Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2018 Issue

“Bibliomania”: Do You Have a Collection or Do You Have a Disease?

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"I must have books and acquiring them is all the fun."

    As a child I would accompany my book buying dad on his frequent rounds to the various basements and sub-basements of Goodwill Industries in Detroit, where the books were not shelved, but piled in heaps, often to the ceiling in dim rooms illuminated by the light of a single bulb hanging by an electrical cord and casting spooky shadows on the moldy walls.

He would spend hours poking through them and eventually some of those books would come home with us. At our house they led a more organized life, on shelves, in stacks at the top and bottom of the stairs, on my mother’s desk, on my father’s desk, and in boxes in the packing room - ready to come in or go out.

    But we were booksellers, so it was natural for us to have books, a lot of books.

    There are, it seems, other people who acquire many books and often not even for reading, selling or library purposes. These folks have a different name, they’re not collectors, they’re termed “hoarders” and their condition is sometimes called “bibliomania

    Wikipedia defines “Bibliomania as a disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged.” According to the online reference site “Bibliomania is one of the several psychological disorders associated with books -- such as bibliophagy (book eating) and bibliokleptomania (book stealing). Bibliomania is characterized by the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a more conventional book collector. The purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania.”

   This condition is not just a Western cultural phenomena. The Japanese slang term “tsundoku” means acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up without reading them.

    East or West, another very different explanation for the condition is contained in the quote by A. Edward Newton: "Even when reading is impossible, the presence of books acquired produces such an ecstasy that the buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching towards infinity ... we cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their ready access reassurance.”

    A less sanguine view links bibliomania to compulsive hoarding, also known as hoarding disorder, which is a pattern of behavior that is characterized by excessive acquisition and an inability or unwillingness to discard large quantities of objects that cover the living areas of the home and cause significant distress or impairment. Compulsive hoarding can create health risks, impaired functioning, economic burden, and adverse effects on friends and family members.

     Typically hoarding can prevent uses of space, enough so that it can limit activities such as cooking, cleaning, moving through the house, and sleeping. It can also put the individual and others at risk of fires, falling, poor sanitation, and other related concerns. Compulsive hoarders may be aware of their irrational behavior, but the emotional attachment to the hoarded objects far exceeds the motive to discard them.

     Mental health professional sometimes (but not always) label the condition as an offshoot of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) but not everyone agrees on this diagnosis, or even that it is a psychological abnormality. According to the American Psychiatric Association’s web site,“Some individuals with hoarding disorder may recognize and acknowledge that they have a problem with accumulating possessions; others may not see a problem.”

   Still others prefer a different definition:

I tend to think I'm a biblioholic rather than a hoarder,” commented bookseller Michael J. Osborne. Biblioholic is defined as a love for books, especially fine editions.” Osborne said jokingly he hopes to one day get around to “Biblioholics Anonymousor BA. “Kidding aside,” he continued, “I often wonder why I buy so much? I sold off a few hundred boxes to a colleague a while back,..." and in the next breath he continues, “I'm working on a few hundred more….. Not that I need them, more that I want them.”

    “Behind me are about 40 file boxes (you know the kind), of books, half of which recently acquired, the other half in boxes for at least a year. Behind that are shelves, many, of planning books, and although I have cataloged a chunk there is a lot left and I still continue to buy them. Then there is roughly 50 linear feet of books yet to be cataloged, many of which I have had for a VERY LONG time. Then the 20 boxes stacked in the corner. Then the books about books I have amassed. Then I think about my age and my health and I say to myself, “You will never catalog all of these books.”

   “There will be time, there will be time… Not."

    “But I must have books, and acquiring books is all the fun. It’s an elixir. Someone calls. They have books. You go. Once I have examined a book and experience it, drink it in, then I put it aside, craving the next one. Biblioholic. Yup.”

   Another dealer, Joanne Hoefer observed: “I had early this year a couple come in and ask if I took cookbooks. I said ‘Yes.’ They said their brother-in-law had passed and they had a few boxes they were mine if I wanted them? Sure," I said, "I'll take them.”

