Why I collect

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Why I collect

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Gen 29, 2013, 7:56pm

When I was was a kid I read Fahrenheit 451. It is the SCARIEST book I ever read. Later I saw the movie, damn near killed me. At the time my bedroom was stacked with books. I remember fearing the government would come in and burn them all. As I got older I realized we were far from a total ban on books. Though banning books does go on unfortunately. I started to buy books thinking that one day something bad could happen. Some catastrophe or something. So I buy books that I love and others I think would be helpful to future generations. I talk to my kids about having the freedom to buy and read whatever we want. Nothing may happen in my lifetime, but in the back of my mind I just keep thinking stockpile the books.

Gen 29, 2013, 9:25pm

It's amazing the impression a book or movie can have on us when we're young. One of the first movies I remember seeing was "Jaws" at the drive-in. Thankfully, it didn't scar me for life, and I can swim in the ocean. But it did make an impression.....

I seem to have stockpiled books too. I think when I was fairly young I had this idea there weren't many copies of each book, so if I didn't buy one when I could, I might never have the chance again.

Gen 30, 2013, 1:03am

From an early age, I became interested in reading stories that were not in print and could not be found in libraries. If Tom Swift books (1910-1941) were in any libraries in the 1970s, they had only a volume or two and any desire to "read them in order" would be thwarted.

Often when I like a book, I wish to read it again later on. Since I could not rely upon libraries for the fiction books I wished to read, I was trained to buy what I wanted and keep them and fill in gaps among those that were missing. Hence, I'm not reliant on the shelf space, budgets, or critical whims of the libraries that happened to be near me. If it took more than two weeks to read a book, I did not have to worry about racking up late return fees.

As I have mentioned elsewhere, I have seldom had occasion to regret a book purchase. Perhaps too much was spent or the book was not as good as hoped. However, one can usually sell or donate the book that is not worth keeping. I have had several examples where I did not or could not afford to purchase a desired book and the pang stays with me for years sometimes. On some items you don't get a second chance. For others, I have and am glad I acted the next time I had a chance.

When I can, I prefer to buy books "in person" at a store or book fair. Getting the desired condition and printing and other features is important to me. Even in a new bookstore I may look through a dozen or more copies to find one that is in the best condition and the proper printing codes. However, as the number of bookstores and book fairs contracts, or they don't carry what I wish to buy, I am again conditioned to shop and buy online. Sometimes this entails a certain risk in not getting exactly what is wanted. Then again, I have found things on eBay that I would probably never locate in my visits to stores and fairs.

If I only want a reading copy of a book (reference, sampling of a new author or series) then I may use the used book databases or even Amazon used book listings to find the lowest price copy at a minimum desired condition level. If I find I like the book, I may upgrade at a later time.

While building our collections, and I expect to continue for another quarter century, we are already facing the question of who will get these next after we are gone. Quite possibly libraries won't care about them, even the institutional ones, and without children of our own, that path is not a likely one available. It's hard to know when to sell or gift one's books to those who would appreciate them. I imagine that many collectors will face this problem before we do as Baby Boomers retire, move to smaller homes, and pass beyond. Still, it would be foolish of us not to at least think about this sort of thing. Cataloging on LibraryThing is an important part of this. We can record what is important about a book (to us and others) and perhaps even research and record values in the private comments field. This way, a person charged with disposing of the books can have some guiding information.

For now, we're trying to figure out how we can afford to have a larger home to properly store and care for our growing collections.


Modificato: Gen 30, 2013, 6:43am

I basically grew up reading - some of my earliest memories are of my dad leaning back into a chair reading some adventure fiction. I would ask what he was reading and he would relate the basic plot-lines. This engendered the idea that more could be garnered from a book than the comic books he would bring for me (of course he also read all the comics before I got them - I didn't realize that until I was a bit older). Thus he shaped my reading from a very early age. Between the books from a reading perspective and the comics, which became a collecting focus at an early age, I began to search and obtain items that became "the collection" - most of the actual books (as opposed to comics) I started buying were limited to the space I had available, both at home before moving out, and in college. I didn't really start collecting books themselves until my father passed - he had amassed what I thought was a fairly large collection (1000+ books), mostly of paperback fantastic fiction, that became the kernal of my own library. I've since expanded on that core quite a bit.

Early on, the thrill was in completing a set of series fiction, which became a quest for the hard-to-find author edition (mostly out-of-print), then completing an author's catalog. This led into multiple editions of the same book (due to editing, interesting cover art or UK edition (I'm in the US) and eventually some foreign language editions). These days, instead of looking to complete works I've come to appreciate having first edition works and going to speaking engagements to have them signed. Because of my interest both in comics, author works, illustration and the combination of the three, I like to seek out the illustrators and have them remarque the books with a small sketch - combine this with an author's inscription and I get the trifecta effect for my collecting.

