it is talking about them.
Harry B. Smith,
A Sentimental Library
Mine has been a most enjoyable endeavor this month. From my library shelves, I am pulling down handfuls of books, and laying them in my lap as I relax in my library chair. I am slowly turning page after page of book after book, looking for passages which please me, and which, I hope, will please you, for I am gathering them and posting them here for you to read at your leisure. So sit down in your favorite chair, relax, and enjoy.
What magic there is for the book-lover in that word 'library'! Does it not instantly conjure up a vision of happy solitude, a peaceful seclusion where we may lie hidden from our fellow-creatures, an absence of idle chatter to distract our thoughts, and countless books about us on either hand? (Allen 31).
FROM: The Book-Hunter At Home by P. B. M. Allen.
Of the people who are readers, there are those who confine themselves to fiction, some whose specialty is history, others whose delight is in poetry, or in science, or in some other part of the spacious field of literature. But, in a special sense, there are readers who are "book-lovers," who find their greatest enjoyment in the books which breathe forth the very stuff of life, reveal the warm emotions of the writer, and give us that touch of nature which makes the whole world kin.
I can think of many such. One was Augustine Birrell, who only lately passed away in his eighty-fourth year. Another is A. Edward Newton, who wrote The Amenities of Book-Collecting, and Other Books, including one on Dr. Johnson, for Mr. Newton is an authority on the Great Cham of literature. His last book, a small volume entitled End-Papers is one of those written by a book-lover for book-lovers (Burrell 295).
FROM: "For Book-Lovers,"Crumbs Are Also Bread by Martin Burrell.
It is no doubt a pleasant thing to have a library left you. The present writer will disclaim no such legacy, but hereby undertakes to accept it, however dusty. But, good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one. Each volume, then, however lightly a stranger's eye may roam from shelf to shelf, has its own individuality, a history of its own. You remember where you got it, and how much you gave for it ; and your word may safely be taken for the first of these facts, but not for the second (Birrell 289).
FROM: "Book-Buying," Obiter Dicta, Second Series by Augustine Birrell.
We collectors strive to make converts; we want others to enjoy what we enjoy; and I may as well confess that the envy shown by fellow collectors when we display our treasures is not annoying to us. But, speaking generally, we are a bearable lot, our hobbies are usually harmless, and if we loathe the subject of automobiles, and especially discussion relative to parts thereof, we try to show an intelligent interest in another's hobby, even if it happens to be the collection of postage-stamps. Our own hobby may be, probably is, ridiculous to some one else, but in all the wide range of human interest, from postage-stamps to paintings –– the sport of the millionaire, –– there is nothing that begins so easily and takes us so far as the collecting of books (Newton 2,3).
FROM: The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections by A. Edward Newton.
King James, 1605, when he came to our University at Oxford, and amongst other edifices, now went to view that famous Library, renewed by Sir Thomas Bodley, in imitation of Alexander, at his departure brake out into that noble speech: If I were not a King, I would be a University man; and if it were so that I must be a prisoner, if I might have my wish, I would desire to have no other prison than that Library, and to be chained together with so many good Authors and dead Masters (Burton 457).
FROM: "Pleasure of Study," The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton.
The research scholar who has lots of fun in his bookish hunting also wishes to share this fun. Although he does his happy hunting, his sleuthing alone, he wants to share his game. For he knows that there are people who may enjoy the results of his work, assuming, as one must, that we are all interested in life, and that books interpret life. And the bookish bypaths all reflect our never quite understandable human nature (Altrocchi xi).
