Skip to main content Banner Image

Historic Collections (Rare Books & Manuscripts): Home

This guide will explore the various special collections held in the J. Paul Leonard Library including the fine arts materials, artists books, small press books, and historic children's books.

Artist Book Collection

Art courses first were offered in 1903; it became the Department of Drawing and Art in 1923 prepares students for careers in or related to the fine arts. The Department of Design and Industry traces its roots to teacher training.  Evelyn Susan Mayer (1889-1955) taught the first manual arts course, Art 7 “Craft” in 1926 where students learned manual arts as they created their own designs. Employing block printing, stenciling, painting, and dyeing, students made scarfs, pillows, lampshades, and bookends. Mayer was credited in some circles with introducing European influences in modern art to American art education, and students asked her to be the first faculty advisor for the Art Club. 

Creative Writing (1969) emphasizes the study and practice of imaginative writing in the genres of poetry, fiction, playwriting and non-fiction. In 1971, the Art Department began to offer Art 536 “Printmaking: Special Areas” that intensely focused on lithography, relief, itaglio and silkscreen. Later the course became informally known as the Friday Bookarts class which for a while during the late 1980s, and early 1990s had a special arrangement with the Press at Tuscany Alley. Our artist book collection directly serves this curriculum, but also draws students from Arts and Industry and other disciplines.


Spotlight: Edward Ruscha

Edward Ruscha was associated with the Pop Art movement and was influential in the emergence of artist books in the United States. Librarian Darlene Tong who selects in the subject of art for the J. Paul Leonard Library and who shaped the small artist book collections in Special Collections identified Ruscha’s books published in the 1960s as representative of “some of the first conceptually-based books created by artists that grew out of the influence of Dada and Fluxus.”

Welcome to Special Collections

Welcome to Special Collections (also known as Rare Books & Manuscripts) that houses the special collections of the J. Paul Leonard Library that support curriculum at San Francisco State University.

The Department hosts an eclectic array of materials that have been selected because they are unique, valuable, or rare. Sometimes we are asked why a common paperback has found its way into Special Collections: well, books may not hold monetary value, but rather, they may hold cultural value. We also have a selection of publications by faculty authors, though we have not the space for a comprehensive collection.

We hope that you will explore the Library's online catalog for specific holdings in Special Collections. The Following is a list of some of our distinct collections that can be found via the online catalog:

  • Marguerite Archer Collection of Historic Children's Book Materials
  • Artist Book Collection
  • Small Press Collection (Local Poets)

Some of our materials are not catalogs, so I have additional pages describing these materials.

  • Ephemera & Civil War Letter
  • NYA Costume Collection

More pages will be added as time permits, so stay tuned.

Primary Source: Journal from the Battle for Baltimore (1814)

Francis Rawn Shunk (1788-1848), the grandson of poor German immigrants who went on to become a Pennsylvania Governor, seemed to contradict many assumptions about Pennsylvania Germans when he sought to embrace the dominant Anglo-American effort to improve the common school system even as he fostered European sensibilities when he sought to diminish economic disparities for women and the poor. A manuscript from the Battle for Baltimore containing Shunk’s earliest extant writing is housed in the Marguerite Archer Collection of Historic Children's Materials at San Francisco State University, and reveals the thoughts of a sheltered young man awakening to opportunities available for upward mobility, and ultimately, his advice to his children to subsume their Germanic identity by dropping his family name.

The digitized form of this manuscript in the Digital Scholarship Center features the complete diary transcribed: just click on the TEXT tab at the top of the page.

Spotlight: John Magnani Memorial Collection

On the First Floor of the J. Paul Leonard Library, there is a small display of VESSELS located adjacent to the elevator lobby: these are from the John Magnani Memorial Collection. It is easy to walk past them, but take a moment to look closer: they are ceramics from a collection that was given in fond remembrance of a man who contributed much to the arts and crafts community in Northern California. John Magnani (1907-1960) was a co-founder of an organization called Designer-Craftsment of California, and these items were deemed to be examples of contemporary outstanding craftsmanship by that organization.

Spotlight: Pioneering Female Photographer

Laure Albin-Guillot (1879-1962) was married to a physician/scientist when she became a commercial photographer published in French photography journals. At a time when most photographers were not interested in the fine artistry using natural resources, Albin-Guillot tapped into her husband’s lifelong interest in micrography and collaborated with an innovator of carbon pigment printing named Pierre Fresson to create this stunning series of photomicrographs of crystals printed on various types of colored and metallic papers.

Art Collections (not circulating)

John Gutmann Collection

Art Professor John Gutmann started at San Francisco State in 1938.  He founded the Creative Photography Program at San Francisco State in 1946, the first program in the country to teach photography as a fine art.  He established the Art Movies series at San Francisco State exploring the Bay Areas experimental film industry between 1949 and 1963.


John Magnani Memorial Collection

John Magnani (1907-1960) was a professor of ceramics at San Francisco State University between 1949 and 1960. His aesthetic sensitivity and warm humanity touched generations of students. Exhibitions of his own work were held at the Museum of Modern Art, the California Legion of Honor, and the M. H. de Young Memorial Museum. In a television program called Success Story produced to celebrate San Francisco State College’s Dedication Week in October 1954 (housed in the San Francisco Bay Area Television Archive), Magnani Pottery talks about student work and the narrator observed, “The potter’s wheel is man’s oldest power tool.”


Simeon Pelenc Collection

French-born painter and muralist Simeon Pelenc (1873-1935) donated a collection of 56 artworks in pencil, watercolor, oil, pastel, tempero, sepia, along with some etchings to San Francisco State that are housed in the J. Paul Leonard Library. Although Pelenc was most widely known for his murals, he was also an esteemed impressionist in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Subject Guide

Meredith Eliassen
Office: (415) 405-4073

Gentleman's Magazine

The Gentleman's Magazine (1731-1914), created by Edward Cave (1691-1754) was the pioneering British periodical that established the "magazine" genre. It started as a storehouse of previously published essays and articles culled from popular contemporary books and pamphlets often condensed (as with later magazine called Reader's Digest). Samuel Johnson joined the staff in 1738 and began to contribute parlimentary reports and original material.

Books and Indexes to Gentleman's Magazine