The Gordon Stein Collection

January 30, 2014

My seventeen-year anniversary working as the director of the various libraries and archives at the Center for Inquiry (CFI) is fast approaching. When I started here on February 2, 1997, we had around twelve thousand books between the various collections. Currently, we have about seventy thousand books, about 40 percent of which is not yet cataloged; plus, we have acquired numerous collections of mixed materials and periodicals from a variety of sources. One of the most interesting collections we ever acquired is the Gordon Stein Collection.

Stein was the former library director here at CFI, and I had only a few encounters with him because he died of cancer while I was going through the interview process. I was involved with packing up materials from his home in Amherst, New York, while his estate was being settled. His home was a virtual treasure trove of materials; every room held books, all related to the subjects CFI deals with and its programs. There were about eight thousand books.

Stein edited The Encyclopedia of Unbelief, The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal, and a few other compilations, and he authored Robert G. Ingersoll: A Checklist, Sorcerer of Kings, and other works all related to our missions here. As a part of his collection, we acquired the correspondence and all his reference work pertaining to these books.

Stein was also a bookseller and bibliophile. He had several different copies of many rare works seen nowhere else because he was one of the few who was collecting these materials. As library director, he went out on excursions to acquire materials for CFI, and he is responsible for the core materials we now have.

Stein also collected the personal letters and signatures of historical figures important to CFI. Items related to Ingersoll, Houdini, Joseph McCabe, Charles Bradlaugh, and Annie Besant are just a few of the many he acquired for himself that eventually came to be part of our collection.

We owe Gordon Stein a great deal for acquiring and setting us on the path of preserving and conserving possibly the only copies of many important materials.