I Am Parting With My Crypto Library

The time has come for me to find a new home for my (paper) cryptography library. It’s about 150 linear feet of books, conference proceedings, journals, and monographs—mostly from the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s.

My preference is that it goes to an educational institution, but will consider a corporate or personal home if that’s the only option available. If you think you can break it up and sell it, I’ll consider that as a last resort. New owner pays all packaging and shipping costs, and possibly a purchase price depending on who you are and what you want to do with the library.

If you are interested, please email me. I can send photos.

EDITED TO ADD (8/1): I am talking with two universities and the Internet Archive. It will find a good home. Thank you all for your suggestions.

Posted on July 30, 2021 at 12:13 PM46 Comments


IKE July 30, 2021 12:31 PM

Have you considered contacting the Charles Babbage Institute at the University of Minnesota?
https: //cse .umn.edu/cbi/collecting-scope

I don’t know how much interest they have in crypto in particular, but they have a fantastic collection of primary source materials from the earlier days of computing. I’m sure that other major libraries with an emphasis on computing may have an interest. Some may already have a focus on cryptography and be a better fit.

good luck finding a home for your collection!

Z.Lozinski July 30, 2021 12:50 PM

David Kahn donated his cryptography library to the National Cryptologic Museum back in 2011. The NCM is just outside Fort Meade. “NCM’s David Kahn Collection contains 3,885 books, 130,000 pages of research notes, and 54 boxes of correspondence from historian/author Kahn’s personal research library” . One of the NCM librarians ran fun lunchtime sessions looking at some of the more rare and interesting tomes.

Clive Robinson July 30, 2021 2:15 PM

@ Bruce,

You have my sympathies, as I’ve mentioned I’ve a “dead tree cave” of similar size…

What people often forget is that whilst “paperbacks” float as they are less dense than water, most serious books and documents are more dense than water…

This makes 150ft a “weighty matter” and needs carefull thought when putting in an accessable storage of the more traditional library form.

I know my library is more than seven tonnes in weight and needs strengthend floors and book cases, that in some cases have been “double banked” with the less used behind the more frequently used.

The fact I’m back in hospital, this time with quite serious issues, means that I too have to make life style choices with regards my collection.

It’s not something I want, but need to do even if it is just to “crate it all up” in a sustainable “dry nitrogen with oxygen absorber” way for future generations.

Some years ago I parted with a chunk of books to do with early Microsoft and Novell products and their internals which had not been documented by others. I was horrified to learn it had been “dispersed” and thus irrevocably lost because somebody thought they could “sell the boxes” it had been carefully packed in…

Thus I urge you to take legaly binding protective measures to stop similar happening or atleast get redress.

Etienne July 30, 2021 2:29 PM

I’d move it south of the equator…

…because most of the northern hemisphere will be depopulated after population decline through disease, lack of drinking water, and the collapse of capitalism.

SpaceLifeForm July 30, 2021 2:56 PM

@ Niklas B

That, and then send physical paper to a safe library. Not NCM.

I wonder if EFF would be interested in coordinating such?

Supertrouper July 30, 2021 4:08 PM

I’d move it south of the equator…

…because most of the northern >hemisphere will be depopulated >after population decline through >disease, lack of drinking water, >and the collapse of capitalism.

Because the South will be in MUCH better shape!!

Nameless Cow July 30, 2021 4:33 PM


This makes 150ft a “weighty matter” and needs carefull thought when putting in an accessable storage of the more traditional library form.

This is true. I heard a story from a professor that his university had relocated one of the libraries because the collection was putting too much stress on the floor of the original building.

The fact I’m back in hospital, this time with quite serious issues, …

Sorry to hear that. My best wishes to you.

KGIII July 30, 2021 5:54 PM

I have some contacts in academia, none of which would be able to make any decisions regarding this. But, I’m reasonably certain they have contacts with those who can. I’ll send out a few emails and lean on them to let others know.

That’s the best I can do.

archive.org July 30, 2021 6:34 PM


  1. digitize it
  2. after that burn it. throw a garden party. lit a nice bonfire. cryptofire. organize a lottery – people put in a money to win a book to burn. will be fun.

nobody needs a metric tons of paper to keep.

