on Harold Brown and the Collection
Creating Community Online Exhibit

magic lantern showLovers swing over the city on bell clappers, defend an Indian princess from the ghosts of Famine and Fever, battle rampaging billy goats, turn marble statues to living flesh, rescue Maidens-Fair from the Fearsome Fire, and send “Vinegar Valentines” to the people they hate.

It’s all from an age before television and movies, when the Victorians mixed boisterous fun and touching pathos in their Valentine’s entertainment. Now The American Magic-Lantern Theater has recreated a gay nineties “Victorian Valentine Show” that captures the wonder and hilarity of the period. The SDSU Library is presenting two performances—one at 10 a.m. and the other at 7 p.m.—on February 14 to celebrate both Valentine’s Day and the library’s magic lantern exhibit, “Sources of Wonder: The Homer and Betty Peabody Magic Lantern Collection.” The performances, which are appropriate for adults and children 6 and above, will be held in Room LL108, and admission is free.

The show uses an antique “magic-lantern”—the multimedia projector of 100 years ago. The lantern rapidly projects spectacular color slides on a movie screen. The slides, many of them animated, illustrate Victorian Valentine stories, songs, and comedy. They’re dramatized by a costumed showman, singers, musicians, and by the audience, which provides the sound effects, claps, stomps, and joins in chants and sing-alongs.

For more information, email

Magic lanternBefore television and motion pictures—before even filmstrips and slide projectors—magic lanterns entertained and educated people by projecting colorful and fantastic images on walls and screens. From the late 18th century through the early 20th century, showmen and conjurers traveled from town to town, their lanterns strapped to their back, performing in taverns, barns, homes, auditoriums, and churches.

Outside of antique stores and museums, magic lanterns are now scarce, but the San Diego State University Library and Information Access has a sizeable collection of these fascinating devices, as well as more than 4,000 glass slides. Through June 29, 2012, you can experience the marvel of magic lanterns at the library’s exhibit titled “Sources of Wonder: The Homer and Betty Peabody Magic Lantern Collection.” The lanterns and slides on display in the library’s Donor Hall were donated by Betty and Homer Peabody, for whom the collection is named.

magic lantern slide
The exhibit features around 30 professional, toy, and domestic lanterns dating from the late 19th to early 20th centuries and a large sampling of the different types and themes of slides, including caricature and comic slides, narrative slides, medical slides, elementary education slides, travel slides, temperance slides, and advertisement slides. It also includes a case displaying the different types of slides, including mechanical slides, as well as chromolithographic, photographic, and hand painted.

In conjunction with the exhibit, the American Magic-Lantern Theater will perform “A Victorian Valentine Show” on February 14. The show will be held at 7 p.m. in Room LL108 of the SDSU Library, and admission is free.

For more information about the collection and exhibit, please contact Special Collections at (619) 594-6791 or visit the online magic lantern exhibit. For exhibit hours, visit the Hours page on the library’s Website.

Flickr Photos

SDSU Library on Twitter

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2,189 other followers