Goldsmith's Library of Economic Literature; Herbert Somerton Foxwell

Scope and Content

Comprises accounts, bills and receipts relating to the binding of the books, and the purchase of books by Foxwell with Goldsmith's Company funds to add to the Goldsmith's Library, 1901-1916.

Administrative / Biographical History

Herbert Somerton Foxwell was born on 17 June 1849 in Somerset, the son of an ironmonger and slate and timber merchant. He received his early educated at the Weslyian Collegiate Institute, Taunton. After passing the London Matriculation examination at the minimum age, he obtained a London External BA Degree at the age of 18. He went to St. John's College, Cambridge in 1868. He was placed senior in the Moral Sciences Tripos in 1870 and was associated with the College for the rest of his life. He was made a Fellow in 1874 and held his College lectureship for sixty years. In the University he was largely responsible for the honours teaching of economics from 1877 to 1908. Foxwell was assistant lecturer to his friend Stanley Jevons who had held the Chair of Economics at University College London from 1868 and then succeeded Jevons as chair in May 1881, holding the post until 1927. At the same time, Foxwell was Newmarch Lecturer in statistics at University College London and a lecturer on currency and banking from 1896 at London Scholl of Economics. In 1907 he became joint Professor of Political Economy in the University of London. In addition to these appointments, Foxwell gave extra-mural lectures for Cambridge University from 1874 and for London from 1876 to 1881 in London, Leeds, Halifax and elsewhere. He also held the following appointments: external examiner for London, Cambridge and other universities; first Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of London; vice-president and president of the Council of the Royal Economic Society; member of the Councils of the Statistical Society and the British Association for the Advancement of Science; and secretary and later president of the University (Cambridge) Musical Society and the Cambridge Antiquarian Society. He also provided a course of lectures at the Institute of Actuaries.

Foxwell was a dedicated book-collector and bibliophile and concentrated on the purchase of economic books printed before 1848. He described his 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 a of the gradual development of economic science generally.

Foxwell's library provides the nucleus of the Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature. When The Worshipful Company of Goldsmiths purchased the library of economic literature from Foxwell in 1901 for 10,000 it contained about 30,000 books. The Company also generously provided Foxwell with a series of subventions following the purchase of the Library to enable him to make further acquisitions prior to the gift of the Goldsmiths' Library of Economic Literature to the University of London in 1903.

From the sale in 1901, Foxwell kept back duplicates that formed a second collection which he sold to Harvard University for 4,000 in 1929. From the termination of dealings with the Goldsmiths' Company in 1903, he began creating a second major collection. By his death, on 3 August 1936, Foxwell had amassed a further 20,000 volumes that were sold to Harvard University creating the focus for the Kress Library.


Arranged chronologically

Access Information

Access to individual items in Senate House library archives collections may be restricted under the Data Protection Act or the Freedom of Information Act. See Archivist for details. 24 hours notice is necessary for research visits.

Other Finding Aids

Handlists of letters and papers relating to Herbert Somerton Foxwell, (1849-1936) compiled by T.D. Rogers and Catalogue of the Goldsmith's Library of Economic Literature compiled by Margaret Canney and David Knott (Athlone Press, 1981).

Conditions Governing Use

Copies may be made, subject to the condition of the original. Copying must be undertaken by the Palaeography Room staff, who will need a minimum of 24 hours to process requests.

Custodial History

Given by the Goldsmith's Company in 1963