@ Clive

this is Covid. it affects people the most curious and different way. some lose strength, they can’t lift even light things or hold them between fingers – like all of your energy is gone. some lose balance.
some lose weight.

SpaceLifeForm July 30, 2021 6:58 PM

@ Clive

Hang in there. I was hoping the MRI would not find anything.

Are you sure you were not exposed to Covid-19?


Brandon Galbraith July 30, 2021 7:45 PM

As others have mentioned, the Internet Archive would accept the physical donation, digitize it to make it freely available to all, and store the physical media in their physical archive. Please consider them as the recipient of your collection!

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons July 30, 2021 8:01 PM

@Bruce Schneier

I would suggest asking someone at Computer Professionals for Social Responsibility to get a more nuanced answer. I am at a loss right now to suggest what working group, but they have a broad intersection of related institutional and organizational relationships. I haven’t been with them for a couple of decades, lost the time and energy to help.

Curious as to the nature of your decision to relinquish the collection. What about a go-fund-me type effort, am sure many here would assist in the cost of either the maintenance or storage. Would hate to see it go somewhere to be abused, destroyed, or coveted by a private collector type.

name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons July 30, 2021 8:12 PM

@Bruce Schneier

Quick thought if anyone hasn’t already suggested as much, take a photographic inventory with the ability to say reconstruct the collection as it exists. How you have organized the collection could provide valuable insight into your thinking or processes related to the acquisition and maintenance that you have invested over a career of activity. Organizational structuring could provide clues and less obvious information as to the weight, timeliness, and worth of various elements of the collection for example.

JonKnowsNothing July 30, 2021 9:54 PM

fwiw: There is a difference between donating a collection and owning the copyright to that collection.

Physical books and papers (without government markings) can normally be freely exchanged because the provenance of the owner is generally assumed by the presence of a book cover (USA) and book jacket. (modern works)

The copyright ownership of the item remains with the authors of the books and documents.

Scanning and digitizing in the USA has mostly fallen on the Google Side of the fence but copyrights are still legal boundaries.

All sorts of collections can be found: private, universities, libraries and research repositories. The value of the collection is dependent on a number of factors: out of print, historically valuable, a topic or author and other criteria.

Things that tend not to be immediately valuable are common books, texts and papers that are in current circulation. As time elapses these may become historically significant. Many times they do not.

A first edition of Newton is worth a lot, a facsimile of the edition maybe worth a lot, a mass market paperback reading edition may not be worth the cost of disposal.

The condition of the material is also important. If it is well read, thumbed and annotated it has little value unless the reader, thumber and annotator was someone of historical importance. Books and papers printed on Acid Paper unless extremely rare will hardly be considered. (@1940+)

A well read letter from your Mum might be valuable to you but no one else, unless it’s Whistler’s Mother.

There are book dealers and “estate valuations” but these are just about as reliable as the Lottery. Often times, the evaluation is bogus both over and under evaluated and offers to “buy” the collection may be just as bogus.


A long term collector of rare books, passed and the estate wanted to sell the collection. A prominent book dealer in rare books came to review the well known library. The dealer picked out @2 dozen rare books and offered a small sum of money for them. The estate sold the books to the dealer. The rest went into the dumpster.

The books the dealer selected sold on the Open Market for many thousands of times what the dealer offered the estate.

All fair n square legally. Ethics has nothing to do with money.

There are institutions who will take these sorts of collections but often they are only interested in a few items and the rest is jettisoned.

One thing they all will want is a detailed inventory listing of every item in the collection. It’s a very detailed list.

Places used to take stuff in crates but they rarely found time to unpack them. Which is one reason a clever researcher may find important documents sitting in the basement vaults for decades unnoticed.

Now they want the donor to provide all the details so they never have to unpack the boxes but they know what’s supposed to be in them.

Lots of people have collections they would like to pass on to museums or collectors but it’s a huge amount of work to find right ones, all unpaid.

I’m also working on such a catalog and have nearly no chance of finding a home for the items, much less finishing the catalog anytime this century.

