Edwin R. A. Seligman, professor of economics in Columbia University has sold his private library of nearly 50,000 books, pamphlets and autograph letters in the field of economics, which he spent fifty years in acquiring and which is considered to be the most valuable economics library in the world, to Columbia University for a half million dollars, which is estimated to be only about one-sixth of its commercial value. Professor Seligman refused an offer of a million dollars for his library from Harvard University, and an offer of even greater sums made by the Japanese and Soviet governments, the latter of which was particularly anxious to get the library because it contains all of Karl Marx’s manifestoes on the subject of Communism, an almost complete collection of early English and American labor periodicals, etc.
It is said that Professor Seligman turned his collection over to Columbia for a fraction of its value because of sentiment. Having been professor at Columbia for so long a time, and having acquired so many honors there in connection with his work, he felt that he was almost under moral obligation to turn over his famous collection to that university.
Professor Seligman is a member of the well-known Jewish banking family of that name and is himself a rich man. He began collecting books and original documents bearing on the subject of economics as early as 1879. Since then he has searched the markets of the world for the most important books and writings of all kinds in the field of trade and finance. In 1895 he greatly extended his economics library when he bought the private collection of Albert B. Bowles of Philadelphia, a collection on which Mr. Bowles himself had spent fifty years. Subsequently he bought one-half of the collection of Thomas Francis Place of London, a distinguished economist of the early part of the nineteenth century, though a tailor by trade.