Where's Karl?

2 August 2008

My favorite history of economic thought is A History of Economic Reasoning by Karl Přibram. This book significantly shaped my thinking about the history of Western thought in general, and helped me to better understand some competing economic theories and how to resolve the conflicts amongst them.

I ran across a copy of an older book by him, Cartel Problems: An Analysis of Collective Monopolies in Europe with American Application for sale on-line, and ordered it.

It arrived on Friday. The copy is really in rather nice shape. But it bears the marks of an odd history.

The book was published by the Brookings Institution in 1935. On the first page after the copyright page, in the inside margin, is hand-written 1-6-55 Gift Brookings Instit. So my guess is that they had a bunch of copies still in stock in 1955, and decided to reduce their inventory by giving them away.

At one stage, it was in the browsing library established by William Allen White[1] in Kenyon Hall of the College of Emporia, a Presbyterian institution in Kansas, which had a strong focus on religion at its inception, but became more secular in the '50s and '60s.

The copy was moved from the White library to the John B. Anderson Memorial Library of the College.[2] A book-plate of the Anderson Memorial Library was pasted-over some previous plate (which I suspect was also of the Anderson Memorial Library), and over a stamping in ink below that, which reads FROM WILLIAM ALLEN WHITE (which I think must refer to the library, rather than to the man, as White died on 31 January 1944).[3] I believe that the 1-6-66 is simply a misreading of 1-6-55, that the College was given the copy in 1955, and placed the copy in the browsing library, and that the volume was later moved to the Anderson Memorial Library.

The Anderson Library itself was closed in 1968, but I presume that its entire collection was moved to the Laughlin-Lewis Library of the College.

The College of Emporia was closed at the end of 1973, but the site and facilities were bought in 1974 by The Way International, a heterodox Christian corporation. The college was thoroughly renovated over the next dozen years, but closed and its plant sold at auction in 1991.

I think that it was at about this point that the copy of Cartel Problems found its way to the Wallace Library of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies, In Dallas, Texas. The Wallace Library stamped its name in ink onto the Anderson book-plate, onto the title page, and on a card-pocket on the inside back-cover (which bears no other marks).[4]

One might wonder what a place calling itself a Center for Biblical Studies was doing with a 1935 book on industrial organization. Indeed, the Criswell Center — now Criswell College — is a Southern Baptist institution, and the majors offered do not include social sciences or business. My guess is that the Center acquired this book in a lot, and just thoughtlessly put it in their stacks. Eventually, someone actually asked, and the book was liquidated.

It isn't clear from the condition of the book that anyone has ever actually read the thing. With the exception of a price written in pencil on the free front end-paper, all the observable wear-and-tear is plainly the result of the scribbling, pasting, and stamping of librarians, or shelf-wear, or possibly attributable to the book having been moved a few times.

[1]William Allen White was an important progressive journalist and political activist, and (for reasons unknown to me) They Might Be Giants use an image of his face in the video for Don't Let's Start and elsewhere.

[2]The John B. Anderson Memorial Library was established by Andrew Carnegie in memory of a Colonel Anderson, who had made his personal library available to working boys, including Carnegie, and had later served on the Board of Trustees of the College.

[3]Additionally, there is a raised impression of ANDERSON MEMORIAL LIBRARY / EMPORIA,KANSAS on the title page and on page 101.

[4]Additionally, CRISWELL CENTER / FOR BIBLICAL STUDIES is stamped in ink in the margin of page 29.


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