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Special Collections Celebrates 40th Anniversary

by University Relations

In March, APU Libraries’ Special Collections celebrates 40 years of preserving the past and promoting academic study through more than 24,000 historical books, as well as manuscripts, documents, and other significant items of antiquity.

“Special Collections represents a rich tapestry of history that we interweave with the scholarship of the present, making the voices of the past relevant for today,” said Thomas F. Andrews, Ph.D., history professor and research historian for Special Collections. “Physically seeing and studying a historical book connects you to the past. We strive to be good stewards of preserving this legacy and making it available to future generations.”

Established in 1974, Special Collections began with the acquisition of several rare collections from the history of the West from George Fullerton and the early foundations of the city of Azusa, originally belonging to two families important to Southern California history. In its first three years, Special Collections grew exponentially, acquiring and receiving from donors vast collections representing both the history of California and the United States. The George Fullerton Collection includes approximately 6,450 Western American historical books, providing glimpses into the Lewis and Clark expedition, California Gold Rush, California missions, Native American life, railroads, the fur trade, and more.

Special Collections also features more than 450 Bible leaves and numerous biblical books, providing a comprehensive history of the Bible through artifacts. The collection includes a 1552 Tyndale New Testament, a 1611 King James Bible, medieval Bible leaves from the Latin Vulgate, a leaf from a 1455 Gutenberg Bible, and a leaf from a 1523 Luther Bible. In 2009, Special Collections acquired its most significant holding—five fragments of the Dead Sea Scrolls, recognized as one of the greatest archaeological discoveries to date. These manuscripts are dated between 100 BC and 50 AD and represent the oldest known recordings of the Hebrew Scriptures, testifying to the accuracy of the Bible.

The Magnus Collection, composed of 300 French and German books signed by their famous authors, also makes its home in Special Collections. It most notably features a copy of “Manuel D’Artillerie,” written and signed by Napoleon-Louis Bonaparte III. Another collection includes signed writings and music by Langston Hughes, a leading figure of the Harlem Renaissance. In addition to books and manuscripts, Special Collections also holds paintings, prints, etchings, coins, autographs, United States presidential signatures, and other historical artifacts.

These collections signal an increase of APU’s holdings compared to the level of other institutional collections. “Southern California offers a vibrant environment where scholars from around the globe can perform original research,” said Andrews. “Those same scholars are now drawn to APU Libraries’ Special Collections. Our holdings position Azusa Pacific alongside places like Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and the Huntington Library, among others, committed to preserving the great human stories of the past.”

On May 17, members of the university and community gather to celebrate the 40 years of achievements and the exciting future of Special Collections at an anniversary fundraising dinner featuring guest speaker David Zeidberg, Avery director of the Huntington Library. Attendees will have the opportunity to view rare books and other items from APU’s collections, also learning about the work ahead. “We constantly push for the conservation and repair of these priceless artifacts,” said Andrews. “Our 40th anniversary raises support and excitement about Special Collections, its value, and how others can join us in building this legacy.”

Originally published in the Spring '14 issue of APU Life. Download the full issue (PDF).