Leon Kashnor (1880–1955), who was born in London, was the son of a Russian émigré. In 1901 he opened a second-hand bookshop in Museum Street, close to the British Museum. The Museum Book Store changed premises a few times in its early years, but from 1910 to 1949 it was located at 45 Museum Street. It then moved to Devonshire Street, Marylebone. Kashnor was the sole proprietor for a long period, but in the 1940s he was joined by his brother David. Following their deaths, the Museum Book Store continued to operate for several more years under the direction of Leon Kashnor’s daughter.

Unlike most of his colleagues in the London antiquarian book trade, Kashnor did not often attend auctions. Instead, he had close ties with many country booksellers, especially in northern England, and he often purchased libraries, or portions of libraries, from private collectors and aristocratic and landed families. Many of the works now in the Library were acquired by Kashnor from the Grenville, Townshend and Holland families. Kashnor was one of the first London booksellers to be a collector himself. He would wait until he had assembled a large collection on a particular person or theme and then sell it en bloc to a library or collector. For instance, in 1934 the Library bought his collection of books, maps and manuscripts on Alexander Dalrymple, while in 1937 the International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam purchased his collection on British social, economic and political history. He supplied many of the books in the huge library of the US economist Edwin Seligman, which was acquired by Columbia University in 1929.


Although British economic thought and political radicalism were always among the strengths of the Museum Book Store, Kashnor also assembled a private collection on these subjects, which he described as his pet hobby. Negotiations for its acquisition by the Library commenced in 1948 and it was purchased in 1952.


Printed Materials

The Kashnor Collection contains about 4000 books, 6000 pamphlets and sets of 40 periodicals published between about 1620 and 1940. It includes a small number of seventeenth-century imprints, but the bulk of the works were published between 1700 and 1870. The great majority of the works were written and published in Britain, but there is a significant group of French pamphlets and broadsides and a small number of German titles.

The outstanding feature of the collection is its accumulation of the works of the major English, Scottish and Irish political economists, as well as many lesser writers, of the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The writings of John McCulloch, Thomas Mun, Sir William Petty, David Ricardo and Adam Smith are held in considerable strength. There are good collections of works by Jeremy Bentham, Richard Cantillon, Josiah Child, Charles Davenant, Richard Jones, Thomas Joplin, Lord Lauderdale, Leone Levi, Thomas Malthus, Joseph Massie, James Mill, John Stuart Mill, Lord Overtone, William Playfair, Nassau Senior, Sir James Steuart, Dugald Stewart, Robert Torrens and Arthur Young. In addition, there are many pamphlets and speeches by politicians with a strong interest in economic and financial affairs, such as Edmund Burke, Sir William Eden, William Huskisson, Sir Robert Peel, William Pulteney, George Rose, Sir John Sinclair, Thomas Spring Rice and Sir Robert Walpole.

Many of the pamphlets and tracts are anonymous works, the titles of which often start with the words ‘Address’, ‘Letter’, ‘Observations’ and ‘Thoughts’. There are also a large number of Acts of Parliament, treaties, official reports and accounts, and reports and proceedings of interest groups and public meetings. The subject range is extremely broad and the collection as a whole provides an extraordinary record of British and Irish politics and society. Among the subjects discussed by the writers are the national income, national debt, banking, currency, overseas trade, tariffs, taxation, monopolies, coal and other commodities, agriculture, tithes, population growth, poverty and poor laws, factory legislation, penal reform, colonies, church–state relations and the union between England, Scotland and Ireland. More specifically, there are works on the financial and monetary reforms of 1695–1700, the establishment of the Bank of England and the Bank of Scotland, the ‘South Sea Bubble’ of 1720, the East India Company and other trading companies, the reaction to the French Revolution, the state of agriculture in various counties in the early nineteenth century, the 1832 Reform Act and the repeal of the Corn Laws in 1846.

The other great strength of the collection is British radicalism from the early seventeenth century to the end of the nineteenth century. It contains 17 pamphlets of John Lilburne—‘the Leveller’—written during the English Civil War and the Interregnum. Later radicals who are well represented include Charles Bradlaugh, Lord Brougham, Richard Carlile, William Cobbett, Daniel Defoe, William Godwin, George Holyoake, William Hone, H.M. Hyndman, John Minter Morgan, William Morris, Robert Owen, Robert Dale Owen, Thomas Paine, Richard Price, Joseph Priestley, Thomas Spence, Thomas Perronet Thompson and William Thompson. The set of works by Robert Owen and his son Robert Dale Owen is outstanding and the cooperative movement as a whole is extremely well documented. Other works deal with parliamentary reform, republicanism, socialism, communism, trade unions, women’s rights and the Irish land question.

The collection has particularly good resources on the Chartist movement, including writings by leading Chartists such as Thomas Cooper, W.J. Linton, William Lovett, Feargus O’Connor and Thomas Spencer. Other publications are the 1838 and 1839 editions of The People’s Charter, a complete file of the Chartist Circular (1839–42) and substantial runs of Chartist periodicals such as The Movement (1844), The Reasoner (1846–61), Plain Speaker (1848–49), Reynolds’s Political Instructor (1849–50) and National Instructor (1850–51).

The Kashnor Collection contains writings of a number of French economists and political theorists including Frederic Bastiat, Vicomte de Calonne, Michel Chevalier, Charles Fourier, Paul Leroy-Beaulieu, Comte de Mirabeau, Jacques Necker, Pierre Joseph Proudhon and Jean-Baptiste Say. There is also a collection of 138 French political pamphlets and broadsides, mostly dating from 1848–51. Other European works include the first edition of Simonde de Sismondi,Nouveaux principes d’economie politique (1819) and the first edition of Karl Marx,Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848).

