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To Have And To Hold: An Intimate History Of…

To Have And To Hold: An Intimate History Of Collectors and Collecting (2003)

by Philipp Blom

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[this originally appeared as an entry titled "A Needle in a Haystack" on my blog, Rampant Biblioholism]

I tend to skip around a lot in my reading. Anything that catches my eye is likely to end up on my list, regardless of topic. So I've been thinking about just what it is that's likely to catch my eye. The book To Have and to Hold: An Intimate History of Collectors and Collecting does it just right.

Firstly, it's pretty. Just look at it: it's interesting, it's a bit creepy, and it's completly appropriate for the topic of the book. Once the cover has seduced me into picking up the book, I take a look at the back cover. The description sounds interesting, and as a bonus, it has a nice quote from an author who I've read and enjoyed (in this case, Jenny Uglow, author of The Lunar Men: Five Friends Whose Curiosity Changed the World).

So now I open the book and take a look at the table of contents: The Dragon and the Tartar Lamb, The Mastodon and the Taxonomy of Memory, This Curious Old Gentleman, Why Boiling People is Wrong, Three Flying Du...wait, what? Why Boiling People is Wrong? You've got me; I'm in. I've just got to know the answer to that question, so onto my reading list it goes.

How about you? What catches your eye when browsing for books? How do you find something new? What makes you pick up a book from an author you've never heard of or on a subject you normally wouldn't be interested in? ( )
  Mrs_McGreevy | Nov 17, 2016 |
This book is about the madness and obsession of collecting possessions, objects, items, treasures and peculiar things through the ages. The key question is what drives seemingly sane individuals to collect and amass things, often objects of little use. The author ranges widely through time, past and present to find out about quirky people and their even odder collections from books, to strange creatures from Egyptian mummies to skulls and plaster casts, form milk bottles to advertising labels. The most successful of collectors were those who wrote about their collections or created museums that preserved the collection beyond their lifespans . One of my favourite London museums is the Lincoln's Inn Field Sir John Soane museum. The book is well researched, with many interesting facets to collecting explored. Ultimately the purpose of collecting is driven by a desire to impose order on a chaotic world and perhaps to understand the world better and secondly, to purchase longevity through collecting; if you cannot live forever at least your collection will speak in your voice for the next generation.
However this is a poorly produced book as the illustrations which could have brought life and delight, are small dark and poorly reproduced miniature inserts. These do not do justice to the travels and hard work
of the author. ( )
  Africansky1 | May 20, 2013 |
On classification and obsessive collecting.
  mdstarr | Sep 11, 2011 |
A dense and delightful guided tour and detailed history of brilliant and obsessive collectors and their amazing collections To Have and To Hold held my attention ably. This book made me even more curious about the curious, and made me want to read more about the fascinating characters, the museums that house some of the collections, or the artifacts themselves. For anyone who loves to ponder the items in a curio cabinet or the halls of a museum or the corners of the world, this book is an absorbing diversion, and a great companion to A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes. Each contain chapters that stand alone as fascinating vignettes, and I'm certain to browse both books again and again. ( )
  readaholic12 | Mar 14, 2009 |
On classification and obsessive collecting.
  muir | Dec 7, 2007 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 158567561X, Paperback)

From amassing sacred relics to collecting celebrity memorabilia, the impulse to hoard has gripped humankind throughout the centuries. But what is it that drives people to possess objects that have no conceivable use? To Have and To Hold is a captivating tour of collectors and their treasures from medieval times to the present, from a cabinet containing unicorn horns and a Tsar's collection of teeth to the macabre art of embalmer Dr. Frederick Ruysch, the fabled castle of William Randolph Hearst, and the truly preoccupied men who stockpile food wrappers and plastic cups. Blom's gripping narration and bizarre cast of eccentrics, visionaries, and fanatics provide a fascinating glimpse into how a pastime becomes an all consuming passion and an engrossing story of the collector as bridegroom, deliriously, obsessively happy, wed to his possessions, till death do us part.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:11 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

"Investigating the history of collecting from the Renaissance to our day. Blom shows a multiplicity of worlds: the scientific cabinets of the fifteenth century and an Italian scholar employed as dragon slayer; the 'Ark' of the Tradescants and a friend's betrayal; Emperor Rudolf II's Prague collection as 'practised alchemy': the macabre art of Dr. Frederik Ruysch, first among embalmers; and the overflowing menagerie of Sir Hans Sloane's curiosities, later to become the foundation of the British Museum. He also discusses the strange fate of Angelo Soliman, a black man at the Habsburg court who was stuffed and exhibited with wild animals; explores the rise of scientific collecting and classification and, parallel to it, the explosion of collecting as the private passion of hundreds of thousands; and introduces Robert Opie, whose collection of half a million items of household packaging now fills his home in London and two overloaded warehouses in Gloucestershire besides." "Out of this glittering diversity of material Blom distils the themes underlying this seemingly elusive pursuit: conquest and possession, and the awareness of our own mortality."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

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