Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature
The Goldsmiths' Library includes over 70,000 items from the 15th to the 21st century covering all aspects of economic and social history
Subject: Economics; economic history (social sciences)
Comprising a broad range of material of particular value for economic and social history, the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature contains some 70,000 printed books, pamphlets, periodicals, manuscripts, broadsides and proclamations from the fifteenth to the twentieth centuries, with particular strengths to 1850. It began as a collection to support a scholarly edition (never completed) of Adam Smith’s An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations (1776) but soon expanded.
Subjects covered include economic thought, financial and monetary policy, early English and French socialism, slavery, railway history, temperance and the condition of the people. Such is its comprehensive that booksellers use the phrase “Not in Goldsmiths” to denote rarity. Texts range from the first editions of economic landmarks—works by Malthus, Ricardo and so forth—to obscure anonymous items. Some former owners include Adam Smith, Arthur Young, David Ricardo, Richard Oastler, James Turner, Victor Considérant, Robert Owen and William Pare. A particular treasure is a copy of Das Kapital inscribed by Karl Marx to a fellow German exile, Peter Imandt. Further subject coverage information can be found below.
The collection is based on the library of some 30,000 items of Herbert Somerton Foxwell (1849-1936; see ODNB), an academic economist and bibliophile at London and Cambridge who described his library as as ‘a collection of books and tracts intended to serve as the basis for the study of the industrial, commercial, monetary and financial history of the United Kingdom, as well as of the gradual development of economic science generally’. Read more about the brief history of this collection below. Foxwell noted salient features about items or their provenance on about one-fifth of his books or pamphlets.
The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths purchased Foxwell’s collection in 1901 on the initiative of their Clerk, Sir Walter Prideaux, and presented it to the University of London in 1903. Gifts from the Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths have enabled Senate House Library to augment the collection ever since. Additions have included the purchase of the Goldsmith's Library supplementary collections: The Sabatier Collection (1906), Sheffield Collection (1907), Rastrick Collection (1908), Temperance Collection (1930) and Reform Club pamphlets (1964). More information on the Goldsmith's Library supplementary collections can be found below.
Franciscus de Platea, Opus Restitutionum Usurarum, Excommunicationum (1472)
Adam Smith, An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations, 3rd edn (1784)
The Bubblers Mirrour (1720)
J.W. Carmichael, Views on the Newcastle and Carlisle Railway (1836)
MS184, Accounts of the Royal Household
Catalogued online from microfilms and cards; for copy-specific information, it is necessary to consult the books themselves. For an overview of the library, do a mixed classmark search on [G.L.] or, for items acquired before 1982, see the printed catalogue (see below).
Access to the full text of most items in the Goldsmiths’ Library published before 1851 and some published 1851-1914 is available via The Making of the Modern World.
Much material beginning with the classmark [G.L.] immediately followed by a letter is held offsite and requires 48 hours (excluding weekends) to be fetched.
- Family Welfare Association Library, University of London
- Porteus Library, University of London
- MS1163 Manton Marble Collection, University of London Archives (American politics, foreign relations, economic matters)
- UL/1/7, ‘The Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature, 1903-1953’ (description of the collection)
- MS602, MS789, MS790, MS1115, MS1166 (invoices, correspondence, etc. concerning Foxwell and the Goldsmiths’ Library)
- Canney, Margaret and David Knott, Catalogue of the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature (5 vols.; London: Cambridge University Press, 1970-1995). Includes description of Foxwell and the library by J.H.P. Pafford, vol. 1, pp. ix-xxi.
- Canney, Margaret, Robert Owen, 1771-1868: Catalogue of an Exhibition of Printed Books held in the Library of the University of London, October-December 1958 (London: [University of London Library], 1959).
Herbert Somerton Foxwell and the Goldsmiths’ Library: A Brief History
Foxwell as Bibliophile
Despite the heavy demands of his academic calling, Foxwell’s real passion was always for the hunting and gathering of books, particularly in the field of economics. He was a dedicated book-collector and bibliophile, and, even more than this, an instructed and deeply informed collector, not simply as a bibliographer but as an eminent scholar in the field.
Whenever and wherever he could, he hunted books with energy and skill. He used lunch hours, periods between lectures, and holidays to haunt bookshops and street book-stalls. No present pleased him more than a book.
Yet Foxwell was far from wealthy and this fact makes it even more extraordinary that ‘hemanaged to carry on as one of the largest scale book-collectors in the world’, as Keynes phrased it in his obituary. It is indeed extraordinary, but it must be remembered that Foxwell was not collecting in a high-priced field.
While others were after treasures, Foxwell was spending far less. His first purchase was Lardner’s Railway Economy, which he bought in 1875 for 6d, and it was certainly not the only one to cost so little.
Since Foxwell’s collecting was in large numbers of small purchases which were often cash transactions, there are few records of his dealings with booksellers. He would sometimes dispose of unwanted books by selling them; and it is known from a letter of 22 July 1901 to E.R.A. Seligman, that he did at times send such books to one bookseller.
“The Goldsmiths’ Company have bought my library“, he wrote. “If it finds a home near me I, shall probably sell my duplicates shall probably sell some ‘triplicates’ in any case. I have an arrangement with Wm. Muller, 59 Castle Street East, Oxford Street, W., by which I hand them over to him; to avoid disputes between would-be purchasers. I will tell Muller to send you his catalogues.”
