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Saturday, November 26, 2022

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Edward E. Marsh Edward E. Marsh

New Gift Enhances “Golden Age” Science Fiction Collection

Edward Marsh has added to his previous contibution to the SDSU Library to support the materials' preservation and accessibility.
By Jeff Ristine

In his year as a postdoctoral research fellow at San Diego State University, Donald Westbrook came to regard the Malcolm A. Love Library’s Special Collections and University Archives as “truly astonishing and priceless.”

While working on a book about author L. Ron Hubbard and Scientology, Westbrook made extensive use of materials housed in the library’s Edward Marsh Golden Age of Science Fiction Room. Hubbard is among the primary subjects in a $2.25 million collection donated to the library in 2013 along with valuable first editions and ancillary material from such science-fiction greats as Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Ray Bradbury.

Due later this year from Cambridge University Press, the book would not have been possible without the SDSU archives, Westbrook said. In an email from his home in Texas, where he teaches remotely at San Jose State University, Westbrook wrote: “I predict that the Marsh Collections will continue to benefit SDSU and the broader scholarly community — in and out of California — for generations to come.”

The university and community benefit is exactly what Marsh has in mind with a new gift to support preservation and accessibility of the room’s materials.

Marsh wants the donation to support what he calls SDSU’s “tender loving care” of the collection — sparing materials from the garage sales and eBay offerings they might wind up in with less knowledgeable hands — as well as expenses faced by scholars hoping to access it for decades to come.

“SDSU is going to be there over a number of lifetimes,” Marsh said via Zoom, “and that’s why I felt really good about it. The least I could do was feed the energy to the program, specifying my wishes that they go to that purpose.”

Value to scholars

Scott Walter, SDSU dean of library and information access, said the new gift provides the library with a foundation for further engagement with students and scholars who want to integrate material from the collections into their teaching and scholarship.

“Given his interest in speculative fiction, it is no surprise that Ed Marsh has been among the most 'visionary' of donors to the SDSU Library, helping us to reshape our Special Collections into a major center for interdisciplinary teaching and study in this increasingly popular field,” Walter said. “As importantly, Mr. Marsh has provided us with critical resources needed to ensure enduring access to these materials through our preservation, conservation, and public programs.

“San Diego State is emerging as a leader in the study of speculative fiction as an increasingly significant feature of global popular culture,” Walter said, “and it is donors like Ed Marsh who are among our most important partners in supporting students and faculty doing this work.”

For researchers, Marsh said the value of the collection is not so much in the books as the correspondence and other supplementary material he collected and donated to the library, including the 19-page manuscript of a lecture delivered by Heinlein at an early science fiction convention.

The library protects many of the books with high-quality leather, clamshell preservation cases.

Walter said skilled collectors like Marsh “have demonstrated their passion for this field, and have identified San Diego State as a powerful partner in ensuring enduring access to these materials and finding innovative ways to share the lessons found in these works with our students and our community.”

Who’s due for the next great biography from materials housed in the science fiction collection?

Marsh pondered the question for a moment, offered and dismissed a few possibilities (Frank Herbert, Heinlein), and then settled on an author from the earliest days of the genre who wrote of time travel, Martians and things to come: H.G. Wells.