Note: this is the first edition of what is planned to be a regular blog feature, recurring on a weekly basis. Zobert will answer questions about books and book collecting and maybe even tell you how much that copy of Gregg's Shorthand* you pulled out of the attic is worth. Send your queries to email@example.com.
Our first question is from Tim, of Cumberland Gap, who asks
Zobert, What kind of books should I collect?
Good question Tim. Fancy book folks tend to recommend that book collections be assembled with a particular focus and for once I agree with them. Any dilletante can build a library from the desiderata of his inclinations or upon the whim of serendipity but it takes a renaissance man made of equal parts passion and patience to put together a collection of 6,000 celebrity yearbooks or round up every form of Pinocchio ever published (let's say).
The virtue of thematic focus in the enterprise of book collecting was recently brought to my attention and empirically corroborated by some snippets of conversation I overheard while eavesdropping at the big London Book Fair and which I jotted down in my notebook, to wit:
- "Wait. Every book in your library is about hair bracelets? That's so cool."
- "So, apparently the Vatican Library wants to buy Aunt Helen's collection of Little Golden Books...No, they said seven figures. "
- "Bryce, we're dying to take a peek at your famous Harold Bell Wright collection."
At least I think that's what I heard. I may have been drinking at the time. In any event, it is to be remembered that at the very least a good book collection will evince a definite purpose and will be congenial, in its aims, to the collector's means.
If you're having trouble deciding on a particular subject for your collection, that's an indication that you're a really boring person so your best bet would be to collect something really boring, like the annual reports of The Mercantile Exchange or books by J.K. Rowling.
Now a truly great book collection should be more than just special. It should also aspire to be useful. What do I mean by 'useful'? Well, one way to make sure you're on the right collecting track is to continually ask yourself: Would the total destruction of my collection precipitate a historical 'dark' age? If the answer is 'no,' then maybe you should be collecting bottlecaps or porcelain muppets or something instead.
* We have a saying in the business about this book: "Three 'G's [i.e. three grand, or three thousand dollars] for Three 'G's [in "Gregg"]. I'm just kidding.