95% or so of my book collection is made up of First Editions (using caps to signify that the books are also first printings), so I don't tag them as such - I do identify later printings either in the pub data or as a comment. I also tag them as to Signed, Inscribed (the second indicates that they are signed to me or someone else - if someone else or if there is a particular message other than just my name, I put the inscription into the comments field), Sketched, Limited (if limited I'll put the number and extent of the limitation into comments), BCE, ARC, etc to help sort the books. I also use the Tag field to identify where the book is located (room, wall, bookcase, shelf or if boxed, the letter/number combination).

I wish LT would allow the upload of custom photos of the books - I'd like to use LT to record any special marks of the edition (like if it's sketched or inscribed, it would be useful to upload a scan or photo).

Gen 30, 2013, 9:56am

Leonard, you are a wise fellow. I have had similar reactions to the whole tangled story of books and freedom. Honestly, I'm not supremely optimistic about the next generatiuons' -- note the plural -- interest in or concern for what we save for them, but nonetheless we must do it, if not for our "own" children, then for anybody else who might follow us and benefit from our efforts. Two specific things I have always done is collect labour-union ephemera and sheet music. With the world-wide decline in both unionism and basic musical literacy, this becomes almost a missionary endeavour. I never forget to praise those anonymoyus persons who thought to preserve the variouss treasures which I have found, and which have meant so much to me. So, we keep the wheel turning. Cheers, -- Goddard

Gen 30, 2013, 7:27pm

I find similarities in my life and what you have all posted. Like Amy in #2 I also see a book and figure I have to buy it just in case I may never see it again. #3 from Keeline, we are moving in March from IL to SC, so as I pack my books Im entering them in LT. My wife really despises my books. We've moved 8 times in our 18 year marriage and the books have been dragged along every mile. In the new house she doesnt want the books, but has allowed me to get a small office/storage unit to set them up. I figure it'll be a man cave anyway. As for the future of my collection, I have been talking to my kids since forever about being able to read. Since I am in the process of cataloging and packing my books, my oldest boy eyeballs the piles. I told him just yesterday about my collection. When they are older (have 2 boys @ 11 and 8 years and a daughter @ 6) that we will discuss what they want from the collection when Im dead and gone. They will be able to take which ones they want and sell or give away the rest, but only to people who appreciate them. But in discussing the importance of books Im competing with the computer, netflix, etc. My oldest gets it though. He dont like to read any thing other than comics (*ahem*, Johnnyapollo, you werent the only kid to read comics) but he does understand what books mean and the impact on us. We talked about Reading Lolita in Tehran. After explaining the plot he shook his head and said it just wasnt right. So I know he's getting it, even though Superman and Batman dominate Shakespeare right now. Currently I am reading to them Rascal. I applaud your father Johnny. It is my fondest wish to have every parent be like your dad. I just hope all three of mine turn out to be like you. I agree with you Goddard. I think there is steep decline in musical literacy. I cant play and instrument to save my life, but my oldest plays the guitar and my youngest boy plays the guitar and drums. Im pretty sure my daughter will play something because she is artistically inclined. They have begged me to take them to the opera. They all love jazz. My eight year old son however is more Rock and Roll, but enjoys jazz. I prefer classic rock, but enjoy different types of music and want my children to be exposed to as much as possible. Thank you all for posting comments. Its nice to hear that there are people out here with similar issues.

Gen 30, 2013, 8:02pm

Hello all, I thought this looked like a good topic for a first post and introduction, since it should explain my personality well.

Basically, I collect books for a variety of reasons, but the one constant is the fact that I enjoy spending money - too much. I collect records, books, Aynsley Pembroke porcelain, Wedgewood ashtrays, ties, cigars... comic books, baseball cards, Ron Paul campaign literature, reciepts from meals I've had with close friends, and even 1960-'80s Fruit of the Loom underwear, just because I like to note the differences in dimensions, logos, and washing instructions on the tags.

Okay, that last one was a joke, I swear. I don't collect books for any other purpose then reading, but I find little more entertaining than searching book stores for an interesting copy of the hundreds of books I am interested in reading. If I find that I suddenly am interested in an author or a particular book, I scour the internet to find the most interesting copy of it. Or, I go on eBay and look through the auctions that are ending in the next couple of hours looking for leather/cloth bound books and first editions. One of the reasons I persist in buying books though, even though I have a massive back-catalogue is that, when I am out of school and have a (hopefully well-paying) job, I'd like to have a dedicated library(/study/smoking room), and pass it down to my children (should the good lord be gracious enough to give me one or two, but no more than three), and even if I cannot read them all, I still think it would be beneficial for my heirs to have books by authors such as Dickens, despite the fact that I have no interest right now of reading him. Essentially, I suppose I'll use any excuse to buy more books.

My book collection includes paperbacks, but for the most part contains Everman's and Modern Library books, as I find them most accessible at book stores, and their quality is reasonably good, and a few Easton Press and Franklin Library books, as well as assorted antique editions (still no fore-edge painting though :( ).

As for sheet music, I have very little, just some I have bought in my failed attempts at picking up the Organ (I do intend to buy a Keyboard soon, but we'll see I have to get my underwear collection back to it's former glory (the bleach purchases really add up). I would like my children to be able to read music, but no guitar for them; I'm thinking clavichord, harp, violin, etc.