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Book Collectors

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Aug 12, 2008, 5:28am Top

Do most collectors have different subjects/topics they collect?
I collect a limited number of British crime authors, a small number of historical novels. But besides that I collect books on the discovery of the Ancient Near East (1830 - 1900). The works from Layard, Rawlinson, Smith, Botta, Flandin,...
Do other collectors have a 'side-kick' or is it all concentrated on one topic. And if so why? Because multiple subjects limit the resources for the main theme. But it will give you more chance of finding something in a shop. Looking forward to your reactions.

Edited: Aug 12, 2008, 8:02am Top

I have two "official" collections, and I flirt with a couple others. I guess it's more symptomatic of enjoying different things not answered by the others than a lack of focus. That's what I tell myself, at least. For instance, one collection is on one subject, the other is by publisher. And there are sub-sets within each. No, I don't have a problem... I could stop if I really wanted to...

Aug 12, 2008, 1:32pm Top

I have several collection domains, but they're relatively narrow. Which means that I wouldn't get to, um, ... "score" very often if I only had one domain.

Sometimes I also just 'adopt' a subject to collect, because nobody else is collecting it and that seems wrong.

At least, unlike benjclarck, I can admit that I have a problem. The solution is simple too: once I've collected every possible book, the collecting addiction will be over!

(Of course, when that happens, new collection domains will appear...)

Aug 13, 2008, 5:50pm Top

Most collectors have at least one primary and several secondary collections. Some collectors only collect one genre, while others acquire anything that interests them, and our interests change over time. I say go with the flow and buy what interests you.

Dictionaries and quotation books were the first kinds of books I collected. Soon, it was Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson, Books About Books, and almost every genre except modern first editions and fantasy. Today, over twenty years later, Books About Books, and Samuel Johnson are my primary collecting interests, with too many offshoots to mention. As for my other collections, I'm slowly but surely down-sizing them.

Sep 19, 2008, 10:32am Top

I've gone through three stages in my collecting (since 1966). The first was simply antiquarian books. If it was published before 1850, I bought it. I also began collection first editions of american writers, any era. that bin has stayed constant through today. Just the other day I added a first of a Dean Koontz book and the first american edition of the bell jar/plath. The second obsession I started on was circa 1984 -- U.S. Presidents. I had to have at least one biography of each president. You might be surprised how difficult it is to find ANY, to say nothing of "modern" biography on such as Chester A> Arthur, Van Buren, et al. But I did it! Now, of course, I could care less. That was a passing fancy, as was my third obsession with motorcycling magazines, specifically the American Motorcyclist (AMA house mag). Now I have four shelves and almost the complete AMA publications since 1947 and I could care less (any one out there a biker mag buff?) What stayed strong all the way through, though, are the first editions of american and british writers (classicists such as Wolfe, Dickens, Fielding, et al.

Hope this answers your question.

Dec 19, 2008, 9:32am Top

I do have different subjects I collect. The reason is indeed that you have better chances of finding something in shops or on the net. But for me, collecting is a sport and when I complete a collection, I need a new one. To have various subjects, means to have a permanent need to search, buy, stay alert, etc.

My primary topic is Dutch literature after world war 2. But my topics within that are:
- a number of Dutch authors (Nescio, Bordewijk, Adriaan van Dis, Marcel Möring)
- all publications from the organisation CPNB, an organisation devoted to promoting reading in the Netherlands. They organize the annual bookweek (boekenweek) where you get a free book during a week, but there are also several other CPNB publications during that week. They also organize the children's bookweek (kinderboekenweek), also with a free gift and other publications, the month of the suspense novel (Maand van het Spannende Boek) with free gift and other publications and some more. See my library for the tag "CPNB" and you'll find out that it's a huge topic to collect.
- new years giftbooks from publishers
- several smaller series of books (annual literary publications, e.g. the annual publication for poetryday (gedichtendag). These are not in my library yet, I'm still working on it.

So, I collect a limited amount of topics/themes: enough to keep me busy, but not too much because of my financial situation. It means that every now and then I delete a topic from my list, so that I can concentrate on my main topics.



Jan 3, 2009, 7:49am Top

As already said, I collect A.H. Layard and the discovery of the Near east (1830-1900). I read that, due to their succes, the books by H. Layard (published around 1850) were very soon republished in pirated editions (same period). I was wondering of any one has information on how to locate (place, publishers,...)these pirated editions.

Jan 3, 2009, 11:05am Top

Collecting the Modern Library, we run into piracies as well. About 100+ years later, but you could run into the same problems. One is that pirate copies often do not use their own name as the imprint. They'll just use the legitimate imprint name and go from there. That means you have to rely on a very knowledgeable cataloger to know the difference, and when someone has only handled the one copy, well... you get the idea.

However, in the early 1800s (and before), copyright laws were a little harder to enforce, and not as many people took them seriously. So, pirates would go right ahead and put their imprint on the book. Or, here in the US, they would keep the UK publisher name, but change the city.

With Discoveries in the ruins of Nineveh and Babylon I notice there an 1853 edition by John Murray of London, a lot by the Harper Bros. in NY and also George Putnam in NY. Unless someone has written a good bibliography, it's going to take handling a lot of these copies, digging into publishing records, etc.

Hopefully someone can give us all a good recommendation on a book giving an overview of book piracy.

Edited: Jan 3, 2009, 11:43am Top

Book piracy has a lot to do with copyright. In 1899, Augustine Birrell provided a good overview on Copyright in his lectures at University College, London:
Seven Lectures on the Law and History of Copyright.

Touchstones weren't working when I posted. Go to http://tinyurl.com/7v883n

Jan 3, 2009, 12:21pm Top

Thank you both for these very interesting comments. I will definitely look into the mentioned site and Lectures.

Jan 5, 2009, 5:03pm Top


If you collect books on the discovery of the Ancient Near East (1830 - 1900), you might want to get A View of the Holy Land by George Thompson, Wheeling, Va. 1850. There are a few copies available on abebooks.com and amazon.com.
The complete title is: A View of the Holy Land, Its Present Inhabitants, Their Manners and Customs, Polity, and Religion. Antiquities and Natural History of Egypt, Asia and Arabia; With a Curious Description of Jerusalem, As It Now Appears, And Other Parts of the World Mentioned in the Scriptures. Interspersed With Remarks, Notes, and References of Modern Travelers; Together With Historical, Geographical and Miscellaneous Notes by George Thompson and Others.

I gave my copy of this book to one of my sons. I also had an early copy of Layard's Discoveries..., but I sold it on ebay two years ago.

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