   “They showed up the next day with 57 large Home Depot boxes of cookbooks so heavy I could not move them, had to take books out of each box to even be able to move the cartons.

    “There were almost a thousand books she said, most of them brand new. “ I still have six boxes left to work through. The guy was a plumber, electrician- handyman, it appears he bought them just to leaf through.”

    Is death the only solution? Not quite, says Lynn Wiencke of Chisholm Trail Bookstore, “Moving cures hoarding.”

Here are a few instructive links on hoarding in general and book hoarding in particular:



Compulsive Book Buying

www.theguardian.com/books/2017/jan/26/bibliomania-the-strange-history-of-compulsive-book-buying  

Ten Famous Book Hoarders

lithub.com/10-famous-book-hoarders/

Collyer Brothers death

www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2217953/Homer-Langley-Collyer-Hoarder-brothers-killed-clutter-New-York-mansion.html

Ten hoarders killed by their own junk

listverse.com/2017/06/19/top-10-hoarders-who-were-killed-by-their-own-hoard/  

Why we hoard:

psychologyofwellbeing.com/201509/getting-to-know-your-inner-hoarder.html

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Morton Subastas: Auction of Books by Explorers and Travelers, Maps, Landscapes, Science, and Religion<br>Tuesday, January 28th, 2020<br>5:00 p.m. (CST)</b>
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> London, 1859. First Edition. Letter Addressed to Dr. Ogle and Envelope Signed by Charles Darwin. $278,000 to $333,000.
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> Ortelij, Abrahami. <i>Epitome Theatri Orbis Terrarum.</i> Antuerpiae: Exstat in Officina Plantinian, 1612. Rare Edition. $5,560 to $6,670.
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> González de Mendoza, Juan. <i>Histoire du Grand Royaume de la Chine, Situé Aux Indes Orientales.</i> [Genève]: 1606. $1,670 to $2,230.
    <b>Morton Subastas: Auction of Books by Explorers and Travelers, Maps, Landscapes, Science, and Religion<br>Tuesday, January 28th, 2020<br>5:00 p.m. (CST)</b>
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> Chapman, Conrad Wise. <i>Landscape of the Valley of Mexico.</i> Oil on wood. Signed and dated. $26,120 to $30,560.
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> <i>Thesaurus Exorcismorum...</i> Coloniae, 1608. Collection of Six Works of the Most Important Franciscan Exorcists of the 16th Century. $1,670 to $2,230.
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> <i>Saggio delle Transazioni Filosofiche della Società Regia.</i> Napoli, 1729-1734. With a Map of California by Eusebio Kino. $1,120 to $1,440.
    <b>Morton Subastas: Auction of Books by Explorers and Travelers, Maps, Landscapes, Science, and Religion<br>Tuesday, January 28th, 2020<br>5:00 p.m. (CST)</b>
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> Scherer, Heinrich. <i>Delineatio Nova et Vera Partis Australis Novi Mexici, cum Australi Parte Insulae Californiae...</i> Münich, ca. 1700. $850 to $1,120.
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> Santacilia, Jorge Juan-Ulloa, Antonio de. <i>A Voyage to South America. Describing at Large, the Spanish Cities...</i> London, 1760. $890 to $1,120.
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> Limborch, Philippi. <i>Historia Inquisitionis Cui Subjungitur Liber Sententiarum Inquisitionis Tholosanae...</i> Amsterdam, 1692. $1,340 to $1,670.
    <b>Morton Subastas: Auction of Books by Explorers and Travelers, Maps, Landscapes, Science, and Religion<br>Tuesday, January 28th, 2020<br>5:00 p.m. (CST)</b>
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> Castro, C. - Campillo, J. - Cumplido, I. - Lauda, L. - Rodríguez G. <i>Mexico and Its Surroundings.</i> Méx, 1855-56. $5,000 to $5,560.
    <b>Morton Subastas, Jan. 28:</b> <i>Medical Gazette. Periodical of the National Academy of Medicine of Mexico...</i> México, 1864 - 1943. Pieces: 169. $1,340 to $1,560.
  • <b>Bonhams:</b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Measure for Measure</i> (extracted from the First Folio). London, 1623. Sold for $52,575.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> HAWTHORNE, NATHANIEL. <i>Fanshawe, A Tale.</i> Boston, 1828. FIRST EDITION OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. Sold for $47,575.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> THOREAU, HENRY DAVID. <i>Walden; Or, Life in the Woods.</i> Boston, 1854. FINE COPY OF THE FIRST EDITION. Sold for $12,575.
