BOOK NOTES - Books for those who have too many books


I must confess I am a bibliophile -- I love books. I'm not a collector of rare books, first editions or even new books (gently "used" books are just fine for my shelves) -- I'm a collector of books that I enjoy. If I find an author I like, I try to collect all the other books that the author has written. Each year, I go through my collection and try to decide which books to donate to the AAUW Book Sale. The criteria that I use is whether or not I would enjoy reading the book again -- needless to say, my collection is growing rather than shrinking.

If you consider a visit to a used book store part of vacation travel, be sure to check out David and Susan Siegel's series of "The Used Book Lover's Guides," which feature various regions of the country such as New England, the Midwest and Central states. "The Used Book Lover's Guide to the Pacific Coast States: California, Oregon, Washington, Alaska and Hawaii" by David Siegel covers 1,500 used, out-of-print, rare and antiquarian book dealers with city, regional and state maps showing locations of the used bookstores. The most recent updated edition was published in 2000.

Reading "Book Finds: How to Find, Buy, and Sell Used and Rare Books" (3rd Edition, 2006) by Ian C. Ellis might be a good place to start if you are thinking about becoming a book collector. It has chapter-length overviews of all the important areas and activities of book-collecting. Most useful is a list of "1001 more-or-less collectible books" listed by author at the back. This list is useful to have with you at book and estate sales.

"A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books" by Nicholas Basbanes (Holt, 1999) is a classic about book collecting. Beginning in ancient times, when books were hand-copied, to modern days, Basbanes takes readers on an exciting journey through the world of rare book collectors.

In Part I the author explores the history of book collecting from antiquity to the 1940s.

Part II describes the state of collecting in the 1980s, using a series of sketches of notable figures in the field. He profiles an intriguing group of amateur collectors, including Carter Burden, a pioneer in the collecting of modern American writers, and Aaron Lansky, who rescued Yiddish literature from landfills.

The most enigmatic collector Basbanes portrays is Stephen Blumberg, whose notorious "Blumberg Collection" consisted of 23,600 rare books, all of them stolen from libraries.

Our book club read Lawrence and Nancy Goldstone's "Used and Rare: Travels in the Book World" (1998), an interesting story of how the couple became book collectors. The Goldstones fled jobs on Wall Street to live and write in the Berkshires. The authors describe how a hunt for a hardcover edition of "War and Peace" as a birthday present evolved into a long-term passion in book collecting.

They discovered the wonders of old books by visiting used and rare book shops and auctions in remote towns in the region, as well as in Boston, New York and Chicago. Along the way, the reader learns about the lore and minutiae of old books. As the authors consider collecting modern first editions, readers are treated to some of the fascinating stories of modern literature and get an insider's view of the ways experts identify a first edition and decide what makes a book valuable.

For serious book collectors, John Carter's "ABC for Book Collectors" (8th edition, 2004) has long been considered the "how-to bible" for locating, evaluating, and acquiring rare and out-of-print titles. Originally published in 1952, the 8th edition has an informative introduction by Nicolas Barker (a personal friend of the late John Carter and the man who is responsible for the updates and revisions) and provides up-to-date information on web-based book collecting (including eBay sales).

Among the subjects covered are auctions, book conditions, facsimiles and fakes, rarity, and technical terms used in book collecting and bibliography.

If you prefer reading about book sellers and book collecting rather than doing it, try the mystery "Booked to Die," by John Dunning. In this first novel of the five book series, we meet Denver bookseller and ex-cop Cliff Janeway, whose investigations always involve rare book collections. Dunning, an expert on rare and collectible books, owned the Old Algonquin Bookstore in Denver for many years and reveals some of book collecting's most shocking secrets in this bestselling series. Other books in the series include: "Bookman's Wake," "The Sign of the Book," "The Bookman's Last Fling" and "The Bookman's Promise."

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