Book Collecting

jwslaw jwslaw at
Fri Jan 11 11:25:52 EST 2002

bacon didnt write shakespeare;  someone who called himself shakespeare wrote
it:  otherwise, quite eloquent
----- Original Message -----
From: "Robert Sanger" <rsanger at>
To: <modlib at>
Sent: Thursday, January 10, 2002 1:58 AM
Subject: RE: Book Collecting

> On the subject of whether or not a collector reads the books s/he
> I was thinking by analogy to those who collect vintage sports cars or fine
> wines.  Certainly there are collectors of sports cars who drive their
> automobiles only for the few yards required to qualify them for the
> at the concours d'elegance.  And those who collect bottles of fine wines,
> definition, cannot drink the wine of any bottle they wish to retain in
> collection.
> But the true sports car collector or collector of fine wines generally
> partakes of and savors as much of his or her own collection, and that of
> everyone else, as possible.  Sports car enthusiasts have a "daily driver"
> for work or a Sunday car for recreation in addition to the show cars
> and trailered to events.  They take advantage of every opportunity to take
> the wheel of anyone else's sports car who will let them drive it.  Wine
> collectors are generally connoisseurs who travel to the regions to taste
> wine and who drink interesting wines with their dinner meals.
> Looking at the Modern Library collection this way, what makes it most
> interesting is the eclectic but largely intellectual content of the
> collection.  It is something to be partaken of and savored as a reader.
> seems to me that, for the most part, the Modern Library is not collected
> fine examples of the bookbinder's art or for the exquisite use of paper,
> or art work.  It is a sturdy collection that was widely distributed and
> published originally for the express purpose of getting interesting and
> important literature to the masses.
> In essence, it is a collection of books to be read.  Of course, a first
> edition of an early Boni Liveright in Fine/Fine condition is to be
> and, perhaps, that copy may remain further unread.  However, most of what
> most of us have, including FMLEd's, can bear one more careful reading.
> Those few -- or, among the most elite collectors, the few dozen -- which
> cannot bear one more reading are certainly replicated in later printings.
> The collection of duplicate later editions that inevitably fill the bottom
> shelves are there for no other reason than to be read.
> Like the throaty sound of the Bugatti engine or the bouquet of a fine
> cabernet, it is the content of these books that makes collecting them
> meaningful.  There is something about reading, in a close to contemporary
> edition, Christopher Morley's Parnassus on Wheels (about a woman who finds
> meaning in life by leaving her brother's farm and buying a horse drawn
> wagon) or Irving Stone's Lust for Life (the historical novel about Vincent
> Van Gough's tortured existence).  They may not be on the required reading
> list at the university, though many ML titles obviously are.  But, if
> nothing else other than the fact of their inclusion in the Modern Library,
> they are part of the one time shared literature of the American culture.
> We can look to a Modern Library title: A. Edward Newton, Amenities of Book
> Collecting (1918, FMLEd. 1935).  Newton quotes Bacon as saying, "Some
> are to be tasted, others to be swallowed and some few to be chewed and
> digested."  Newton says, self-deprecatingly, that he opts for collecting
> particularly old and rare books not necessarily to be read.  Nevertheless
> is obviously well read and, one would have to suspect, the ML collection
> would be among his reading library more than his collection of trophies.
> for Bacon -- who, as we recall, envisioned a literary project for England
> which may have culminated in the committee ghost-writing of
> prolific works -- one would expect that he would have found the ML would
> worthy of more swallowing, chewing and digesting than tasting, and,
> certainly, tasting more than mere collecting.
> Anyway, just some thoughts on the subject.
> Best regards,
> Bob Sanger
> -----Original Message-----
> From: GOODBOOKS at [mailto:GOODBOOKS at]
> Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2002 7:36 PM
> To: modlib at
> Subject: Re: Book Collecting
> Yes,after 10,000 email,you have all driven me to the point where I don't
> know what I am saying (if I ever did)) ...I shall say no more.

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