Sunday, November 1, 2009

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much, Allison Hoover Bartlett

This was such a fascinating book to read. I love reading books about book collectors and the sometimes bizarre things that take place in the world of rare books. This story of an unrepentant book thief and the book dealer who was obsessed with catching him was entertaining and educational. I am always amazed at the knowledge of books and printing that some people possess. It was also fun to read this book since I have actually shopped at several of the stores & sales mentioned in the story. Kind of weird, actually.

"I touched the pages and realized how much I would love to own something like it. This is how it happens, I thought." (p.28)

"Too few people seem to realize that books have feelings. But if I know one thing 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 how 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." - Eugene Field in The Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac, 1896 quoted on page 75

'Camerado! this is no book,
Who touches this touches a man.'
-Walt Whitman quoted on page 129

Aside from making me wish that I had more money & space to devote to my own book collection this book had me thinking about how incredibly selfish John Gilkey, the thief, is. Over and over he tells the author how he deserves these books. Simply buying books with his own money and stopping when he has no more money doesn't appear to be an option for him. It is odd to realize on the final page that he is still out there stealing rare books at this point in time.

Now if I had the (legitimate!) means I would be all about collecting French nrf editions purely for their prettiness, first editions of books I actually like, completing my Virago green paperback quest, & the entire Persephone Books collection. Not that I've spent too much time pondering this but I would also look for Oz first editions to go with the 4 I have, LM Montgomery, Sigrid Undset, & my feminine middlebrow modern authors. That is probably enough of an imaginary shopping list for the moment. It is a fun mental game to play though; filling imaginary shelves with beautiful old books that I can't afford.

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