FROM: Sleuthing in the Stacks by Rudolph Altrocchi
On a certain shelf in my bookcase which stands in the room in which I am at present sitting –– a bookcase surmounted by a white Dante, looking out with blind majestic eyes –– are collected a number of volumes which look somewhat the worse for wear. Those of them which originally possessed gilding have had it all fingered off, each of them has leaves turned down, and they open of themselves at places wherein I have been happy, and with whose every word I am familiar as with the furniture of the room in which I nightly slumber, each of them has remarks relevant and irrelevant scribbled on their margins. These favored volumes cannot be called peculiar glories of literature; but out of the world of books have I singled them, as I have singled my intimates out of the world of men. I am on easy terms with them, and feel that they are no higher than my heart . ... With the volumes on the special shelf I have spoken of, I am quite at home, and I feel somehow as if they were at home with me. And as to-day the trees bend to the blast, and the rain comes in dashes against my window, and as I have nothing to do, and cannot get out, and wish to kill the hours in a pleasant a manner as I can, I shall even talk about them, as in sheer liking a man talks about the trees in his garden, or the pictures on his wall. I can't expect to say anything new or striking, but I can give utterance to sincere affection, and that is always pleasant to one's self and generally not ungrateful to others (Smith 13-15).
FROM: A Shelf in My Bookcase by Alexander Smith.
The books that a man buys and keeps are more indicative of his character than the size of his bank account or the people with whom he associates. Books remain after a man's lifetime as mute reminders of the extent of his emotions and the degree of his intellect (Webber 2).
FROM: Books About Books: A Bio-Bibliography For Collectors by Winslow L. Webber
Even a millionaire will ease his toils, lengthen his life, and add a hundred per cent to his daily pleasures if he becomes a bibliophile ; while to the man of business with a taste of books, who through the day has struggled in the battle of life with all its irritating rebuffs and anxieties, what a blessed season of pleasurable repose opens upon him as he enters his sanctum, where every article wafts to him a welcome, and every book is a personal friend (Blades 141,142).
FROM: The Enemies of Books by William Blades.
And speaking of "friends on the shelves," where can one find friends more steadfast and loyal? These books of ours never dispute with us when we are weary, never tire us with small talk. There is complete harmony at all times. Among them are friends for every mood; we are never alone in the library. Scipio's remark that "a man is never less alone than when he is alone –– nunquam minus solus quam cum solus –– shows him to have been a book-lover. Books, wrote that prince of book-lovers, Richard de Bury, "are masters who instruct us without rod or ferrule; if you approach them they are not asleep; if you enquire of them they do not withdraw themselves; they never chide you when you make mistakes; they never laugh if you are ignorant" (Brewer 10,11).
FROM: Around the Library Table by Luther Albertus Brewer.
Let not the collector, therefore, ever, unless in some urgent and necessary circumstances, part with any of his treasures. Let him not even have recourse to that practice called barter, which political philosophers tell us is the universal resource of mankind preparatory to the invention of money as a circulating medium and means of exchange. Let him confine all his transactions in the market to purchasing only. No good ever comes of gentlemen amateurs buying and selling. They will either be systematic losers, or they will acquire shabby, questionable habits from which the professional dealers –– on whom, perhaps they look down –– are exempt (Burton 101).
FROM: The Book-Hunter by John Hill Burton
The mania for book collecting is by no means a modern disease, but has existed ever since there were books to gather, and has infected many of the wisest and most potent names in history. Euripides is ridiculed by Aristophanes in The Frog for collecting books. Of the Roman emperor Gordian, who flourished (or rather did not flourish, because he was slain after a reign of thirty-six days) in the third century, Gibbon says, "twenty-two acknowledged concubines and a library of sixty-two thousand volumes attested the variety of his inclinations, and from the productions which he left behind him it appears that the former, as well as the latter, were designed for use rather than ostentation (Browne 34).
FROM: "Bibliomania," Iconoclasm and Whitehwash by Irving Browne.
The venerableness of book collecting has, beyond doubt, argued against its acceptance by many. For generations the bibliophile has been pictured in the public mind as a dry-as-dust scholar or veritable Croesus. It has been the gradual breaking down of this fallacious conception –– the realization that it is not necessary to profess a love for old , musty tomes nor even be richly endowed –– that has opened up the pleasures of book collecting for thousands of book lovers. For every man of deep learning finding enjoyment in surrounding himself with volumes of a bygone age, hundreds of modern-minded collectors are finding equal pleasures in books as young as themselves. Similarly, for every man of wealth able to authorize unlimited bids to acquire the rare aves of the world's literature, a vastly larger number of collectors extract a full measure of enjoyment from books they can easily afford. And they know all the joys of true bibliophiles. They possess their 'rarities.' They derive as much pride from their collections as their far wealthier co-collectors whose prize book probably cost as much as all the volumes on their shelves. No, the complete joys of book collecting are not reserved for the few with still fat pocketbooks, and do not demand an appreciation of ancient works, interesting only to the historian and scholar. All the thrill and excitement of the chase are open to the man of meager purse, and one can qualify as a genuine bibliomaniac without ever stepping out of the twentieth century (Brewer 5,6).
