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Tuesday, August 2, 2005

Chapter Twelve, in which personal Collections are celebrated

Back in 1933, Grandpa Buerchner made a scrapbook of A Century of Progress World's Fair. Newspaper clippings, tickets, brochures, and the official program were among the articles included. It was made in a homey/crafty way, not professional by any means, and with his own personal touch. Somehow it became mine, and I have kept it despite having any special interest in that fair, or World's Fairs in general, though I can appreciate the beauty of the buildings that have survived (such as the Field Museum). I kept it with the feeling that it was a genuine account from that time, and it was something that Grandpa made, and so that little bit of him (among others) remains with me.

What prompts book collectors to collect the books they do? Why does one favor Lincoln and his generals over Lee and his? Why falcons and not eagles? Why pop-up books but not lift-the-flap books? Usually there is some passion for the subject (such as Newton's fondness for everything Johnson), and often there is a seminal event that sparks the desire or lays the foundation. Whatever the motivation, a good collection is well-defined, sharply focused, and the more unique it is, the more valuable it is. Collectors of Lincoln are everywhere, which does not mean those collections are not of value to their collectors. But, unless we are talking about something famous, the collection of pop-up books would likely command more interest on the open market.

I first decided to begin collecting something in particular (as opposed to just building a general library) after reading Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop, both by Christopher Morley. I gathered up whatever copies I could find (that were also within my budget). The jump to all things written by Morley was easy. Now, (does it just seem this way or is it real?) I rarely find books by Morley in the places I used to. Because of which the successful hunt is each time more rewarding than before. A chance acquisition of a few other first editions has put a couple other authors on my list to collect, new authors who amount to pure speculation as far as value goes, but lots of reading pleasure. Inspired by a friend's interest in the foundations of the United States, I began collecting books on the American Revolution--not yet sharply focused, but still in the building stages and fun.

Recently I wondered what else I might collect, as the appetite for such madness only grows when fed. Perusing my books, I realised I already possessed the basis for a new collection, one that is well-defined, sharply focused, and that I have not heard about before (though my hearing might not be all that good any more). Grandpa's scrapbook is the first piece, one which no one else in the world has. By luck, two catalogues from the fair had also fallen into my possession through the purchase of the stock of another bookstore. And just to confirm my decision, and make it official, I bid on two more pieces (only one of which I won). Thus a new collection is formed, and a relationship with my Grandpa continues.

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