The Flower of Marxism July 31, 2021 6:00 AM

“I know my library is more than seven tonnes in weight and needs strengthend floors and book cases, that in some cases have been “double banked” with the less used behind the more frequently used.”

My collection weighed in at a mere five tonnes last time I moved, but I still think there is some culling to be done. Printed books on semi-old software, most O’Reilly and their ilk, will depart but the various Lisp machine manuals will keep their place.

Hope to see you well again soon, Clive.

JonKnowsNothing July 31, 2021 8:02 AM

@The Flower of Marxism

re: … I still think there is some culling to be done. Printed books on semi-old software….

RL anecdote: tl;dr

Long time passing, I was doing contract work at a small networking company in Silicon Valley. I got a task to work on particular graphical interface that wanted tweaking.

No one could figure out what the code was doing, or why, but the results had been fine, until someone wanted a tweak.

As there had been many Rotate-To-Right, the original creator of the code was no longer available to explain what was happening. So, the company did what all companies do when they no longer know what their code does because they pruned staff: they hired a temp to figure it out (hopefully).

As I had some previous experience working with the creator, I did have a small idea about what was happening. To verify my guess, I had to find an Out of Print book on a particular language and older OS. I managed to find a full set of the old manuals, for this no-longer-in-use code system through a rare book dealer.

There deep deep in the old technical manuals was the key to what was happening.

“A rare bit of magic, from the restricted book section…”
Harry Potter

Clive Robinson July 31, 2021 8:12 AM

@ Bruce, ALL,

For a historic perspective, that is still true today,

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”

“If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.”

Marcus Tullius Cicero

Weather July 31, 2021 1:13 PM

If you can take photos of your personal notes and compress it to fit on one page of your newest book.
Maybe some time in the future they can uncompress it.

Wayne July 31, 2021 1:57 PM

I work at a university library and technically I’m in charge of the archive, but it’s really a meaningless title. No, I’m not making a bid for your crypto library: it doesn’t fit my collection, literally and philosophically, as much as I’d love to see it and have it.

I’d suggest contacting your university, American, since you’re an alumnus. I don’t know if your particular school there has their own library, but that’s where I’d start. They should have trained archivists who would know how to handle diverse material and catalog and preserve it, and digitize the stuff that legally can be.

Cassandra July 31, 2021 4:37 PM

@Clive Robinson

Thoroughly irrational best wishes for a speedy, uneventful and full recovery, or anything approaching that.


shrubberyfinds July 31, 2021 10:16 PM

Twiced Asked: cl, hum, maybe 20, 15 ish years ago?

Best wishes, regards eithger way.

From a past a long time ago.

Dave August 1, 2021 4:35 AM

Never considered weighing my collection but I’ve just had the library in the house extended, it’s now 60m of shelves which is… 180 linear feet? Not all filled yet, but the floor certainly has a lot more concrete than before holding it up. Having said that house floors can take considerable loads, when the rebuild was done the builders discovered one of the bearers was badly rotted, about half of it was missing entirely and the rest wasn’t very sound, but the floor held up OK.

For people who have collections like this, don’t ever throw them out, even if you can’t find a library or museum to take them, post them on somewhere like the cryptography mailing list, I’m sure there’ll be takers.

Cassandra August 1, 2021 9:17 AM


Re: Having said that house floors can take considerable loads…

Many years ago I had the acquaintance of a gentlemen who collected DEC MicroVAXes and Workstations. The room in which he kept his collection was an ordinary upper-floor domestic bedroom which was remarkable for three things:

1) The considerable number of machines that were carefully placed along all the walls
2) It was ‘rather warm’ in there with the machines on.
3) The floor bounced up and down when you walked gingerly across it (I’m not sure what that did for the hard disk reliability).

Floors supported by wooden beams can flex quite a lot before failing.


Wayne August 1, 2021 11:09 AM


Love your story about the guy storing the MicroVAXes upstairs! But what I found particularly was your name in conjunction with the story. I hope nothing ill came of it….

