This is not the question. As far back as human history can record, man has been collecting things. Perhaps it started when someone collected a tooth from every animal they had hunted and made a necklace from it. Perhaps that attracted the attention of the ladies… and so the collecting gene has been passed down from generation to generation. For all those who are reading this, you probably have a good dose of the collecting gene. Let’s admit it, its fun – its the joy of the hunt; the search to find that one special treasure. Or perhaps its the completest in you that loves to see the whole set together, like a long lost family that has been reunited.
But the question here is not whether we should collect or not, it is WHAT to collect. There are all kinds of really bad collections out there… mothers still hanging on to your baby teeth or to every picture you ever drew in grade school. At the beginning of this year, a museum in Colorado called The Lab had an interesting exhibition called “The Astounding Problem of Andrew Novick”. In total, Andrew Novick estimates he has over a hundred collections: Barbie dolls of every variety, Chihuahua figurines, clown paintings, and anything related to teeth or braces. This is more the pack-rat mentality and the person who just collects everything. This is NOT what this site is about. This blog is for the discerning collector… for the person, like me, who likes the rare.
From Webster’s Dictionary:
Etymology: Middle English, from Latin rarus
Date: 14th century
1 : marked by wide separation of component particles : thin
2 a : marked by unusual quality, merit, or appeal : distinctive b : superlative or extreme of its kind
3 : seldom occurring or found : uncommon
synonyms see choice, infrequent
Now, of course, there are many different rare things in this world, from gems to endangered species (hopefully you will not be collecting the latter). This blog, however, is for people who like to collect rare books, which is, in my humble opinion, the best kind of collection there is. Books are the gateway to civilization; they are the storehouse for knowledge and the reason that mankind has been able to evolve to its current state. The collection of written knowledge is in fact the marker of civilization itself, dating back more than 5,000 years to about 30,000 clay tablets that have been discovered from ancient Mesopotamia. Without this written information, we would have no real knowledge of the peoples that lived at that time. Of course, clay and stone tablets were a little impractical for day to day use, and as we know, the Egyptians were the first to use papyrus paper around 1300 BC.
Now, this is not a lesson on the history of the book (perhaps for a future blog), but a just a note to point out (if for any reason you need convincing of) the importance of the book in human history. If there were no diamonds or pearls, I think humanity would survive just fine, but where would we be without the written text? And so, the quest to collect rare books is a journey that I, for one, will gladly and boldly pursue.