New Special Collections Acquisitions Support Teaching at Pepperdine

Rare books acquired include important editions of works by Charles Darwin, Mark Twain, and Thomas Merton, as well as critical volumes about the history of philosophy, art, and science.

MALIBU, CALIFORNIA, September 4, 2018 Pepperdine Libraries are pleased to announce important new acquisitions in support of teaching, learning, and research at Pepperdine. The acquisitions include the first American edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species, as well as the first edition of Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad, Twain’s first full-length work. In addition, the Libraries have also acquired the first edition of Thomas Merton’s The Ascent to Truth, a volume on sea anemones by leading Victorian marine biologist Philip Henry Gosse, an example of fore-edge painting on a book of nineteenth-century poetry, and the seventeenth-century British book that first introduced Descartes to the English-speaking world.


“We are indeed grateful for the prospects made possible by the acquisition of these works, and the more so because it indicates some of the most crucial values of libraries and the humanities,” said Michael Ditmore, Professor of English and Divisional Dean of Humanities and Teacher Education at Pepperdine University. “Each title – from a 1694 English treatment of Cartesian philosophy to a first printing of Mark Twain’s The Innocents Abroad and more – provides unpredictable opportunities for enriching our world understanding through the lens of material books: how books have been made, collected, and read – and have informed and reflected the world in the process.”


Decisions about the purchases were made in consultation with Pepperdine faculty from disciplines including science, philosophy, education, literature, history, religion, and art history. Faculty members were invited to view the items and offer feedback about the volumes that would best support research and student learning in their respective fields.


“Our acquisitions this year represent the breadth and depth of the teaching that takes place at Pepperdine,” said Dean of Libraries Mark Roosa. “We are so pleased at the enthusiastic response we received from our faculty when we solicited their thoughts on these materials. The new acquisitions will deepen our teaching collections and allow us to support student learning at Pepperdine in more robust and diverse ways.”


The Pepperdine Libraries plan to work collaboratively with faculty in making annual purchases of rare materials for Special Collections. Additionally, the Libraries will host several related programs during the year. The first event will be a lecture at 4 pm on October 29, 2018, by Dr. Edward Larson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author and Hugo Darling Chair of Law at Pepperdine University, on the American afterlife of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Register for the event here


The Boone Special Collections and Archives at Pepperdine University hold 6,801 rare books and 134 processed collections. Stored in an NEH grant-funded sustainable preservation and storage system, the department’s collections consist of rare book collections, the University Archives, the Malibu Historical Collection, the Churches of Christ Heritage Center, film and television archives, and other book and archival holdings, many of which are accessible to the public online through the Pepperdine Digital Collections. More information can be found at


With thirteen library locations, the Pepperdine Libraries serve nearly 8,000 students and 800 faculty at Pepperdine University’s campus sites in Southern California, Washington, D.C., and abroad. The Boone Special Collections are located in Payson Library, Pepperdine’s main campus library in Malibu, California. Payson Library reopened last fall after a 15-month, $22.4 million renovation. Influenced by Spanish Revival architecture, the new building design honors tradition while addressing 21st-century needs for digital integration and flexibility to accommodate diverse learning styles. The new additions range from a high-tech makerspace to expanded study areas that seamlessly integrate traditional setups with more informal seating configurations. More information can be found at


The new acquisitions:


Darwin, Charles. On the origin of species by means of natural selection, or the preservation of favoured races in the struggle for life. New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1860.

Published only a few months after the first British edition, the first American edition of On the Origin of Species was published with the help of Asa Gray, an American botanist and strong proponent for the integration of religion and science. It is considered the most important biological book ever written, with profound influence on our understanding of the world. This copy of the book has a newspaper article laid in, entitled, “Darwin and Darwinism – their Influence on Religion.”



Twain, Mark. The innocents abroad, or the new pilgrims’ progress. San Francisco: H.H. Bancroft; & Hartford, Conn; American Publishing Company, 1869.

Mark Twain’s first full-length work, The Innocents Abroad was a travelogue of Twain’s “great pleasure excursion” through Europe and the Holy Land. Sold by subscription, the book was Twain’s best-selling work during his lifetime, and this particular volume is a first printing of the first issue.



Le Grand, Anthony. An entire body of philosophy. According to the principles of the famous Renate Des Cartes, in three books. London: printed by Samuel Roycroft, 1694. Translated by Richard Blome

This beautifully illustrated book contains 98 engraved plates covering many topics and represents the first time Descartes’ philosophies were introduced in England. A French philosopher and theologian, Anthony Le Grand’s work in philosophy, mathematics, and science continues to be studied today.



Gosse, Philip Henry. Actinologia Britannica. A history of the British sea-anemones and corals. London: Van Voorst, 1860.

A prominent nineteenth-century zoologist, Philip Henry Gosse published many influential works on marine biology and led the Victorian fad for seawater aquariums. This study of sea anemones and corals is a first edition of the author’s most important work. The volume is in the original publisher’s cloth binding and contains 11 chromolithographs illustrating the marine life Gosse describes. Gosse also found posthumous fame as the titular father in his son Edmund’s memoir, Father and Son (1907), which describes Philip Henry Gosse’s staunch rejection of evolutionary theories and stern religious upbringing of his son.



Colthurst, E. Emmanuel. London: James Nisbet, 1833; Life: A poem, by the author of Emmanuel with explanatory notes. Cork: John Bolster, 1835; Home: by the author of Emmanuel and Life. Cork: John Bolster, 1836.

Three works bound into one, this volume contains the poems by an Irish poet, Miss E. Colthurst. The book contains an example of fore-edge painting, a decorative technique by which an image is painted onto the edge of the book pages so that they can only be seen when the pages of the book are fanned.



Merton, Thomas. The ascent to truth. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., [1951].

An influential Trappist Monk and scholar, Thomas Merton was a major twentieth-century Catholic voice for pacifism and civil rights activism. This copy of The Ascent to Truth is a first edition of his work, which puts forth his argument that truth and God can only be reached through mystic contemplation based on the doctrines of St. John of the Cross.




Read about Pepperdine Libraries’ acquisition of the books and papers of trailblazing African American scholar Marion Thompson Wright.


For more information, contact the Melissa Nykanen, Pepperdine University Libraries Boone Special Collections and Archives, at 310.506.4434 or

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New Special Collections Acquisitions Support Teaching at Pepperdine