Sherlock Holmes specialist Glen Miranker - A Collector for Over 40 years
Glen Miranker, one of the world’s leading collectors of Sherlock Holmes, is not your garden variety bibliophile. For starters, your average collector is not a former Chief Technology Officer at Apple, (He retired in 2004), nor did they graduate summa cum laude from Yale and go on to earn advanced degrees in computer science from MIT.
Speaking with Rare Book Hub in January, Miranker said he first came to book collecting in his graduate school days. Since that time his budget, if not his interests have changed.
in the 1970s he recalled, “A $25 book was a significant financial consideration.” In comparison, he mentioned “a few months ago a single manuscript page sold for hundreds of thousands of dollars. I have three pages.”
He credited his wife Cathy with supporting his interest. An early inexpensive but desirable Holmes item he received as a gift from her made him realize, ”Wow, you don’t have to be JP Morgan to collect books. More recently, “She encouraged me to be aggressive,” and to make acquisition decisions based on,”how it will improve the collection.”
His original interest he said was not in collecting Sherlock Holmes, “but in the stories, themes and being magicked away to a wonderful place and time. I found it very diverting and became serious quickly.” He found a community among other Holmes enthusiasts with periodic gatherings that were “interesting and companionable.”
An exhibit of 221 items drawn from his Holmes collection is on view at the Grolier Club through April 16. The show has a has a substantial section of pirated editions. Miranker said he is particularly fond of this genre. “Millions of pirated books were printed, copyright holders didn’t get a penny. Not surprisingly the pirates were “motivated by money, as a hardback could be half day wages, while the pirate edition could be had for a very low price. A 25 cent pirate was within the reach of a popular audience.”
What’s on display is only a small portion of what he has. Among the categories he owns, but are not represented the exhibition are: “Writing about writing, criticism, essays, as well as a substantial collection of pastiches,” made up stories written in the manner of Sherlock Holmes.
Asked what he might do with his holdings in years to come? he replied, “The last few years have changed my mind. My thinking was to sell, but now I would like them go to an institution, to preserve the years of effort that went into making it an interesting collection.
So what else does he collect?
He is also a fan of cryptography. ”In terms of scale it’s not the same league, perhaps 400-500 volumes. It’s more of a reading library, scholarly, not rare.”
No matter where his own collections end up, Miranker is presently very much involved with the larger world of books, especially libraries.
According to his biographical statement, in addition to book collecting, lecturing he is “assisting special-collections departments and boards at such institutions as the Houghton Library of Harvard University, the Toronto Reference Library (Toronto), the Harry Ransom Center (University of Texas, Austin) and the Newberry Library (Chicago), among others. He also collects and lectures on the history of cryptography and is a director of the National Cryptologic Foundation (Ft. Meade, Maryland).
“I’m extremely fond of libraries; I do not think of books as disappearing, maybe not quite as plentiful. When it comes to libraries he noted “everybody has space and money problems.”
Does he have a personal favorite? ”Overwhelmingly it’s the Rare Books School, at the University of Virginia. Their staff and faculty are effective, knowledgeable and passionate…. I can’t think of of enough good things to say.”