I worked for a state gov’t agency in the late ’80s, this happened before I was there. New construction rectangular building, brick walls and pre-made concrete floors suspended by the walls. This gives you an open cubby floor plan with pretty much nothing supporting the floors in the middle for half the building. Elevator banks in the middle providing add’l support. We were actually two buildings, side-by-side, both identical construction. At one time the city fire marshal had offices in the other building.

The records dept occupied one floor on one half of the building, I think the third floor. Someone thought it would be a good idea for access to put all the file cabinets in the middle of the room.

One day the fire inspector decided to do a building inspection, possible training new inspectors? He noticed the middle of the floor was sagging OVER EIGHT INCHES.

He immediately ordered the building evacuated and closed until movers could come in and distribute the file cabinets closer to the walls to relieve the stress on the floor.

Clive Robinson August 1, 2021 11:34 AM

@ Cassandra, Dave,

The floor bounced up and down when you walked gingerly across it

Some floors are ment to “bounce”…

Back ‘cough’ fourty ‘cough’ years or so ago, I used to be a somewhat energetic dancer and could bop along for hours.

One place I went to strut the moves was “The Coronation Baths”… Now before you ask, I know dancing in the deep end was not something that was popular or desired, at the very least it would ruin you ‘squeeze’s hair do’, and mascara was just not water proof back then 😉 So they used to lay down special flooring which involved these three inch oak timbers.

But you get several hundred energetic teenagers bouncing along to the right rhythm and yes Bill Halley was still acceptable even then and you would get about 18-20inches (half a meter) of good solid bounce going and that realy did put a spring in your step.

Sadly of the Coronation Baths now all that remains is just a memory now. The fact Eric Clapton spent his “art college” days next door is hardly known. They stopped hosting live events at the baths after some group from down the road in a realy dull town called Hersham called “Sham 69” got people all worked up one night. With the result many of the shop windows down the High St got broken and a fair amount of “stock” disapeared into the night including into the “protective custody” of the boots of a few police cars (thus giving me an important life lesson).

Sham 69 had a relatively short “live performance” life as the violence just kept rising eventually at one of the most well known venues of it’s time, the Rainbow Theatre in Finsbury Park (originally Astoria Islington) where more famous groups than you can name in five minutes have played there was some very egregious violence and the national press started “hurumphing” at the Met Police (who were more interested in creating serious racial violence in Lewisham) got called to account along with a few right wing politicians…

I, by this time was very much into the London Pirate Radio and thus underground music scene along with a friend from school we were building many of the transmitters and putting them up on Towwer block roofs all over the Place. One of which was the three tower blocks at Westway near Shepards bush that appeared very promenently in Chris Rea’s music video “The Road to Hell” from a decade later,


In the mean time there had been a few changes… April next year is the 40th anniversary of the Falklands War, where I lost a couple of friends. It was in many ways a disaster many lessons of which –such as battle ships should not have hulls/superstructure of aluminium being just one lesson– that still refuse to be learned…

I guess it was the final piece of the puzzel that caused my interrst in Crypto / Security thus a chunk of my Dead Tree Cave to come to be.

But there is an ironic side speaking of “roads to hell” The Rainbow Thearter was last Time I came out of Finsbury Park Station still there but it had been taken over by some wierd “kingdom of God” religious organisation. I wonder if those who attend know just who’s sweat has fallen on that stage including amongs many many others Frank Zapper and Monty Python being just two of oh so many.

Douglas Adams was never realy clear on the point when I talked to him about it but Deep Purple played there and in so doing got in the Guiness Book of records for being the Globes loudest band, a theme Douglas a “local lad” used in Hitchhiker’s about a rock band, the leader of which coincidently was named after a firm of Islington Estate Agents…

All just fond memories now, as we never think untill too late that the lives we were living, would one day be thought “important” whilst we just thought them normal or fun at the time.

Jeff August 1, 2021 1:42 PM

Brewster Kahle wants your library. For a collection like yours, I believe they will pay all transport costs. I know this is not the first to suggest you donate to The Internet Archive, but let me stress that if you give your material to them, it will be available to all mankind forever. Give it to a University or a private group/person, and it will have limited access. The best way to ensure that everyone has access not only to strong encryption, but to the base knowledge of how to build it, and how to apply it, is to give it to the world.

