Book Collecting

Image by h.koppdelaney

First, Happy Halloween! This picture of ravens with a book is reminiscent of Edgar Allen Poe, and that’s a Halloween sort of author if there ever was one. My post has nothing to do with Halloween or Poe, but it does have to do with a creepy individual.

I just finished reading a true crime story about a man (John Gilkey) who stole rare books, the man who worked hardest to make sure he got caught at it, and the journalist who sought to comprehend why men like Gilkey and Sanders, the self-styled detective, do what they do – and just what is the allure of rare book collecting anyway. This was a fun book to read, with just the right amount of snide in the author’s disbelief of some aspects of what she was finding out.

The book (copyright 2009) is The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. It was fun to read about Gilkey’s parents, to enjoy the author’s ahas about various aspects of the thief’s personality (or mental illness), and to learn of stories in history that relate to book collectors’ obsessions.

I’ve never felt the tug that rare book collectors feel. The only true collection I ever had was ceramic horse figurines in my youth (all of which ended up broken, which may have cured me of trying anything like that again). The biggest collection I ever saw among my personal acquaintances was a miniature-pitcher collection by my grandmother’s landlady. I’m very happy I don’t collect rare books; it could become an expensive hobby. John Gilkey, however, rarely paid anything, did it by stealing, though he found ways to justify the thefts in his own mind as really just being his due. It’s a fascinating, educational read. Boo!

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