The collection contains substantial sets of a number of periodicals includingCobbett’s Annual Register (1802–31), Economic Review (1891–1914), Edinburgh Review (1802–85), Journal of the Institute of Bankers (1879–98), Juridical Review(1889–1939) and Transactions of the Society, Instituted at London, for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce
(1783–1845). There are also a number of radical journals such as The Gorgon(1818–19), The Isis (1832), The Labourers’ Friend (1853) and The Working Man(1866).

Many of the publications in the Kashnor Collection contain bookplates, inscriptions and other marks of ownership. A number belonged to William Grenville, 1st Baron Grenville, who was Prime Minister of Britain in 1806–07. Other former owners included Thomas Carlyle, Lord Holland, Sir Edward Knatchbull, Lord Ripon and Lord Wolverton.

The People’s Charter (1838)

Chartist Circular (1839–42)

The Movement and anti-persecution gazette (1844)

The Reasoner (1846–61)

Plain Speaker (1848–49)

Reynolds’s Political Instructor (1849–50)

National Instructor (1850–51)

Simonde de Sismondi, Jean Charles Leonard, Nouveaux principes d’economie politique (1819)

Marx, Karl, Manifest der Kommunistischen Partei (1848)

Cobbett’s Annual Register (1802–31)

Economic Review (1891–1914)

Edinburgh Review (1802–85)

Journal of the Institute of Bankers (1879–98)

Juridical Review (1889–1939)

Transactions of the Society, Instituted at London, for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce (1783–1845)

The Gorgon (1818–19)

The Isis (1832)

The Labourers’ Friend (1853)

The Working Man (1866)


The manuscripts in the Kashnor Collection total about 1500 documents, mostly relating to political economy, public finance, banking, trade and related subjects. The following are the principal collections:

MS 316

Letters of John Stuart Mill (1806–1873) to John Chapman, the editor of theWestminster Review. Written in 1861–67, the 18 letters deal with proposed articles, particularly one on the philosopher Auguste Comte.

MS 329

Portion of a manuscript by the philosopher John Locke (1632–1704) concerning the value of the English pound in silver.

MS 1458

Manuscript of Gregory King (1648–1712) entitled ‘Observations & conclusions natural and political upon the state and conditions of England’ (1696–97). It is one of two versions of this pioneering work on economic and social statistics, the other being in the British Library. The Kashnor manuscript contains King’s responses to the queries of Robert Harley, the Earl of Oxford.

MS 1458

Papers of the Townshend family (1688–1797). The bulk of the papers comprise official documents, either originals or copies, in the possession of Charles Townshend (1674–1738), 2nd Viscount Townshend, or his grandson Charles Townsend (1725–1767). The 2nd Viscount was Secretary of State in 1714–16 and 1721–30, while Charles Townsend was Treasurer of the Chamber in 1756–61 and Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1766–67. The papers cover a wide range of subjects including public finance, the national debt, taxation, coinage, trade, trading companies, manufactures, commodities, and diplomatic and political affairs. There are a large number of intercepted diplomatic despatches (1724–26). Some of the letters are addressed to Thomas Pelham, who was Prime Minister in 1743–54.

MS 1698

Papers of the engraver, poet and republican William J. Linton (1812–96?). The collection contains about 300 letters written by or to Linton, as well as drafts of poems, booklets and pamphlets. Among the correspondents are Thomas Cooper, Charles Gavan Duffy, George Holyoake, Joseph Mazzini, Feargus O’Connor and Francis Place.

MS 1958

Correspondence of the Liberal parliamentarian J.A. Roebuck (1801–1879). The correspondents include Francis Place, George Holyoake and Sir William and Lady Napier.


The books, pamphlets and periodicals in the Kashnor Collection are kept together as a formed collection within the Rare Books Collection. They have been catalogued individually and the call numbers have the prefixes RB Ec and RBq Ec. The French pamphlets and broadsides are held at RBef EC FL 1–138. There is a two-volume catalogue of the Kashnor Collection (1969), which is based on the cards compiled by Kashnor.

The Kashnor manuscripts are held in the Manuscripts Collection. The main collection is held at MS 1458 (15 boxes) and comprises the Townsend papers (10 boxes), the Gregory King manuscript and 21 other manuscripts. Other manuscripts from the collection are held at MS 316, MS 329, MS 1698, MS 1760, MS 1772, MS 1773, MS 1774, MS 1775 and MS 1958. The collections have been catalogued and there are online finding aids for the papers of W.J. Linton at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-346924067/findingaid and the letters of John Stuart Mill at https://nla.gov.au/nla.obj-335263848/findingaid.

Related Collections

The International Institute of Social History in Amsterdam holds a large collection of books, pamphlets and manuscripts on British social and economic subjects, which it acquired from Kashnor in 1937. It is briefly described at www.iisg.nl/archives/.


Cochrane, Peter, Becoming National, in Peter Cochrane (ed.), Remarkable Occurrences: The National Library of Australia’s First 100 Years 1901–2001, National Library of Australia, Canberra, 2001, pp. 21–40.

Kohler, Chris, Making Collections, in Giles Mandelbrote (ed.), Out of Print & Into Profit: A History of the Rare and Secondhand Book Trade in Britain in the Twentieth Century, British Library and Oak Knoll Press, London, 2006, pp. 165–76.

Low, David, With All Faults, Amate Press, Tehran, 1973.

White, H.L., A Major Collection of Early Works on Political Economy, Historical Studies, vol. 5 (20), May 1953, pp. 404–5.

First posted 2008 (revised 2019)