Chapter 651 Bibliophilic Gems, Or, “Bibliomaniacs . . . are apt to be placed in the same category with cranks.”

I’m doing some research on a book I’m cataloguing for sale. I love it when a book I’ve picked up solely on a hunch requires further research to see if my book-hunting instincts were on the mark. The most difficult part of my job is making the time to do such research. Between Tom and Huck, household duties, shipping books, writing blog posts, and just trying to keep up with things, the opportunity to sit for an extended period of time and focus on research is much appreciated by me. Today, I am assisted by the fact that Thoughtful Husband is at work, Tom is away at Boy Scout Camp, and Huck is playing outside with the neighbors in this glorious summer weather. That means the empty house — and the quiet that comes with it — are all mine for a while!

It turns out that the book I’m researching today was listed in the catalogue of its owner’s personal library. That catalogue is available in its entirety on Google Books, so I put on some good music, poured myself an Arnold Palmer (half lemonade, half iced-tea), put on my reading glasses and sat down to read about the provenance of the book I have in hand. Written in 1885, the catalogue of this man’s collection contains lots of little bibliophilic gems. I can’t resist sharing a few of them here, for your own enjoyment.

On book collectors (this made me laugh out loud):

“Bibliomaniacs are quite generally looked upon with a pity akin to contempt. They are apt to be placed in the same category with cranks. From a purely business point of view they are in the minds of many thoroughly impractical. Experience, however, does not justify such an opinion.”

On why private libraries matter (I like to apply this same reasoning to why printed books and book collecting still matter in the age of the e-book):

“In these days of fine public libraries, easily accessible, the interest in gathering together a large private library has somewhat abated. In these public libraries are books covering the whole field of literature from books of scholarly research to the latest novel. Very naturally therefore one asks himself, why go to the expense of getting a fine private library, when one has free access to all the books of our public libraries? But while the public library fills a place, and a very large one, in the community, it can never take the place wholly of the private library. For, not only does one wish certain useful books always ready to his hand, but every real lover of books has certain indiosyncrasies, or favorite lines of study which determine the kind of books which he delights to have about him, so that he gets hold of many books not to be found in any general library. Indeed, many of the books in private libraries can not be found in any other library, public or private, having been so modified and extended by the introduction of illustrations, and various addenda, as to be quite unlike the original work. And then, too, many of the most valuable works in many private libraries are largely the work of the owner, the matter having been compiled by him from various sources, and bound together in one volume.”

On keeping books in the house (reminded me of my own house and the fact that, like it or not, my family is surrounded by books):

“One can hardly look anywhere in the house without being reminded of the owner’s love of books, They are scattered through every room from parlor to attic in delightful profusion. They are found in glass cases, on open shelves, lying on tables and in all sorts of nooks and corners. At hand near his desk are encyclopaedias, biographical dictionaries and other books of reference.”

On the art of keeping books:

“To keep books nicely is an art; and the books of this library give evidence that their owner has well learned the art.”

See you in the stacks!

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