scholarly library available as a donation

The book collection of the late historian Joseph M. Levine is available as a donation. The main library numbers approximately 20,000 volumes. It consists entirely of scholarly books about European intellectual history, primarily from 1500-1900, with some works about earlier or later periods.

My family and I would like to donate the collection to an institution. We prefer recipients who can demonstrate that they meet these three criteria:

  • A commitment to receive and preserve a high proportion of the entire collection.
  • A public, scholarly, or educational purpose for the donation.
  • A commitment to cover the entire cost of moving the library.

An offer that partly meets these criteria will be considered.

scholarly books

(Explore 793 photos of the scholarly library here.)


Who was Joseph Levine?

Joseph M. Levine (1933-2008) was the Distinguished Professor of History at Syracuse University and the author of many books, including Doctor Woodward’s Shield (1977, second edition, 1991, which The London Review of Books called “one of the most imaginative contributions to the history of ideas written in the last fifty years),” The Battle of the Books: History and Literature in the Augustan Age (1991), and Between the Ancients and the Moderns: Baroque Culture in Restoration England (1999).

How was the collection made?

Joe Levine was an inveterate book collector. He assembled his library for his own use and as a curated collection of works relevant to themes in European intellectual history that he considered especially important (e.g., how Europeans interpreted the classical past). He purchased most of the library in Britain, beginning in the late 1960s and continuing into the 2000s. He had deep knowledge of the antiquarian book market–wholesale and retail–in Britain and New York during that period.

What books does it contain?

There is no catalog. We have recently taken 793 photographs that show the titles of books fairly clearly. These photos are not complete but should be representative of the collection as a whole. Click here to explore the photos of the scholarly books.

Special strengths include English literary history (1600-1800), English political thought, the history of historical thought. There are also numerous folio-sized art books.

Are all the books available?

In addition to the scholarly collection of about 20,000 volumes, there is also a collection of about 2,000 antiquarian books (printed before 1800). I am open to inquiries about this antiquarian collection but am inclined to keep it, in part because many of the books would require conservation or restoration. They are not rare books that have high market value but were collected for their scholarly interest. Some of these books are already on a long-term loan to James Madison’s house, Montpelier, where they represent Madison’s book collection. (See this YouTube video.) The rest of the antiquarian books are shown below–but again, are probably not available as part of a gift.

antiquarian books

What if you only want some?

We are not very interested in offers for selected books or specialized categories. An offer for the entire library would be far preferable.

Where are they?

The books are on shelves, organized by subject, in a single-family house in Syracuse, NY. The ones in the basement (which has climate control) are in library-style stacks.

How should you contact us?

I am Joe Levine’s son and I am responsible for the library. Please be in touch with me to express interest and to ask any questions: (More about me is here.)

Tours of the library can be arranged for people who demonstrate serious interest and capacity to receive the donation.

— Peter Levine