Book Collectors and Their Libraries from Oak Knoll Books
By Michael Stillman
Oak Knoll Books has published the third issue in its series of "Special catalogues," Book Collectors and Their Libraries. This is not the typical Oak Knoll thousand-item catalogue, but a smaller (though taller) illustrated version, focused on book collections and collecting. There are catalogues of great private libraries, often compiled for their dispersion sales. There are odes to book collecting and runs of periodicals as well as books for bibliomaniacs. This is a collection for those who love to collect. Oak Knoll has not attempted to stack this catalogue with everything on its shelves, as some of their catalogues appear to do, but this one provides an excellent sampling. Much more can be found on their website. Here are a few samples of these samples in the "Special Catalogue."
One of the best known of early collectors was Frenchman Jean Grolier. The famed club in New York was named for him. Grolier was noted for placing his books in the most exquisite of bindings. Item 13 is Recherches sur Jean Grolier...by Le Roux de Lincy. This is the large paper version of the first edition of a volume that includes a biography of Grolier, reprints of his correspondence, and a catalogue of his library. Over 600 of the bindings that were once in Grolier's library are known to exist today. This book was published in 1866, three centuries after Grolier died. Priced at $450.
Four centuries after Grolier, Carl Pforzheimer was putting together a magnificent library, the focus being English literature. Not surprisingly, you would find names like Shakespeare in his collection. Pforzheimer was a banker and philanthropist, but is best remembered as an avid book collector. Today his collection of English literature resides at the University of Texas at Austin, while his collection of English romantics was donated to the New York Public Library. Item 1 is the Carl H. Pforzheimer Library, English Literature, 1475-1700. This three-volume bibliography, including detailed descriptions of some 1,500 items, is priced at $10,000.
Here is a smaller library, in multiple ways. It is a Catalogue of the Library of Miniature Books Collected by Percy Edwin Spielmann, published in 1961. It includes over 500 descriptions of these tiniest of books. Item 17. $395.
Of course, no collection ever compared to the one put together by collecting fanatic Sir Thomas Phillipps. The British collector gathered some 100,000 books and manuscripts (mostly manuscripts) during the mid-19th century. Phillipps was obsessed with preserving one of everything, and if he did not quite reach that unreachable goal, a great deal of material which would otherwise be lost exists to this day because of Phillipps' obsession. Much of the manuscript material he collected was not regarded as of much value at the time, but Phillipps ended up broke anyway because he purchased so much. His home became virtually impossible to negotiate, its rooms stacked high and wide with printed matter. A.N.L. Munby published the greatest work on Phillipps, the five-volume set of Phillipps Studies, printed from 1951-1960. Though Phillipps died in 1872, his collection was still being auctioned long after Munby's book was released, over a century after the sale started. Item 36. $400.