Monday, May 05, 2008


At the Guardian, David McKie has a cautionary tale:
Bibliophilia: the love, and collecting, of books. No problems there: the odd fit of extravagance, possibly, but everything more or less under control. But watch out. The next step up may be bibliolatry: an extreme fondness for books. And beyond that lies bibliomania: a mania for the collection and possession of books. That can be very dangerous territory.

If you slog up a hill to the south of tourist-thronged Broadway, Worcestershire, you will come to Broadway Tower, a folly built in 1799 by the sixth Earl of Coventry and said to be the highest vantage point anywhere in the Cotswolds. From the roof on the clearest days you can see, it is said, a dozen counties. Whichever direction you choose, the views are sublime. Just down from the tower, hidden by trees, is Middle Hill House. For much of the 19th century this was the home of Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1st baronet, whom the world called a bibliomaniac, though his term for himself went still further. Vello-mania, he called his condition, because it ran as much to the purchase and hoarding of documents as it did to books. In the tower he installed a succession of printers, employed to translate his manuscripts into more permanent versions; most left before long, complaining they hadn't been paid. In the house he stored the fruits of his acquisitional forays at home and abroad: a process already out of hand when he was at Oxford, and rampant forever after. Mostly bought with money he had not got: bills were left unpaid for years - at least one unfortunate bookseller went bankrupt because of it.
Hmmm, my apartment will be an altogether nicer place when I get rid of about half the books and documents it's currently housing!

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