Special Collections and Archives

Rare Books Collection

First Edition Collection

The First Edition Collection was launched in 1968 at the prompting of Cal Poly Pomona English professor and book dealer Dr. John Ray Butterworth. It was built systematically until the late 1980's when buying activity was forced to cease due to budgetary constraints. The First Edition Collection contains works by the following twentieth-century British and American authors:


  • Kingsley Amis
  • Joyce Cary
  • Graham Greene
  • John Masefield
  • Iris Murdoch
  • Harold Pinter
  • Alan Stilltoe
  • Murial Spark
  • Eveyln Waugh


  • Edward Albee
  • James Baldwin
  • John Barth
  • Saul Bellow
  • Bernard Malamud
  • Vladamir Nabokov
  • Philip Roth
  • William Styron
  • John Updike

Humphrey Mycology Collection

Special Collections has particularly strong holdings in the field of mycology thanks to the 1969 acquisition of the Clarence J. Humphrey mycology collection. Dr. Clarence John Humphrey (1882-1970) was a scientist and mycologist specializing in wood-destroying fungi. In 1969 the University Library acquired his book collection of over 300 titles, including a number of rare 18th and 19th century imprints in Latin, French and German focused on the subjects of botany and fungi.

Dr. Humphrey was one of the first mycologists to work internationally. After joining the U.S. Forest Service and earning a PhD in Botany (University of Wisconsin, 1922), he traveled to the Manila Bureau of Science where from 1926-1934 he was in charge of the mycological and plant pathological work for the Philippines. In 1932 he spent eight months traveling and studying in the famous herbariums of Great Britain, France, Norway, Holland, Germany, and the United States. Later he returned to the United States and became Regional Pathologist with the Soil Conservation Service at Safford, Arizona. He moved to Los Angeles in 1938 and worked in the pest control business until his retirement in 1954 at the age of 72.

Mycology is the branch of botany dealing with fungi. Originally the word referred to the study of mushrooms, which are among the largest and most dramatic looking fungi. Mushrooms have played a role in the religion and beliefs of certain Indian tribes. Although the systematic study of fungi has only been conducted over the last couple of centuries, ancient peoples were well aware of fungi as food, medicine, and poison and they were familiar with the process of biological fermentation such as that occurring in wine production and the baking of leavened bread.

Fungi are both destructive and beneficial, causing disintegration of organic matter and diseases in plants, animals and humans, yet aiding in the making of bread, wines, beers, certain cheeses, and a number of antibiotics. Fungi have important economic significance as they impact building construction and food production. The great potato famine in Europe during the 1840’s was caused by a fungal disease. It proved to be a turning point for the study of mycology and prompted an explosion of research on fungi by the western scientific community. Many of the books in the Humphrey Mycology Collection are early examples of the results of this pioneering research.



John Gill Modern Poetry Collection

John J. Gill (1924-1995) was a poet and small-press publisher who for nearly four decades was a leading spirit in advancing alternative and small press publishing. His avant-garde literary review New American and Canadian Poetry, dating from the 1960's, was the only small press journal cross-fertilizing the poetries of the two cultures and garnered praise as one of the ten best poetry magazines in the United States.

In 1997 through efforts by Dr. Carola Kaplan from the English and Foreign Languages Department, his widow Elaine Goldman Gill, donated to the Cal Poly Pomona University Library over 2600 titles of world poetry, with particularly fine holdings in twentieth-century American poetry. The titles, which had been collected by her husband, now comprise the John Gill Modern Poetry Collection.  A subsequent donation from Elaine Gill increased the collection to close to 5600 volumes.  Many emanate from small regional presses and contain autographs and inscriptions by their writers.  Although some of the books have been added to the library's circulating collection, the rarest and most distinctive titles are kept together as the Gill Collection and are housed within Special Collections.

From 1956 to 1965, John Gill was an assistant professor of English literature at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. He authored such books as: Young Man's Letter (1967), Gill's Blues (1969), Country Pleasures (1975), and From the Diary of Peter Doyle and Other Poems (1982). He also edited (with Elaine Gill) The Tongue-in-Cheek Proverb Book (1982).

John Gill started the press called New Books in 1966 in Trumansburg, New York, and initially specialized in publishing poetry. In 1969 he changed the name to The Crossing Press. His press published such landmarks as The Male Muse (1973), the first collection of gay poetry in the United States, Come to Power (1974), the first collection of Native American poetry in the United States, and Words From the House of the Dead (1974), a prison anthology smuggled out of Soledad prison. Throughout the years The Crossing Press launched poets with superbly designed and edited books.

In 1986 The Crossing Press moved to northern California. It ceased publishing poetry and began to focus on spiritual/alternative health books, as well as informational books offering readers tools for personal change. Elaine Goldman Gill continued to run the company until it was sold in 2002 to Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts.