Book Collecting

“A man’s library is a sort of harem, and tender readers have a great prudency in showing their books to a stranger.” – Emerson (“Society and Solitude”)

“All the books we own, both read and unread, are the fullest expression of self we have at our disposal. … But with each passing year, and with each whimsical purchase, our libraries become more and more able to articulate who we are, whether we read the books or not.” — Nick Hornby

“Anyone who has a book collection and a garden wants for nothing.” – Cicero

“Books will grow in a house like a vine if you provide something to support them.” – Billy Baldwin (quoted in the New York Times, September 5, 1985)

“The collecting instinct reaches its apotheosis in books.” – Lawrence Clark Powell (“Three Loves Have I” in A Passion for Books, 1958)

“A house without books is like a house without windows.” – Horace Mann

“If a book is worth reading, it is worth buying.” – John Ruskin (cited in the Harper’s Book of Quotations)

“If I were rich I would have many books, and I would pamper myself with bindings bright to the eye and soft to the touch, paper generously opaque, and type such as men designed when printing was very young. I would dress my gods in leather and gold, and burn candles of worship before them at night, and string their names like beads on a string.” – Will Durant

“Have no books so fine that they cannot be used. Have few or none under lock and key. Books were made for readers, not readers for books.” – Lyman Abbott (Hints for Home Reading, 1883)

“It is a good thing to read books, and need not be a bad thing to write them, but, in any case, it is a pious thing to collect them.” – Frederick Locker (quoted by William Alexander Jackson in “Thomas Frognall Dibkin,” in Records of a Bibliographer: Selected Papers of William Alexander Jackson edited by William H. Bond, 1967)

“Just to see my books, to note their presence, their proximity to other books, fills me with a sense of futurity….I have not read every one, nor is it likely that I will – but to know that I might!” – Sven Birkerts (An Artificial Wilderness, 1987)

“My house is a library with living rooms attached.” – Bernard Berenson

“…Of all…impassioned pursuits, there is none more disturbing, more distressing in deception and hope, more intellectually absorbing, more obstinate in ill-success, more insatiable in triumph, more abundant in joys, noble, healthy and pure, than book-hunting.” – Holbrook Jackson (The Anatomy of Bibliomania, 1950)

“A room without books is as a body without a soul.” – Sir John Lubbock, Lord Avebury (1834-1913)

“It is often said that books take up a lot of room. As a matter of fact a bookcase 3 feet 6 inches high by 3 feet 6 inches wide will take 180 books of assorted sizes, and this bookcase need not project more than 7 inches from the wall.” – Lionel McColvin (“How to Use Books”)

“Tough choices face the biblioholic at every step of the way – like choosing between reading and eating, between buying new clothes and buying books, between a reasonable lifestyle and one of penurious but masochistic happiness lived out in the wallow of excess.” – Tom Raabe (Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction)

“We cherish books even if unread, their mere presence exudes comfort, their reading access, reassurance.” – A.E. Newton (1863-1940)

“What a blessing it is to love books. Everybody must love something, and I know of no objects of love that give such substantial and unfailing returns as books and a garden.” – Elizabeth Arnim

When I have a house of my own, I shall be miserable if I have not an excellent library.” – Jane Austen

“Wherever there are books to be hunted is heaven for the bibliophile and doubly heaven in that his territories are in themselves beautiful to be remembered many years after with singular delight.” – Holbrook Jackson (The Anatomy of Bibliomania, 1950)

“It’s against my principles to buy a book I haven’t read, it’s like buying a dress you haven’t tried on.” – Helene Hanff, Letter to Frank Doel, February 9, 1952

“It would be a good thing to buy books if one could also buy the time to read them; but one usually confuses the purchase of books with the acquisition of their contents.” – Arthur Schopenhauer, “On Books and Writing” (1851)

“A library represents the mind of its collector, his fancies and foibles, his strength and weakness, his prejudices and preferences. Particularly is this the case if to the character of a collector he adds—or tries to add—the qualities of a student who wishes to know the books and the lives of the men who wrote them. The friendships of his life, the phases of his growth, the vagaries of his mind, all are represented.” Sir William Osler

“I would prefer to have one comfortable room well stocked with books to all you can give me in the way of decoration which the highest art can supply.” – John Bright

“…The buying of more books than one can read is nothing less than the soul reaching toward infinity, and this passion is the only thing that raises us above the beasts that perish…” – A. Edward Newton

“I love to own books. Though I read few books twice, I have filled every shelf in my house with books, have had more shelves made and filled those too. My books surround me like a cocoon. When I run my finger along the backs of my books they feel like the ribcage of an old familiar lover. Visit my shelves and you will learn much about me.” –  Joe Bennett, Bedside Lovers

“A bibliophile of little means is likely to suffer often. Books don’t slip from his hands but fly past him through the air, high as birds, high as prices.” —  Pablo Neruda

