In My Own Private Library, English professor Thomas H. Benton (a pseudonym) lays bare the anatomy of a bibliophile. All the elements are there: the childhood origins, the financial folly, the barely contained sensuality, and most telling, the erudite rationalizations. His “reasons” for collecting books are tidily organized under seven headings, the last two of which (aesthetics & hope) get to the heart of the matter.
I’ve always liked the image of being a rumpled, pipe-smoking don in a book-lined study. I like the way books look, and even the way they smell.… Good books have an appealing tactile quality, an animated artistry in their construction that once led me to learn bookbinding…
Oh ya, he’s got it bad. But it’s not all about desire; he clearly feels a reverence for books as objects and as a medium of communion.
The marginalia of older books are often much more valuable than the books themselves.… Books that are regarded by sellers as “damaged but readable” can help a scholar reconstruct the relationship between writers and their audiences.…
Increasingly, my fascination with old books makes me feel personally connected with dead writers more than living bibliophiles. … People don’t really “own” books; they are custodians of them for a time. Sometimes I think about who will own some of my books after I am gone, and I write short notes to them in the margins.”
I love it. Bibliophilia: it’s a beautiful thing.