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Collection Overview

The Johan Thorsten Sellin Papers include correspondence; biographical materials; drafts of writings; notes; clippings about Sellin’s work; minutes; reprints of criminology articles; memorabilia; and some photographs. The material is largely professional, not personal, and documents Sellin’s research as a penologist and his career as a teacher of sociology and criminology, as well as his works in Swedish-American causes.

Sellin’s research interests were wide and varied within the field of criminology, but he was particularly known for his books and researches on penology (Pioneering in Penology, 1944), penal slavery (Slavery and the Penal System, 1976), juvenile delinquency (The Criminality of Youth, 1940;  The Measure of Delinquency, 1964; and  Delinquency in a Birth-Cohort, 1972 – the latter two co-authored with Marvin E. Wolfgang), social theory (Culture Conflict and Crime, 1938), and the ineffectiveness of capital punishment (Capital Punishment, 1967 (ed.); and The Penalty of Death, 1980). He was also a pioneer in the application of criminal statistics: he drafted the Uniform Criminal Statistics Act (adopted by the United States Department of Justice in 1969) and served as a criminal statistics consultant to the United States Bureau of the Census during the 1930s.

Sellin's papers and books were donated to the Penn Libraries in 1996, after his death. Papers and some rare books are part of the Kislak Center collections; most books and journals are part of the general collections.

Note: For a full listing of correspondence in the Sellin Papers, researchers must search in the main online catalog, Franklin.

Books donated by Johan Thorsten Sellin: approximately 165 books donated by Sellin are part of the Rare Book Collection in the Kislak Center.