FROM: The Delightful Diversion by Reginald Brewer.
There was a time when I lived to see my books arranged with a view to uniformity of height and harmony of color without respect to subjects. That time I regard as my vealy period. That was the time when we admired "Somnambula," and when the housewife used to have all the pictures hung on the same level, and to buy vases in pairs exactly alike, and putting them on either side of the parlor clock, which was generally surmounted by a prancing saracen or a weaving Penelope. Granting that a collection is not extensive enough to demand a strict arrangement by subjects, I like to see a little artistic confusion –– high and low together here and there, like a democratic community; now and then some giants laid down on their sides to rest; the shelves not uniformly filled out as if the owner never expected to buy any more, and alongside a dainty Angler a book in red or blue cloth with a white label –– just as children in velvet and furs sit next [to] a newsboy, or a little girl in calico with a pigtail at Sunday School, or as beggers and princes kneel side by side on the cathedral pavement. It is good to have these "swell" books rub against the commoners, which though not so elegant are frequently a great deal brighter (Browne 105).
FROM: "The Arrangement of Books," In the Track of the Book-Worm by Irving Browne.
If a man has any affection for books, he has his own way about them. Like Montaigne, he seeks the reading of books only to please himself by an honest diversion. Some buy books, some inherit them, and some have books thrust upon them. There are those who hunt for prizes with eager ambition, and others who are pursued by books, fairly driven into corners, eventually overwhelmed by them. He who hath a sufficiency, and may hide quietly among them without an itching greed to add to their number, deserves to be called happy; but I have never been fortunate enough to make the acquaintance of such a person. As for myself, I have come to that deplorable state when there are double rows upon the shelves and one never knows where to look for the neglected warriors who have been relegated ignominiously to the rear rank. If books have feelings, and I am sure they have, how melancholy must be the lives of those unfortunates wo are doomed to the perpetual obscurity of the back row (Joline 39,40).
FROM: The Diversions of a Book-lover by Adrian H. Joline.
There is a faculty which Horace Walpole named "serendipity." –– the luck of falling on just the literary document which one wants at the moment. All collectors of out of the way books know the pleasure of the exercise of serendipity, but they enjoy it in different ways. One man will go home hugging a volume of sermons, another a bulky collection of catalogues, which would have distended the pockets even of the wide great-coat made for that purpose, that Charles Nodier used to wear when he went a book-hunting. Others are captivated by black letter, others by the plays of such obscurities as Nabbes and Glapthorne. But however various the tastes of collectors of books, they are all agreed on one point, –– the love of printed paper. Even an Elzevir man can sympathize with Charles Lamb's attachment to "that folio Beaumont and Fletcher" which he dragged home at night from Barker's in Covent Garden. But it is another thing when Lamb says, "I do not care for a first folio of Shakespeare." A bibliophile who could say this could say anything (Lang 2,3).
FROM: "An Apology For the Book-hunter," The Library by Andrew Lang
Granger's History was the first book extended by the introduction of extra prints illustrative of its text; and Mr. Granger was the original Extra-illustrator, the father of the noble band of Grangerites. Unlike his descendants he wrote his book to illustrate his portraits; he did not collect his portraits to illustrate his book. He was followed at once by other collectors, who wanted a valid excuse for their collecting, and an asylum for their collections; and Clarendon's "History of the Rebellion and Civil War of England,"Walton's "Lives,""The History of the Worthies of England, Endeavored by Thomas Fuller, D.D.," John Aubrey's "Lives of Eminent Persons," and other contemporary historical and biographical works were extended and enlarged; many lesser illustrated books suffering, naturally, for the benefit of these (Hutton 36).
