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At The Riverside Press
COPYRIGHT 1904 BY H. H. HARPER
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Having been asked to make a few remarks upon Book-loving, Book-buying, and Book Clubs,—not for publication before the great audience of readers, but for the exclusive use of the members of a private Book Club,—I venture thus to offer my views, hoping that in the light of my own personal experience I may be able to give a few useful hints and suggestions to those who may peruse the pages which follow.
If this little tome, in which are recorded the reflections of one who for many years has mingled with publishers, booksellers, bibliophiles, collectors, and bibliomaniacs, should prove to be of any interest or service, and is found worthy of a small space in some sequestered nook in the library, where it may in silent repose behold its more worthy and resplendent companions, the fondest ambition of the author will be gratified beyond peradventure.
Book-collecting is undeniably one of the most engaging pursuits in which a refined and artistic taste may be indulged. From the earliest times, and even before the days of printing, this pleasant diversion has been pursued by persons of moderate means as well as by those of wealth and distinction, and every succeeding generation of book-collectors has exceeded its predecessors in numbers and in enthusiasm. The alluring influences of bibliophilism, or book-loving, have silently crept into thousands of homes, whether beautiful or humble; for the library is properly regarded as one of the most important features of home as well as mental equipment.
In The House Beautiful William C. Gannett emphasizes the importance of considering the library as foremost in furnishing a home. He says: "It means admission to the new marvels of science, if one chooses admission. It means an introduction to the noblest company that all the generations have produced, if we claim the introduction. Remembering this, how can one help wishing to furnish his house with some such furniture? A poet for a table piece! A philosopher upon the shelf! Browning or Emerson for a fireside friend!
"A family's rank in thought and taste can well be gauged by the books and papers that lie upon the shelf or table of the library."
Not many years ago, Mr. Howard Pyle said: "I sometimes think that we are upon the edge of some new era in which the art of beautifying books with pictures shall suddenly be uplifted into a higher and a different plane of excellence; when ornate printed colour and perfect reproduction shall truly depict the labour of the patient draughtsman who strives so earnestly to beautify the world in which he lives, and to lend a grace to the living therein." The prophecy is already fulfilled, and a modern book, in order to win favor among present-day bibliophiles, must embody an harmonious assimilation of many arts.
The ardor of possessing books, commonly called bibliomania, also styled bibliophilism and "biblio"—whatever else that has suggested itself to the fruitful imaginations of dozens of felicitous writers upon the subject,—is described by Dibdin as a "disease which grows with our growth, and strengthens with our strength." Kings and queens have not been immune from this prevalent though harmless malady. The vast resources of Henry VII were employed in collecting a library of which a modern millionaire collector might be justly proud. Many specimens of his magnificent collection, bearing the royal stamp, are now to be found in the British Museum. Queen Elizabeth and Lady Jane Grey were submissive victims of the bibliomania. It is worthy of note that while there were but few women book-collectors in the Elizabethan period, there are at the present time in our own country almost as many women as there are men engaged in this fascinating pursuit. As late as 1843, Dibdin remarks that "it is a remarkable circumstance, that the bibliomania has almost uniformly confined its attacks to the male sex, and among people in the higher and middling classes of society. It has raged chiefly in palaces, castles, halls, and gay mansions, and those things which in general are supposed not to be inimical to health,—such as cleanliness, spaciousness, and splendour, are only so many inducements to the introduction and propagation of the bibliomania!"
It should be remembered, however, that one possessing a fondness for books is not necessarily a bibliomaniac. There is as much difference between the inclinations and taste of a bibliophile and a bibliomaniac as between a slight cold and the advanced stages of consumption. Some one has said that "to call a bibliophile a bibliomaniac is to conduct a lover, languishing for his maiden's smile, to an asylum for the demented, and to shut him up in the ward for the incurables." Biblio relates to books, and mania is synonymous with madness, insanity, violent derangement, mental aberration, etc. A bibliomaniac, therefore, might properly be called an insane or crazy bibliophile. It is, however, a harmless insanity, and even in its worst stages it injures no one. Rational treatment may cure a bibliomaniac and bring him (or her) back into the congenial folds of bibliophilism, unless, perchance, the victim has passed beyond the curative stages into the vast and dreamy realms of extra-illustrating, or "grangerizing." People usually have a horror of insane persons, and one might well beware of indulging a taste for books, if there were any reasonable probability that this would lead to mental derangement. There could be furniture-maniacs, rug-maniacs, and china-maniacs just as well as book-maniacs, but people do not generally hesitate to purchase furniture, rugs, and china for fear of going crazy on the subject, and no more reason is there why rational persons should hesitate to make a collection of good books for a library, for fear of being called bibliomaniacs. In Sesame and Lilies Ruskin says: "If a man spends