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Rare Books: Home

Rare Books

The Rare Book Collections consist of published items considered unique or rare. Many of the collections are focused on specific and specialized topics or time periods. Collections such as the Zamorano Eighty and Zamorano Select collections, include publications regarding California, Los Angeles, and Compton history, with the local history collection focusing on the South Bay of Los Angeles.

Other book collection include:

  • Boni-Liveright Publishers (1915-1930)
  • late 19th/early 20th century bestsellers
  • pulp paperbacks
  • World War II pocket paperbacks

Collecting topics include:

  • Latin and South America
  • aviation
  • railroad history
  • social justice
  • politics


Tip: Bring the title, author, year, and call number with you so we can find it for you faster. 

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Collection Highlights

Glen Schwendemann Collection

The Glen Schwendemann Collection includes nearly 500 books, dated 1556-1990, and was donated to the library in 2005. Schwendemann, a retired Torrance history teacher and bookbinder, personally rebound and repaired over 300 of the books. Mr. Schwendemann's interest in rare book collecting reflects both his interest in historic exploration and excavation, and his skill at repairing books damaged by misuse or age. In his garage/book bindery, Schwendemann would de-acidify the book, sew the binding and cover the book with decorative paper and a leather, cloth or vellum casing. The books are both beautiful and useable thanks to Schwendemann's expertise. Topics in the collection cover a wide range, including European expeditions of the Arctic, Africa, South America, and Tibet; ancient history; excavations and travel memoirs.

Local History Collection

Includes the local history collection, which consists of published material about Southern California, with a special focus on the South Bay of Los Angeles. The local history book collection complements the historic manuscripts in the Special Collections about the Rancho San Pedro.

Buckner Collection

The Buckner Collection consists of American popular culture reading materials, especially from the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.

Alfred and Bernice Ligon Aquarian Collection

This collection consists of rare books collected by Alfred and Bernice Ligon as the proprietors and founders of The longest continuously owned African American Bookstore in Los Angeles; their interests in African American history and culture; and studies and teaching of metaphysics, occultism, and black gnostic studies.

The Latin American Rare Book Bibliography Project partners the Gerth Archives & Special Collections with the History Department to present a valuable opportunity for students. The objectives are to help students develop bibliographic skills by exposing them to rare book collections at the University, sharpen skills needed to preserve history, introduce students to rare book digitization and cataloging and to create an exhibition in the Library. It is also a pilot project that we hope can be used as a model for books on other subjects.