Selby Kiffer joined Sotheby’s in 1984 as a part-time cataloguer and has been involved in the sale of many of the most celebrated private libraries offered at auction over the last few decades, including those of H Bradley Martin, The Garden Ltd, Frank T Siebert and Otto Schäfer. He joined the company as a part-time Cataloguer and was later named to his current position.
During his tenure at Sotheby's, he has 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 autographed manuscript of Abraham Lincoln’s 1858 “House Divided” speech; the first half of the autographed manuscript of The 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.
Amongst some of Mr Kiffer's frequent departures from his usual duties, he wrote the catalogue for the sale of the Tyrannosaurus rex specimen “Sue,” which realised $8.4 million when it was sold to Chicago's Field Museum in October 1997, and he wrote the auction catalogue for The O’Fallon Collection of American Indian Portraits by George Catlin, sold in December 2004 for $17.4 million.
Mr Kiffer is a featured appraiser on the PBS television series Antiques Roadshow and has been a principal in three documentary programs on C-SPAN2’s Book TV.