Passionate Book Collecting

HAPPY NEW YEAR from Old Scrolls Book Shop!

Make this your year to begin assembling your own private library or  a valuable book collection, and acquire continuous learning and enjoyment from the interesting people you will meet, and from the steadfast companionship of beautiful books in your home.

I have just finished reading Nicholas Basbanes’  wonderful book Among the Gently Mad: Strategies and Perspectives for the Book Hunter in the Twenty-First Century. I love the fact that he emphasizes that building a great book collection is within the reach of just about anyone…that you do not have to be a wealthy individual to acquire a great collection of books.   I don’t know of any writer who has done more to make book collecting truly accessible and delightfully interesting to readers than Nicholas Basbanes.

Among the Gently Mad (Henry Holt and Co., 2002)

Many people think that collecting books is about being able to afford famous, expensive books or “high spots” in literature (like Catcher in the Rye, or Ulysses, et al), and if you can’t afford them, you’re out of the game. Basbanes expertly guides readers to other realms of book collecting that are just as important, more interesting, and much more attainable.

At Old Scrolls Book Shop, we have always encouraged people to collect according to their own interests.   Some of the best collectors (and many of these have been very ordinary people who have gone on to sell their completed collections to extraordinary institutions) have been people who patiently assemble a collection focusing on one area of burning interest to them.   Simply put, transfer your greatest interest in life into collecting printed information focusing on that particular subject.

For me, it was at one time the Arabian Horse, and over the years I acquired every book and periodical I could find on the history, breeding, training of the Arabian horse, as well as novels that included an Arabian horse or horses,  until I had a respectable collection that truly satisfied me.   But the same principal could be applied for a person who has a great interest in the Rivers of America, history of the Silk Road, sewing thimbles, Native American writers, Scandinavian recipes or woodworking.    And as Basbanes indicates, sometimes the more obscure the subject, the better are the chances that you will have access to affordable material and finish up with a collection that is truly unique.

Some people choose to focus on collecting material by and about an author who has fallen out of popular favor, or one who is obscure, but whose writing they particularly enjoy.   In his book,  Basbanes tells of a collector who had been inspired by a professor in college to appreciate some of the great nineteenth-century American poets and their lives.  Concentrating on collecting not only first edition books by Longfellow, but associated materials such as photographs, letters, posters, calendars and “everything Longfellow,”  his quest eventually ended when Harvard University made him an offer on all his material.  Although his mission had been to create a Longfellow collection that was valuable to him, he did such an excellent job that it became valuable to others.

Others have simply focused on an idea that is special to them — like Utopian communities, disarmament, or Christmas.   The trick is to use your own imagination and inspiration.  Collecting related material such as ephemera, art, letters, posters, can be  very important to the augmenting an collection.

If you have not read Among the Gently Mad, I highly recommend it.  Pay attention to Basbanes’  useful tips on book scouting, educating yourself as a collector, and be sure to take in the bibliography at the rear of the book.    It is a wonderful way to get the year 2011 off to a great start as a budding book collector, or to enhance your collecting abilities.

From Ron and Cathy at Old Scrolls Book Shop, we wish you good fortune and fun in your book scouting, and may 2011 be your best book collecting year ever!


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