Book Collecting - Not Exclusive or Elusive

IMG_20240519_143238462 (1).jpgIMG_20240229_132042277.jpgBook collections can come in all manner of shapes and sizes. They need not be pricey or elaborate like the collaboratively selected books in the library at the center of Open AI’s (ChatGPT) headquarters in San Francisco’s mission district.

Many people collect what they enjoy, like anime or manga.


How Does A Collection Evolve?

Hunting for the next book in a series or learning more about a famous person can result in spontaneous collections. Conversely, finding any book/magazine/ephemera related to a specific topic can grow to bibliographic proportions, or terabytes if electronically stored.

Sneak Preview

Books in the background might offer a glimpse of what is important to the person in the foreground of a video call or interview. What topics stand out and how are they arranged?

Gift Ideas

What better gift than a unique find for someone’s book collection! Books are meant to be read, so make sure you are enjoying what you amass! Should your collection outgrow your space, consider passing books along to budding collectors or donate to a(n) academic, public or school library or a library specializing in music, law, etc.

Ideas for Getting Started

A few ideas come to mind for collections that vary in focus. For example, a collection of books by and about the Sitwells: British authors and siblings Edith, Osbert, and Sacheverell. Books by and about mystery writer Agatha Christie, including a journal of trips accompanying her archaeologist husband, Sir Max Mallowan on his expeditions to the Middle East prior to WWII entitled, “Come, Tell Me How You Live” (NY: Dodd, Mead, 1946). 

Children may enjoy collecting the work of illustrators such as Arthur Rackham or a series author like L. M. Montgomery. According to The Norman Rockwell Museum’s web bio, Rackham - born in London 1867 - began drawing at a young age… “Sneaking pencils into his bed to draw under the covers, he eventually resorted to drawing on his pillow case when paper was taken from him.” Rackham is famous for his watercolors in addition to pen and ink drawings. Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) is best known for Anne of Green Gables. 

It is always rewarding to find a book you have never seen before by a familiar author you enjoy. For example, Dr. Seuss’s book on aging, “You’re Only Old Once!“. “The Seuss, the Whole Seuss and Nothing But the Seuss” (NY: Random House, 2004) while a visual biography, also serves as a bibliography.

Topics of interest and broad range might include a period of history, a specific writing style as in limericks or books without words, scientific research, maps, books related to family genealogy, art exhibition catalogs, your hometown, books about books, the evolution of technology, group biographies, musical scores; a sport, religion, philosophy, and so much more!

Auctions, library book sales, community garage sales, antique and thrift stores can yield eclectic finds at a variety of price points. Your purchase can benefit a local food bank, library or not-for-profit group!

A good place to shop for unused books is Edward R. Hamilton Bookseller Company offers remaindered copies from publishers' overstock. Titles are discounted as much as 80%. 

Sign up for notifications when new books of interest are released or posted for sale online. Check out Abebooks, Alibris, Apple Books, Biblio, eBay, Goodreads, iBooks, your local bookstore dealers and more.

Down the Road

Changing your focus is part of the fun as you learn more about an author, topic or publication. Will you seek out limited editions, related magazine and newspaper articles, event notices, or anthologies that include a topic of interest? For example: The First Annual Zora Neale Hurston Festival of the Arts was held in Eatonville, FL Jan 25-28, 1990. An event brochure, laid in a paperback on the history of Eatonville, FL - Hurston’s hometown - and a poster advertising the event combined with several books by and about Hurston (1891-1960) create a foundation upon which a collection can be built.

How about an Indy 500 focus? Articles in Popular Mechanics April 1946 and 1947 issues, as well as May 1976 Travel magazine provide a glimpse of how the race has progressed. An Indianapolis Athletic Club menu advertising The Indianapolis 500 Room and postcards of Gasoline Alley and the main gate are collectibles that could be combined with books highlighting Indianapolis and Indy 500 notables, race programs, a 2002 Indianapolis 500 Daily Trackside Report for the Media, and a Championship Auto Racing Auxiliary (CARA) cookbook.

You guide the scope of your collection as it evolves. We are never too old to be(come) lifelong learners and readers - and enjoy delving into a new passion!