And maybe, someday, JPL will put it on a space probe. The same way they sent “Johnny Be Goode” to the stars.

Apple ][ for ever ! August 1, 2021 5:13 PM

@Clive Robinson : However irrational it is, best wishes for a prompt and full recovery.

echo August 2, 2021 1:23 AM


Brewster Kahle wants your library. For a collection like yours, I believe they will pay all transport costs. I know this is not the first to suggest you donate to The Internet Archive, but let me stress that if you give your material to them, it will be available to all mankind forever. Give it to a University or a private group/person, and it will have limited access. The best way to ensure that everyone has access not only to strong encryption, but to the base knowledge of how to build it, and how to apply it, is to give it to the world.

If it is a deciding factor the Internet Archive is committed to providing access to books to the “print disabled” community. By donating such an auspicious and large collection Bruce may help provide additional publicity for this kind of human rights activity.


In addition to 1,000,000+ eBooks available to anyone, the Internet Archive also makes available modern books for the print-disabled community in a special format called DAISY – one of the largest collections available online. For too long, print-disabled people have been denied access to the full breadth of contemporary books, and we’d like to assist in tipping that balance back to where it should be, universal access for all readers.

It also seems any donation may also allow Bruce’s library to remain accessible in physical form if a suitable arrangment can be found.

If you are a library that is facing crowding issues, renovations, or other adjustments to your print holdings, we are interested in receiving donated books so that we can reformat them from analog to digital. Your patrons will not lose access to these books; instead, they will gain enhanced access to digital texts that can be lent to your patrons, and the world, through the Internet Archive’s controlled digital lending service. If you’d like to learn how one library benefitted from our donation program, please read about the donation of 250,000 books from Trent University in 2018.

bisento August 3, 2021 2:37 AM

@Clive Robinson
as a long time reader of this blog I am always eager to scan the comment section for your name. Anecdotes and insights from early radio days to modern encryption problems – you are truly inspirational. I wish you a successful recovery and hope to read from your for many years to come. Have you ever considered writing a book? You should!

Who? August 3, 2021 5:49 AM

@ archive.org

nobody needs a metric tons of paper to keep.

Huh? I have a huge library too, including quite a few unique volumes (e.g. Bell Laboratories Technical Journal’s Unix Time Sharing System, from 1978, and the Unix System, from 1984, lots of CACM issues from the eighties up to ten years ago, including some issues related to the CP/M operating system, technical documentation from the systems I have used when I was young, like the Univac 90/30, and so on). I have more recent books too, like a full TeX and LaTeX library with books from Donald Knuth and Michel Goossens, and the full collection of books about the 4.4BSD operating system from the CSRG at the University of California at Berkeley, including CD-ROMs.

No, digital copies of books are not comparable to the dead tree ones. Paper will no dissapear, except for low-quality “one-time-read” books.

Clive Robinson August 5, 2021 3:11 AM

@ Security Sam,

Look out for Hemimastigotes.

Ah yes that new form of “assumed life” back thirty years ago, that was later found to have standing in gondwanian soils…

I gather some moved north and we can now see them more easily, and these days and we just call them HIP Politicians…

(sarcasm tag to off).

SpaceLifeForm August 5, 2021 6:22 PM

Interesting Infrastructure you have there…


The highway was to remain closed until 1 p.m. local time, and 61 businesses and homes in the area were without power in the morning.

Weather August 15, 2021 2:27 AM

Notepad,recycle bin, but that was years ago, did anyone notice the +8 to buffer length, <= instead of < . the years…

Fluffy August 16, 2021 7:59 AM

Have you thought about a distributed approach?
I mean, scan it and
= upload to Project Gutenberg
= put on your website and backup to the webarchive
= ask wikipedia to host your archive as a searchable list or a zipped attachment to the page about you
= upload to the Bitcoin blockchain 🙂
= donate the e-papers to all libraries you can find

  • sell the originals. As price ask that they get scanned within X amount of time and the copies get distributed to you and all the above.

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Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.