Foxwell, a true book lover, took a special interest in the physical quality of his books and in their provenance. He frequently bought a second or third copy of a book which had an important history, and the fly-leaves of many volumes in the Goldsmiths’ Library contain his interesting notes on their provenance.
Foxwell described the Library as:
[A] collection of books and tracts intended to serve as the basis for the study of the industrial, commercial, monetary and financial history of the United Kingdom, as well as of the gradual development of economic science generally.Foxwell, Goldsmiths and Kress
Professor Foxwell made four collections during his life time, two major and two minor. The first major collection is the nucleus of the Goldsmiths’ Library, sold in 1901, and the first minor collection presumably consists of the books added to the collection between 1901 and 1913.
The two other collections were ultimately combined to form the nucleus of the Kress Library of Business and Economics at Harvard University.The database Making of the Modern World and the microfilms behind it, the Goldsmiths-Kress Library of Economic Literature, combine the collections.
Until 1937, inadequate premises in South Kensington rendered it impossible to house the Goldsmiths’ Library properly. In that year, the Goldsmiths’ Library was installed in the Goldsmiths’ Library room in Senate House, then an impressive new building in Bloomsbury. The room was built and beautifully furnished by the generosity of the Goldsmiths’ Company. The architect of the Senate House and Library was Dr Charles Holden, who always took particular and justifiable pride in the Goldsmiths’ Library room.
Measuring 87 feet by 33 feet and seating 80 readers, the room is fitted with glazed bookcases of English walnut which line the walls and, projecting into the room, form bays between which are built 8 study carrels. The ceiling is of South American cypress wood with panels framed in gold. The windows are glazed with hand-made rectangular Norman slabs and at the south end, a stained glass window by Bossanyi. Over the entrance is an inscription recording the presentation by the Company of the collection in 1903 and of the room in 1937.
Subject coverage of the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature
An excellent insight into the diverse subject coverage of the Goldsmiths’ Library collection can be found in the subject arrangement that was devised for the printed Catalogue of the Goldsmiths’ Library of Economic Literature.
The basic chronological arrangement of the items in the library itself is followed in this printed catalogue, and supplemented by the adoption of fourteen general subject divisions. Eight of these subject divisions are the same as those named by L.W. Hanson, in his seminal bibliography Contemporary Printed Sources for British and Irish Economic History 1701-1750.
To these have been added the headings “Corn Laws”, “Population”, “Slavery” and “Socialism”, which, although they might equally well have been included within the larger subjects, have been given separate headings because they represent subjects in which the Goldsmiths’ Library possesses material of special interest.
“Politics” and “Miscellaneous” have also been added for subjects which, though found in the collection, are not strictly economic. The full list is given below; together with some of the less obvious subjects included in each.
- General. Including general treatises on sociology and political science as well as economics; topography, and the theoretical and general aspects of emigration.
- Agriculture. Including fishing, mining, surveying and landed property in all its aspects, except tithes.
- Corn Laws. Including their agricultural, financial and commercial aspects.
- Trades & Manufactures. Including practical manuals and technology in general.
- Commerce. Including shipping, piracy and smuggling.
- Colonies. Including all subjects relating to particular colonial areas, but not usually those concerning the relationship between the mother country and the colonies.
- Finance. Including, coinage, numismatics and tithes.
- Transport. Including transport technology.
- Social Conditions. Including public order, public utilities, debtor and creditor (except discussions from a financial standpoint), penology, criminology, trades unions and temperance.
- Politics. Including some political theory.
- Socialism. Limited to theoretical works on the subject and not including works on other subjects from a socialist viewpoint.
- Miscellaneous. Including national defence, local government, subjects not relevant to the social sciences (e.g. theology), and the unclassifiable.
Goldsmiths’ Library supplementary collections
The collection of John Urpeth Rastrick, civil and mechanical engineer, and railway pioneer. In 1908, 250 items from the collection were bought with a grant from the Goldsmiths’ Company, and incorporated into the transport history section of the Goldsmiths’ Library. Contains 211 printed books of 1768-1887, mostly 1821-50 and almost all railway (with a few canal) engineering reports and prospectuses, manuscript notebooks, specifications and estimates.
Bought from the Reform Club in 1964, comprising most of the pamphlets then in the Club’s Library, except the Panizzi collection. Consists of 360 volumes containing 4,000 pamphlets on political, economic and social subjects (1770-1910, but mostly pre-1880).
The first of a series of major additions to the Goldsmiths’ Library funded by the Goldsmiths’ Company, bought in 1906. Contains c.1000 books and pamphlets on French monetary history, especially during the revolutionary period but extending from 1651 to 1852.
In 1907 the Library bought (Sotheby’s, 4 Nov.) part of the collection of John Baker Holroyd, 1st Earl of Sheffield, a leading economic authority of his time, comprising 260 books and pamphlets, 54 Acts and Proclamations of 1650-51 and 6 volumes of his scrapbooks.
Acquired in 1930 from the collection of James Turner of Manchester, c.500 volumes on the Temperance Movement in the 19th century, including some rare periodicals. It augments the Goldsmiths’ Library holdings on temperance and moral reform.