FROM: "On Grangerism and the Grangerites," From the Books of Laurence Hutton by Laurence Hutton.
ABC FOR BOOK-COLLECTORS1
The author of this book must be either a fool or a knave. If he supposes that serious collectors are going to tolerate any man's laying down the law and airing his views, to the tune of 450 alphabetical entries, on book-collecting, bibliography, taste, technique, tactics, the auction room, printing, binding, paper-making, illustration, publishing history and a dozen other associated subjects, then he clearly knows very little about bibliomania, which breeds doctrinaires as opinionated and contentious as can be found in any walk of life.
If, on the other hand, he has conceived the base notion that beginners are humble enough to believe any claptrap about the bibliophile mystery that they read in print, just because an otherwise reputable publisher has been bamboozled into undertaking a book like this, then he is a cynical ruffian: far more a menace than the issue-mongers, mint-condition fetishists, point-maniacs and other strange fry whom he holds up to disapproval in the course of his 190-odd pages. ...
1This notice of my book ABC for Book-Collectors was published in the Bookseller, 29 September 1953 (see Preface). It was signed; but the authorship of the work under review was not given (Carter 193).
FROM: "ABC FOR BOOK-COLLECTORS," Books and Book-Collectors by John Carter.
Books delight us, when prosperity smiles upon us; they comfort us inseparably when stormy fortune frowns on us. They lend validity to human compacts, and no serious judgments are propounded without their help. Art and sciences, all the advantages of which no mind can enumerate, consist in books. How highly must we estimate the wondrous power of books, since through them we survey the utmost bounds of the world and time, and contemplate the things that are as well as those that are not, as it were in the mirror of eternity. In books we climb mountains and scan the deepest gulfs of the abyss; in books we behold the finny tribes that may not exist outside their native waters, distinguish the properties of streams and springs and of various lands; from books we dig out gems and metals and the materials of every kind of mineral, and learn the herbs and trees and plants, and survey at will the whole progeny of Neptune, Ceres, and Plato (De Bury 94,95).
"Of the Advantages of the Love of Books," The Love of Books by Richard de Bury.
In treating the history of this disease, it will be found to have been attended with this remarkable circumstance; namely, that it has almost uniformly confined its attacks to the male sex, and, among those, to people in the higher and middling classes of society, while the artificer, labourer, and peasant have escaped wholly uninjured. It has raged chiefly in palaces, castles, halls, and gay mansions; and those things which in general are supposed not to be inimical to health, such as cleanliness, spaciousness, and splendour, are only so many inducements towards the introduction and propagation of the BIBLIOMANIA! What renders it particularly formidable is that it rages in all seasons of the year, and at all periods of human existence. The emotions of friendship are weakened or subdued as old age advances, but the influence of this passion, or rather disease, admits no mitigation: "it grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength;" and is oft-times ––– The ruling passion strong in death (Dibdin 11,12).
FROM: Bibliomania; or Book-Madness by Thomas Frognall Dibdin.
There are as many kinds of people in the world as there are people in the world: (a) those who collect, and (b) those who don't.
Each kind is crazy. ...
Those who write them, and those who collect them. Those who don't write them, and those who don't collect them.
Any who inhale and exhale.
What is there for them to do? How shall they endure one moment after another moment until all the moments of their time on earth have elapsed and they must die?
What shall they do?
Well, they're doing it. It's nothing, almost technically it's history and art and all the other things. They're doing it, and it's nothing.
I figure the result is going to be colossal one of these centuries, and I don't mean Canadian quintuplets and Mussolini, flamboyance and fascism, lousy books and lousy collectors. I mean everything, expert and excellent (Saroyan). FROM: Those Who Write Them And Those Who Collect Them by William Saroyan
One hears of the golden age of book collecting, and the temptation is to mourn for that vanished age, until one discovers that each repetition of the phrase refers to another and different age. One reads of the triumphs of Heber and Huth, of Henry Stevens and Buxton Forman, of Andrew Lang and De Witt Miller, all notable collectors of their time, and one weeps for the passing of the day when book collecting was book collecting; when Omar Khayyam was to be had for a tuppence, and Swinburne's firsts were on every stall. One dreams of Tamerlane and The Second Funeral of Napoleon as in youth one dreamed of dimes and quarters beneath old sidewalks; and, waking, one curses the barren day that lie's beneath one's windows. But in time one realizes that the golden age of book collecting is here and now, and that it behooves one to take advantage of it (Starrett 33,34).