    <b>Bonhams: </b> SHAKESPEARE, WILLIAM. <i>Comedies, Histories, and Tragedies.</i> London, 1685. THE FOURTH FOLIO, Brewster/Bentley issue. Sold for $43,825.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> STEIG, WILLIAM. Original maquette and 58 finished drawings for <i>The Agony in the Kindergarten,</i> one of Steig's most important books. Sold for $12,575.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> KING, STEPHEN. <i>Carrie.</i> New York, 1974. INSCRIBED FIRST EDITION, OF AUTHOR'S FIRST BOOK. Sold for $1,912.50.
    <b><center>Bonhams<br>Consignments invited (2020)</b>
    <b>Bonhams:</b> APPLE MACINTOSH PROTOTYPE. 1983. The earliest known Macintosh with "Twiggy" drive, one of only two known working machines. Sold for $150,075.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> LOVELACE, AUGUSTA ADA. Sketch of the Analytical Engine Invented by Charles Babbage Esq. London, 1843. FIRST EDITION, JOURNAL ISSUE, MOST IMPORTANT PAPER IN EARLY DIGITAL COMPUTING. Sold for $15,075.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> APPLE-1 COMPUTER. Signed by Steve Wozniak, used in development of Apple II. Sold for $175,075.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> DARWIN, CHARLES. 1809-1882. <i>On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection.</i> London, 1859. FIRST EDITION. Sold for $131,325.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> BOOLE, GEORGE. <i>An Investigation of the Laws of Thought.</i> London, 1854. Sold for $12,575.
    <b>Bonhams:</b> SHANNON, CLAUDE and WARREN WEAVER. <i>The Mathematical Theory of Communication.</i> Urbana, 1949. Sold for $27,575.
  • <b>Sotheby’s, Jan. 27:</b> [Paine, Thomas]. Common Sense; Addressed to the Inhabitants of America… Philadelphia: R. Bell, 1776. $200,000 to $250,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jan. 27:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Autograph letter signed, to Joshua Reed Giddings, 21 May 1860. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jan. 27:</b> Oakley, Annie. <i>A Brief Sketch of Her Career and Notes on Shooting.</i> [N.p.]: ca. 1913, Signed. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jan. 27:</b> Washington, George. One autograph letter signed & 3 letters signed to General Alexander McDougall, September 1777. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jan. 27:</b> Mather, Cotton. <i>The Wonders of the Invisible World. Being an account of the tryals of several witches...</i> London: 1693. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Sotheby’s, Jan. 27:</b> James, Benjamin.<i><br>A Treatise on the Management of the Teeth.</i> Boston, 1814. $2,000 to $3,000.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Emil Cardinaux, <i>Winter in der Schweiz,</i> 1921. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Evelyn Rumsey Carey, <i>Pan American Exposition / Niagara / Buffalo,</i> 1901. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Arnost Hofbauer, <i>Topicuv Salon,</i> 1898. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Job,</i> 1896. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Georges de Feure, <i>Le Journal des Ventes,</i> 1898. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Cycles Perfecta,</i> 1897. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Edward Penfield, <i>Orient Cycles / Lead the Leaders,</i> circa 1895. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Adrien Barrère, <i>L’Ideal du Touriste,</i> 1903. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Willem Frederick Ten Broek, <i>New York / Wereldtentoonselling / Holland – Amerika Lijn,</i> 1938. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Dwight Clark Shepler, <i>Sun Valley / Union Pacific.</i> $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Sascha Maurer, <i>Flexible Flyer Splitkein / Smuggler’s Notch,</i> circa 1935. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 13:</b> Louis Bonhajo, <i>Vote / League of Women Voters,</i> 1920. $2,000 to $3,000.

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