Science / Technology and Health

True Original

Written by John Popko, University Librarian

April 12, 2016

Title page of "On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection" by Charles Darwin

SU gratefully receives gift of rare Darwin book

David and Kathleen Rips, parents of Hannah ('16, English) recently contributed a rare book to Seattle University's Special Collections. It was the first time that David had ever given up an item from his personal collection as a gift. Only 1,150 copies of the first editions were published and only about 450 existing copies have been identified in personal and institutional collections. This copy of the book was a sentimental favorite of David’s. Following are the remarks University Librarian John Popko delivered at an April 5 celebration of the Rips' generous gift. 

A surprise can be a wonderful thing. That's how I felt when I read an email forwarded to me by the library's Coordinator of Collection Development, Mary Sepulveda, on February 12, asking if I might be interested in a potential gift to the library of a first edition of Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species . I leaped at the opportunity and Mary arranged a visit to the library 10 days later by the donor and his family, who are our special guests this afternoon - David, Kathleen, and Hannah Rips. Over the course of a delightful-and slightly suspenseful-hour and a half meeting, and bolstered by SU faculty members Mark Jordan, Kristin Hultgren, and Ted Fortier, we learned a little about the background and the motivation of our donor: 

  • that Dave inherited the optical manufacturing company from his father, who had invented the line-less bifocal-a version of which I am wearing right now, thank you
  • and, perhaps equally importantly, had inherited his father's small book collection. 

We learned that Dave has developed into a major book collector with a passion for science and for Darwin in particular, 

  • that he has an equal passion for the physicality of the manuscript and the printed book and for the sensual and emotional pleasures they can evoke,
  • and we learned about his pride in the successes of his daughter.  

And then we joyfully concluded that meeting with David's decision to make this generous donation to the university. 

This is an era in which we are all sensitive to the power and importance of science, technology, engineering and math-we all know it as STEM. This is also a special moment for the university, poised to design and construct a new Center for Science and Innovation. We are well-served to remember that scientific advances are built on a combination of established science and new evidence and that innovation emerges from a solid base of past discoveries carried forward with new applications. Charles Darwin was a giant in the history of human observation and thought, who embodied the hard work of basic science and the brilliance of innovation. He was a diligent, articulate and insightful scientist whose work, impact and influence have reverberated down the decades since the middle of the 19th century.  

Within the Special Collections portion of the library's resources resides a substantive collection of works by Darwin and by his contemporaries, works about Darwin, and about natural history and evolution. This collection was acquired by Paul Toutonghi and donated to the library many years ago by his son, John, an SU professor of physics. To be able to add an 1859 first edition of On the Origin of Species elevates the collection to a new level of significance, raises the profile of the library and the prestige of the university. It places at the disposal of our students and faculty a tangible copy, with all the power inherent in it, of the first appearance of this seminal work in the history of science. And David's generous gift has the potential to attract additional gifts to strengthen further our collections, perhaps in science, perhaps in other fields. 

David and Kathleen, for the confidence you have expressed in us by entrusting this volume to our care and our use, and by extension, for the contribution you have made to SU's academic community, I extend my sincere gratitude and appreciation.