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A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes,…

A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for… (1995)

by Nicholas A. Basbanes

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
2,458312,502 (4.1)1 / 152
  1. 100
    The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel (divinenanny)
    divinenanny: A book about libraries, historical, current, private and public. Also about the power of a book and reading.
  2. 50
    The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett (wrmjr66)
  3. 40
    Editions & Impressions: My Twenty Years on the Book Beat by Nicholas A. Basbanes (Jannes)
  4. 30
    The Child That Books Built by Francis Spufford (AhalyaLiteraryAngels)
  5. 20
    The Anatomy of Bibliomania by Holbrook Jackson (Jannes)
  6. 21
    Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry (ALinNY458)
    ALinNY458: This was a wonderful, entertaining book that I recommend highly to anyone interested in books and the people who collect them.
  7. 00
    La pasión por los libros : un acercamiento a la bibliofilia by Francisco Mendoza Díaz-Maroto (Biblioaprenent)
    Biblioaprenent: Un gran llibre per aprendre bibliofília.

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Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
First read in 1996, I have re read this book about once a year since. I heart Basbanes and all his crazy book lovers. Reading this book made me realize there were other crazy book lovers out there, and we had a name! ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
Haven't got far into it yet. Maybe it will tell me why I love buying books when I haven't read the ones I've got. ( )
  Mapguy314 | Feb 8, 2016 |
It's a bit disingenuous to say I finished this, I suppose, since I ran out of time and I didn't actually read the entire thing. But I got the idea. It's basically a survey of book collectors from time immemorial, and it concludes with the story of a biblio-kleptomaniac, who stole hundreds of books from libraries. The magnitude of his thievery is staggering, and is as much a testament to the lack of security that exists in these collections as it is to his own obsessiveness. But you didn't hear it from me. I actually found this text pretty repetitive, and I honestly couldn't tell you all the collectors (legitimate ones) that Basbanes talks about throughout the book. I own his second book about libraries, and I mainly picked up this one so that I had a basis for that second book. So hopefully I'll make it through that one eventually. ( )
  karenchase | Aug 20, 2015 |
Unfortunately the reading of this book did not go very well. The book did not catch and hold my attention and I wasn't convinced enough to keep trying.
Other books are calling.

No rating, bcause I didn't finish.
  BoekenTrol71 | Jan 2, 2014 |
Anything can be taken to the extreme, and book collecting is no exception. From rummaging through dusty bookshops to multi-million dollar auctions to outright theft of nearly priceless works, bibliomania has been the driving force of the assemblage of the greatest caches of literature in the world. Investigative reporter Nicholas Basbanes delves into both the past and the present to provide the most thorough examination of what it is to be a bibliophile.

“A strong and bitter book-sickness floods one's soul. How ignominious to be strapped to this ponderous mass of paper, print, and dead men's sentiments! ”

It is evident in A Gentle Madness that Nicholas Basbanes has a true love of books. Even so, this testament to the highest levels of book collecting – going all the way back to the days of The Great Library of Alexandria – isn’t always a flattering portrait. In fact, it is apparent that most of these collecting extremists have virtually no interest in actually reading the books that they travel the globe paying astronomical sums of money to possess. So why write a book about what at its core appears to be a rather narcissistic pursuit? Mostly because our understanding of history is built from the collections of books and papers that collectors gather up.

Basbanes does a fine job of chronicling the evolution of book collecting, especially the 19th and early 20th centuries when some of the great institutional libraries were born of the collecting efforts of the wealthiest individuals on both sides of the Atlantic. While A Gentle Madness is interesting and historically relevant, at times the stories become repetitive as the efforts to obtain the choicest works look pretty much the same. The books themselves may be different, but reading about one auction after another…well, book collecting isn’t really a spectator sport.

Probably the most disheartening facet of A Gentle Madness is finding out that most of these bibliophiles don’t have any interest in actually reading the books they spend so much effort and money collecting. One woman who amassed one of the largest collections of children’s books in America not only didn’t read them, she didn’t even like children and didn’t want anyone else to touch them. And that was the one theme that I couldn’t quite grasp as a lover of literature – why do it if not for what’s inside those beautiful books?

A Gentle Madness shines a light into the rarified air of extreme book collecting. As a documentary piece, Basbanes does a thorough job. Unfortunately, it is a world that is very difficult to relate to, especially for those of us who value the ideas inside the books more than the object itself. Still, A Gentle Madness does provide some insight into how some of the great libraries of our time were founded and how they continue to grow to this very day. ( )
3 vote csayban | Oct 7, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 30 (next | show all)
Nicholas A. Basbanes has compiled a wonderful gallery of modern eccentrics, isolates, charmers and visionaries.
added by jburlinson | editWashington Post Book World, Michael Dirda (Jul 30, 1995)
Reading this prodigiously researched, often absorbing tome, one can almost hear the cries of dozens of smaller books begging to be let out...[Basbanes'] constant theme, effectively hammered home, is that collectors, whatever their vanity or skulduggery, have been responsible for the preservation of knowledge that might otherwise have been lost.
added by jburlinson | editPublishers Weekly (Jul 3, 1995)

» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Nicholas A. Basbanesprimary authorall editionscalculated
Dürer, AlbrechtCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Szafranski, PaulaDesignersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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O blessed Letters, that combine in one
All ages past, and make one live with all:
By you we doe conferre with who are gone,
And the dead-living unto councell call:
By you th' unborne shall have a communion
Of what we feel, and what doth us befall.

Musophilus, 1599

I cannot live without books.

Letter to John Adams, 1815

In nature the bird who gets up earlier catches the most worms, but in book-collecting the prizes fall to birds who know worms when they see them.

The Colophon, Number 3, 1930

Anything can be anywhere.

Cadillac Jack, by Larry McMurtry
For Constance V. Basbanes
First words
A brisk wind Midwestern farmers call the Alberta Clipper swept through the frozen cornfields of Iowa one January morning, creating a windchill factor many degrees below zero.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0805061762, Paperback)

What a delightful book about books and people who love books! As a second generation bibliophile, a possible bibliomane who had several people move out of my house a year ago because they erroneously believed that my books were taking over the household, and a devout employee of "Earth's Biggest Bookstore," I can vouch that Basbanes accurately describes the glorious role of book collectors as archivists of human knowledge, and -- in continual counterpoint -- sometimes pathologically obsessed book junkies.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:33 -0400)

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