FROM: "The Diamond in the Dust Heap," Penny Wise And Book Foolish by Vincent Starrett.
In the tight little cosmos of the fisher of books just one form of collecting is wholly admirable and understandable; namely, the acquisition of rare books and manuscripts. The book collector has known many stamp and coin collectors, old furniture men, old glass and old pewter men who turned to books, but he has never known a first-grade bookman who got down off his hobby before the undertaker was sent for (Currie 19,20).
FROM: "How Collectors Happen," Fishers of Books by Barton Currie.
There are innumerable methods and systems of collecting books. One way is to restrict oneself to one particular field. This is often the best method, but a difficult one. Much pleasure can be derived from most any form of book collecting, whether the subject be on frogs, steam engines, sea shells, crime, drama, tobacco, typography, magic, philosophy, old medicine, erotica, aviation, music, or Elizabethan drama. To feel that you possess one of the finest and most complete collections of books on any one subject is naturally satisfying, and a source of pride. Aside from the monetary aspect, I doubt whether Folger (with his numerous Shakespeare folios) derived more pleasure from his hobby than does the young collector who is able to complete his collection of the first editions of William Faulkner or Edna St. Millay (Targ 8).
FROM: The Pauper's Guide to Book Collecting by William Targ.
Now where do books go? They go from the publisher to bookseller to customer to junk man to scout to dealer to dealer to dealer . . . to customer, and sometimes to one of the 2 percent of libraries where the librarian knows what he's doing.
The process takes times, sure; but rare-bookselling is almost the last remaining trade with the charm of leisure. It isn't a hurried man's calling, any more than it is a lazy man's (Everitt 118).
FROM: The Adventures of a Treasure Hunter by Charles P. Everitt.
Pleasure may be as good a justification for collecting as any other. The pleasure of pursuit, the pleasure of discovery, the pleasure of possession –– they all combine to gratify the mind and the senses. It would need a Stendhal to categorize and analyze the various degrees and phases of bibliophily. But just as his amour physique is only one, and the most elementary, kind of love, so the lust and satisfaction of possession is only one aspect of book-collecting (Hayward 24).
FROM: "Why First Editions?" Book Collecting: Four Broadcast Talks by R.W. Chapman, John Hayward, John Carter, and Michael Sadleir.
Few writers show such familiarity with poetry ancient and modern; and his books at Christ Church and the Bodleian testify to his fondness for literature of this class. There are those who hold that Francis Bacon not only wrote Shakespeare's plays and Spencer's Færie Queene, but also Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy. With the biliteral cipher, the whole story of Queen Elizabeth, Essex, and Bacon may be found in the pages of Democritus Junior! Is it not just as reasonable to suppose, as Mr. [George] Parker of Oxford suggested, that Burton himself wrote the plays of Shakespeare? Does he not quote him several times, and are there not fine original editions of Venus and Adonis and The Rape of the Lucrece among his books in the Bodleian? (Osler 523).
FROM: "Robert Burton: The Man, His Book, His Library," The Collected Essays of Sir William Osler, Volume III, The Historical and Biographical Essays.
I, too, have a fondness for poetry, and, in closing, I will share a poem with you.
By Richard Le Gallienne
With Pipe and Book at close of day,
Oh, what is sweeter, mortal say?
It matters not what book on knee,
Old Izaak or the Odyssey,
It matters not meerschaum or clay.
And though one's eyes will dream astray,
And lips forget to sue or sway,
It is "enough to merely be,"
With Pipe and Book.
What though our modern skies be gray,
As bards aver, I will not pray
For "soothing Death" to succor me,
But ask this much, O Fate, of thee,
A little longer yet to stay
With Pipe and Book.
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