University of Toronto Magazine University of Toronto Magazine
Photo of Michael Walsh.
Michael Walsh.

A Rare Find

A book collector for more than 40 years, Michael Walsh has acquired several thousand antiquarian volumes of western philosophy

Michael Walsh: “I’ve always had a love of books, not just for reading but as physical objects. I studied philosophy, eventually earning a PhD, and became especially interested in books of philosophy and ideas but couldn’t afford the original publications. Later, once I got into the investment industry, I felt financially secure enough to begin buying rare books.

“One summer, over 30 years ago, I received a phone call from Toronto bookseller Don Lake: ‘How would I like a first edition of Hume’s Treatise?’ He had access to one locally, but I would have to decide quickly. The book, at $11,500, was priced fairly, but this was 20 times more than I had previously spent on an ‘expensive’ book – a very big leap! I had received a good bonus that year, and here was one of the greatest and rarest philosophy books of all time. I think I took delivery the next day, handing over my cheque. That was when I knew there was no turning back as a collector – I was hooked!

“I hope my collection, with its first editions and other rare items, will enable the university to continue to attract the world’s best philosophy students and researchers. I’d like the collection to continue to grow after I’m gone; that’s why this year I began endowing a fund that will allow the Fisher library to purchase items for the Walsh Philosophy Collection long into the future.”

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