So says Allison Hoover Bartlett, author of the book ‘The Man Who Loved Books Too Much’. As well as miscellaneous excerpts from the same book below.
“Walking by a booth with an impressive selection of dust jacket art, I heard a dealer say to a passerby, “Don’t judge a book by its content!” I had read enough about book collectors before the fair to get the joke: Many collectors don’t actually read their books. At first I was surprised, but having given it some thought, it’s not so shocking. After all, much of the fondness avid readers, and certainly collectors, have for their books is related to the books’ physical bodies. As much as they are vessels for stories (and poetry, reference information, etc.), books are historical artifacts and repositories for memories—we like to recall who gave books to us, where we were when we read them, how old we were, and so on.”
“Too few people seem to realize that books have feelings,” wrote collector Eugene Field, who wrote The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac in 1896. “But if I know one think better than another I know this, that my books know me and love me. When of a morning I awaken I cast my eyes about my room to see ho fare my beloved treasures, and as I cry cheerily to them, ‘Good-day to you, sweet friends!’ how lovingly they beam upon me, and how glad they are that my repose has been unbroken.”
“There’s a difference between those who simply love books and those who collect them, and an experienced dealer can spot a collector in the same time it takes to asked where they’ve stashed the first edition of ‘The Hobbit’ (not likely to be sitting on open shelves).”
Personally, I don’t understand collecting books for just the sake of collecting or the aesthetic value. I never want to own a book that I don’t intend to read at some point. If I am going to collect, it’s not going to be for monetary value, nor will it be with pristine condition in mind. I like a book that has seen wear and tear, but can withstand the test of time. As well as I don’t want to have to worry if a page slightly tears, or a dust jacket gets a crimp in it. That being said, I treat my books as a loved one. Well okay, even loved ones get a bit of abuse. I try not to crack spines or bend pages, but a few have gotten worn.
But to own a book that is worth $$$$$ and know that it is worth that much, would make me panic. I’d be afraid to open it, touch it, lift it off the shelf. And to me, what is the point of a book if you can’t enjoy reading it. Granted, some books are very lovely to look at. And there is something appealing about a bookshelf filled with leather spines and lovely gold leaf. But again, if you don’t read it, what is the point?
Again, that all being said, reading about the world of book collecting is interesting enough in itself. And I would love to go to some antiquarian book fair, like those mentioned in this book that I am reading. To be able to smell the aged books, seeing how time has taken it’s toll, or not. Feel the smooth warmth of leather. Yes, books do feel good in your hands. But I want to read them.
All that being said, “The Man Who Loved Books Too Much” is an excellent book, and I highly recommend it even though I have yet to finish it. I am two thirds of the way through though, and I think that is enough to state an opinion.