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University of Southern California Libraries

Library Overview

The University of Southern California (USC) Libraries' Special Collections form the principal repository of the university's rare books, manuscripts, and archives. The collections hold more than 130,000 volumes of valuable books and serials, over 300 archival collections, and millions of manuscripts, photographs, films, sound recordings, and other primary research materials. Particular strengths include southern California regional history, American literature, Holocaust history, Lion Feuchtwanger and the German émigré experience, and natural history.

The first gift of rare books to the USC Libraries dates to 1911, making the University of Southern California the earliest institutional collector of rare books in Los Angeles. A Department of Special Collections was first organized in 1963 in the Edward L. Doheny Jr. Memorial Library, gathering the rare book and manuscript collections that had previously resided throughout the library. These collections included the American literature collection, a television and cinema collection—including screenplays—maps, wartime posters, and an oral history collection.

Among the rarest, oldest, and most valuable holdings are a 1306 bound-manuscript Breviarum, a chapter from an 11th-century Northern Song edition of Shi Ji, a fossilized mastodon bone at least 10,000 years old, and a set of plates of John James Audubon's double elephant folio Birds of America.

Significant rare items are held in the Hoose Philosophy Collection, the Hancock Natural History Collection, and the Boeckmann Latin American and Iberian Collection. The regional history collections document the history of Los Angeles through more than 2 million photographs from the California Historical Society, Los Angeles Examiner, and Dick Whittington photographic collections. The Visual History Archive of the USC Shoah Foundation Institute for Visual History and Education complements these resources by preserving and providing access to unpublished personal histories that otherwise would be lost. Many of these and other collections are accessible online through the USC Libraries Digital Archive at http://digarc.usc.edu/.

University of Southern California
Special Collections
Doheny Memorial Library Room 206
University Park Campus
Los Angeles, California 90089-0189
(213) 740-4035 (t)
(213) 740-2343 (f)