“My home is where my books are.” – Ellen Thompson

“But he who truly loves books loves all books alike, and not only this, but it grieves him that all other men do not share with him this noble passion. Verily, this is the most unselfish of loves!” – Eugene Field (Love Affairs of a Bibliomaniac)

“The book must of necessity be put into a bookcase. And the bookcase must be housed. And the house must be kept. And the library must be dusted, must be arranged, must be catalogued. What a vista of toil, yet not unhappy toil!” – William Gladstone

“Tough choices face the biblioholic at every step of the way–like choosing between reading and eating, between buying new clothes and buying books, between a reasonable lifestyle and one of penurious but masochistic happiness lived out in the wallow of excess.” – Tom Raabe (Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction)

“A book reads the better which is our own, and has been so long known to us, that we know the topography of its blots, and dog’s ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins.” – Charles Lamb

“People who need to possess the physical copy of a book, and not merely an electronic version, are in some sense mysteries. We believe that the objects themselves are sacred, not just the stories they tell. We believe that books possess the power to transubstantiate, to turn darkness into light, to make being out of nothingness.” – Joe Queenan (One for the Books, p. 26)

“My books have been part of my life forever. They have been good soldiers, boon companions. Every book has survived numerous purges over the years; each book has repeatedly been called onto the carpet and asked to explain itself. I own no book that has not fought the good fight, taken on all comers, and earned the right to remain. If a book is there, it is there for a reason….There are no books in my collection that I cannot link with a particular time and place….A few hundred books I have kept because they are classics that I constantly reread; another hundred or so were given to me by friends I hold in high regard. The rest remind me of something.” – Joe Queenan (One for the Books, p. 228, 231)

“In the bookcases round the wall are many that I love, but…in the center of the room, and easiest to get at, are those that I love the best – the very elect among my favorites. They change from time to time as I get older, and with years some that are in the bookcases come here, and some that here go into the bookcases, and some are removed altogether, and are placed on certain shelves…reserved for those that have been weighed in the balance and found wanting, and from whence they seldom, if ever, return.” – Elizabeth Arnim

“An ordinary man can…surround himself with two thousand books…and thenceforward have at least one place in the world where it is possible to be happy.” – Augustine Birrell

“At night, when the curtains are drawn and the fire flickers, my books attain a collective dignity.” – E.M. Forster

“It is a great thing to start life with a small number of really good books which are your very own.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

“Books have the same irresistible temptation for me that liquor has for its devotee. I cannot withstand them.” – L.M. Montgomery

“It is likely I will die next to a pile of things I was meaning to read.” – Daniel Handler (Lemony Snicket)

“Affect not as some doe, that bookish Ambition, to be stored with bookes and have well furnished Libraries, yet keepe their heads empty of knowledge: to desire to have many bookes, and never to use them, is like a child that will have a candle burning by him, all the while he is sleeping.” – Henry Peacham [c. 1576-c.1643] (The Compleat Gentleman [1906], Chapter VI; quoted by Michael Gilleland at his blog Laudator Temoris Acti, January 26, 2020)

“Books are not entirely valued or intimately loved unless they are ranged about us as we sit at home” – Sir Edmund Gosse (The Library of Edmund Gosse, 1914)

“I must have my literary harem . . . where my favorites await my moments of leisure and pleasure – my scarce and precious editions, my luxurious typographical masterpieces; my Delilahs, that take my head in their lap; the pleasant story-tellers and the like; the books I love because they are fair to look upon, prized by collectors, endeared by old associations, secret treasures that nobody else knows anything about; books, in short, that I like for insufficient reasons it may be, but peremptorily, and mean to like and to love and to cherish till death do us part. – Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr. (The Poet at the Breakfast-Table, 1872)

“It is pleasanter to eat one’s peas out of one’s own garden, than to buy them by the peck at Covent Garden; and a book reads the better, which is our own, and has been long known to use, that we know the topography of its blots and dogs’ ears, and can trace the dirt in it to having read it at tea with buttered muffins, or over a pipe.” -Charles Lamb (Letter to Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Letters of Charles Lamb, 1935)

“The one best and sufficient reason for a man to buy a book is because he thinks he will be happier with it than without it.” – A. Edward Newton (The Amenities of Book-Collecting and Kindred Affections. 1918)

“These books of mine . . . are not drawn up here for display, however much the pride of the eye may be gratified in beholding them; they are on actual service. Whenever they may be dispersed, there is not one among them that will ever be more comfortably lodged, or more highly prized by its possessor.” – Robert Southey (Sir Thomas More: or, Colloquies on the Progress and Prospects of Society, 1829)

“[Book collecting ] is a curious mania instantly understood by every other collector and almost incomprehensible to the uncontaminated.” – Lous Auchincloss (A Writer’s Capital, 1974)

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