The 411 On Book Collecting – Guest Post

I would like to thank Benjamin Clark – the man behind The Exile Bibliophile blog – for putting this introduction to book collecting for the fans of GoneReading.  Interested in learning more?  Check out his excellent blog!

Happy Reading!

Bradley S. Wirz, Founder & CEO

Intro to Book Collecting by Benjamin Clark

It’s interesting so many people love books, but so few people claim to be book collectors.  Is it because because book collecting sounds like something akin to the breeding of polo ponies?  Perhaps.

I collect books.  I do not own a yacht.  I’m not embarrassed by either fact.  I also seek others who collect books too, so maybe we can be friends.  (The Mrs. says I need people-friends too, not just book-friends.)  In my quest to find kindred collectors of books, I’ve found quite a few proto-collectors.

Proto-collectors are people who are very nearly collecting but can’t quite claim full book collector status for themselves.  They seem to be charmingly unaware how a quest has come upon them, consuming money, energy, and precious time– but still they deny being book collectors.  I’m the first to admit, it’s hard to say when exuberant Bibliophilia become full-blown Bibliomania.  But the first step is certainly to admit there are stronger forces at work than the love of a tale well told.

Not everyone who owns a lot of books is a book collector.  Granted, I wear pants most days, and own many pairs, yet don’t think of myself as a pants connoisseur.  Book collectors are the same way.  A book collection has a purpose beyond accumulating, beyond, even, reading.  A book collection has a purpose.

The Focus of Your Collection

What should the focus be?  That’s the beauty of it.  It can be anything.  Anything at all.  And though book collectors have been carefully forming collections for centuries, the most interesting book collections are yet to be formed.

Collections often focus on a particular author, illustrator, publisher, series, a style of bookbinding, or a particular subject (like books of made-up words, or pants-wearing polo ponies).  One great way to see what’s new in collecting is to review the entries for the National Collegiate Book Collecting Contest sponsored by the ABAA (The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America).  Nearly all of these entries demonstrate what amazing collections can be assembled on a college student’s budget.

Another thing to do is get to know other collectors.  There’s a big beautiful blogosphere pulsing with the thoughts and purchases of serious bibliophiles.  I have over 250 blogs in my RSS reader dedicated to bibliophilia, and I know I don’t follow everyone.  I’m constantly finding new ones.  And people find me through my own blog.

There are also several clubs, societies, and other organizations for book collectors, many of which can be found at the website of the Fellowship of American Bibliophilic Societies.  There may also be sites dedicated to your preferred objects of book love– a great example is Collecting the Modern Library, a site dedicated to the Modern Library series of 1917-1970, compiled by collectors over many years and still growing.  I wish there were many more like it.

If you love books, you’ve likely heard booksellers bemoan the unliterate age of the e-panopticon we live in today.  Publishers are even worse.  The moaning has its merits, but the moaners are overreacting.  Historically, booksellers considered the end of books with the emergence of radio and television too.  The great thing about the internet is it has largely removed one of the biggest barriers of book lovers: geography.  Historically, book collecting has largely been a past-time for urbanites, but that is no longer true.  The internet has also caused what were once thought to be rare books into a wider market place to be outed as actually fairly common.

But books are finite, and I think we’re currently living in what will be “the good ol’ days” of book collecting.  A time we’ll look back on fondly when nearly everything was available and most of it cheap.

There are still plenty of frontiers to be explored and treasures to be found in book collecting!