Arthur Schlesinger Jr: Librarians and Book Dealers Dissect a Historian's Treasured Book Collection





When Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr. died, in February 2007, he left behind more than his legacy as an adviser to presidents and an award-winning historian.

He also left behind his vast collection of books. They filled the Manhattan apartment that he shared with his wife, and spilled over into a nearby apartment that he used as his study. More books were stacked in the building's basement.

Books also crowded Schlesinger's office at the Graduate Center at the City University of New York. He had been a professor there for 28 years, retiring in 1993.

Over his life, Schlesinger amassed about 13,000 volumes, says John Wronoski, an antiquarian book dealer in Cambridge, Mass. In June Mr. Wronoski retrieved a few hundred of the most valuable books from Schlesinger's collection to sell on commission. Many of the books remain in the scholar's apartment with his widow, Alexandra. Mr. Wronoski shipped those from the study to a self-storage warehouse in South Boston.

Six months later, the books, filling 400 boxes of 50 pounds each, returned to New York City. They landed in a Graduate Center hallway, where most of them have been ever since. They belong to CUNY now.

That the books ended up only a mile and a half from their original home, after traveling 430 miles, is a story of one historian's admiration for Schlesinger, some dedicated book haulers, and a widow who couldn't bear the sight of so many volumes.

Such was Schlesinger's regard for his books, in fact, that one can picture him fretting like a parent over their travels and their fate in the year since his death....


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