Selby Kiffer is a senior vice president in the Books and Manuscripts department in Sotheby's New York, where he has principal responsibility for historical American manuscripts, travel and atlases, and natural history books. He has been involved in the sale of many of the most celebrated private libraries offered at auction this century, most notably those of H. Bradley Martin, the Garden, Ltd. and Otto Schafer. Mr. Kiffer has also played a role in the discovery (or rediscovery) of several bibliographical treasures, including a previously unrecorded copy of the Dunlap broadside of the Declaration of Independence; a lost fragment of the autograph manuscript of Abraham Lincoln's 1858 "House Divided" speech; the first half of the autograph manuscript of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn; and, most recently, four early notebooks of Walt Whitman that had been missing from the Library of Congress for more than 50 years. In a rather broad departure from his usual duties, Mr. Kiffer wrote the catalog for the sale of the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen "Sue" which realized $8,362,500 in October, 1997.
Mr. Kiffer received bachelor's degrees in English and history and a master's degree in English from Pennsylvania State University. After a year at the Library School of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Mr. Kiffer transferred to Columbia University in order to focus his studies more directly on rare books, and there earned a master's degree in library science, with honors. While a student in New York City, he worked for several antiquarian booksellers, as well as at the Grolier Club Library, joining Sotheby's as a part-time cataloger in 1984. Mr. Kiffer is a frequent lecturer to library friends and other academic groups.