Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2008 Issue

Prose & Poetry to Inflame our Imagination

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In this field, as in all others in the works on paper area, collectors and sellers divide the chess board. Collectors search for and purchase, dealers locate and acquire, describe and later sell. In the selection of material to acquire the dealer's judgment comes into play. The entire field most easily sees what is already recognized. For the dealer the challenge is to see the crocus in February, the first robins in April.

Some collectors define their own collecting space. For them the world of a single author, the works of a specific school, place or era is the stuff of deep personal interest that makes the reading of an arcane journal article by a not-yet-famous author an engrossing experience. For others it is the feelings evoked, the ability of a story and a writer to pluck the strings of memory that remind us that we are of one piece with the person we were forty years ago, still alive, still feeling the pulls and exhilarations of life.

I recently asked Mark Alexander, the Vermont dealer in poetry and prose, for his perspective on collecting.
"To me it's about learning. When collectors like, and sometimes love, an author the impetus is there to learn more, read more and to find additional material by and about this person. For some this drive is a very powerful thing. I enjoy collecting and dealing in poetry in no small part because poetry collectors, possibly because there are so many poets, schools, movements, isms, etc., seem to know a great deal more about the poets they collect than I do."
This month the Comet offers the suggested readings and purchases of books all memorable and valuable in their way. Among them are anchors to collections whose building is a future enterprise. Others are interesting examples of material within the standard and known collecting concepts current today. And then there are the gems, not always expensive but always special, the type of material that demands to be read and more than that, to be understood.

Now spend some time to find some interesting material. Along the way you may also find a dealer with whom to have an enduring relationship. In the book business knowledge is precious.

AE Comet

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  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
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