Columbia University Libraries Acquires Papers and Library of Edward Said

NEW YORK, December 2, 2009 – Columbia University Libraries has acquired the papers and library of Edward W. Said, internationally renowned author, educator, public intellectual, and a member of Columbia’s faculty from 1963 to 2003.


Edward Said was the author of more than 20 books, including his 1999 autobiography, Out of Place, which won the New Yorker Book Award for nonfiction. His writings have been translated into 26 languages, including his most influential book, Orientalism (1978), a retrospective examination of the way the West perceived the East.

“Edward Said was quite possibly the most influential literary critic since T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis in the English speaking world and no one has ever approximated his global reach at anytime. But he was much more than that. He was an indispensable voice for democratic values and for justice in a very troubled time in the world,” said Akeel Bilgrami, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy and Director of the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.

“His ideas are more relevant than ever today and will remain so for decades. Scholars, activists, and researchers of every stripe from around the world will come to Columbia to consult this collection. For Columbia to have obtained his literary estate is a triumph of great significance,” continued Bilgrami.

Born in Jerusalem in 1935, Said was one of the most creative and important literary critics in post-war America. Said earned a B.A. from Princeton University and an M.A. and a Ph.D. from Harvard University, where he won the Bowdoin Prize. He joined the faculty of Columbia University in 1963, where he attained the rank of University Professor, Columbia's most prestigious academic position. Professor Said also taught at Harvard, Johns Hopkins, and Yale universities. He was fluent in Arabic, English and French. In 1999, Said served as president of the Modern Language Association.

Said was awarded numerous honorary doctorates from universities around the world and twice received Columbia's Trilling Award and the Wellek Prize of the American Comparative Literature Association. He was also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Royal Society of Literature, and the American Philosophical Society.

"The papers and library of Edward Said will represent a gold mine of material for scholars and students throughout the world who recognize Edward's unique importance to literary studies during the second half of the 20th century, his role as social and political critic and commentator who defended the principles of justice, and his exploration of the world of music for personal pleasure, for scholarly analysis, and as a mechanism for bridging a divided world through the musical collaboration between young Palestinians and Israeli musicians with exceptional talent,” said Jonathan Cole, Columbia University’s John Mitchell Mason Professor of the University and Provost and Dean of Faculties from 1989-2003. “Columbia was fortunate to have Edward Said as one of its most distinguished faculty members for several generations; it is only fitting that his papers should be housed here."

Said’s library will be housed in a special reading room in Butler Library dedicated to his memory, while his papers will be housed in the Rare Book & Manuscript Library (RBML). In conjunction with the papers coming to the Libraries, Columbia University will establish a lecture series and research fellowship in Edward Said’s name.

The Rare Book and Manuscript Library owns over 500,000 rare books in some 20 book collections and almost 28 million manuscripts in nearly 3,000 separate manuscript collections. It is particularly strong in English and American literature and history, classical authors, children’s literature, education, mathematics and astronomy, economics and banking, photography, the history of printing, New York City politics, librarianship, and the performing arts. Individual collections are as eclectic as they are extensive.

Columbia University Libraries/Information Services is one of the top five academic research library systems in North America. The collections include over 10 million volumes, over 100,000 journals and serials, as well as extensive electronic resources, manuscripts, rare books, microforms, maps, graphic and audio-visual materials. The services and collections are organized into 22 libraries and various academic technology centers. The Libraries employs more than 550 professional and support staff. The website of the Libraries at is the gateway to its services and resources.