Bibliomania

William S Walsh - A Handy-Book of Literary Curiosities

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A Bibliomaniac must be carefully distinguished from a bibliophile. The latter has not yet freed himself from the :hat books are meant to be read. The bibliomaniac has uses for books: he carries them about with him as talismans, he passes his time in the contemplation of their bindings, illustrations, and title pages. Some say he even rates himself before them in silent adoration in that Joss house which he calls his library. Bibliomaniacs are all alike. There are numerous subdivisions. Some care for uncut copies, some only for books printed in black

letter or in italics, some for first editions, some for curious or famous bindings, while some make collections on special subjects. But all agree in this, — that the intrinsic merit of the book is a secondary consideration in comparison with its market value and exceptional scarcity.
    There is a story of a wealthy English collector who long believed that a certain rare book in his possession was a unique. One day he received a bitter blow. He learned that there was another copy in Paris. But he soon rallied, and, crossing over the Channel, he made his way to the rival's home. "You have such and such a book in your library?" he asked, plunging at once in medias res, "Yes." "Well, I want to buy it." "But, my dear sir———" "I will give you a thousand francs for it." "But it isn't for sale; I___" "Two thousand!" "On my word, I don't care to dispose of it." "Ten thousand!" and so on, till at last twenty-five thousand francs was offered, and the Parisian gentleman finally consented to part with his treasure. The Englishman counted out twenty-five thousand franc bills, examined the purchase carefully, smiled with satisfaction, and cast the book into the fire. "Are you crazy?" cried the Parisian, stooping over to rescue it. "Nay," said the Englishman, detaining his arm, "I am quite in my right mind. I, too, possess a copy of that book. I deemed it a unique. I was mistaken. Now, however, thanks to your courtesy, I know it is a unique."
 

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