Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Do You Collect Books?

I read a lot of books, and I buy a lot of books, but I never really thought seriously about collecting books per se. I mean, I've collected the occasional series, manga especially, but I've never really collected just to collect.

Awhile ago, I saw the movie "Definitely, Maybe," which featured a character who collected various editions of Jane Eyre, because she loved the book and because she was looking for a particular lost volume of her own, given to her by her late father. I loved this nerdy, bookish touch in an otherwise by-the-numbers romantic comedy and it reminded me that for a while when I was a teenager I had my own collection of old copies of Jane Eyre. It was my favorite novel (still is) and although my collection reached a grand total of three copies I still treasure those books.

(The week after I saw the movie, I saw a pretty illustrated edition of Jane Eyre on sale for cheap at a local used bookstore and now I have four!)

As I was setting up my new home office over the past few days, I noticed that I've developed a little collection of signed books- about 50 so far- that would be nice to gather together on the bookcase I have in the room. I organized them alphabetically and they look nice! I'm sure I'll continue to add to that little collection as time goes on.

When I attended ReaderCon this past summer, I went to a session on collecting, starring a man who's collected hardcover first editions of every Hugo Award winner. He talked about the thrill of the chase, dealing with ex-library copies and other pitfalls and pleasures of collecting. I thought it was funny but then he sort of inspired me, and I thought about starting a collection of first editions of Booker Prize winners, since I love the Booker Prize. Some quick searches on online showed that, apart from a few early winners that cost in the hundreds, it's actually a relatively accessible collection to start, with many winners available for under $50 in good-quality condition. I have a few- I have Wolf Hall, The Blind Assassin and Possession, and I actually bought another the other day, Life of Pi, in anticipation of an upcoming local event with Yann Martel.

What do you think? Do you collect books? Do you want to?

34 comments:

logankstewart said...

Another excellent post. Really the only books I collect are ones by favorite authors or graphic novels that I want to have. I make great use of the public library, opting to save money and buy only the books I really *need*. Of course, used/thrift book stores blow everything out of the water and I might go crazy in one of these stores.

bermudaonion said...

I do have my signed books in a special little corner of my bookcase, but I wouldn't really say I collect books. If I had a grand library, I certainly would!

Natalie W said...

Yes! I love collecting books. I started collecting old old books and now I just collect whatever interests me.

Laura said...

I collect Virago Modern Classics. There are more than 500 published and a few different editions so I may never be done, but I have more than 100 now. I also enjoy "the thrill of the case." I love your first edition Booker idea. Go for it! You could cross-post about it on <A HREF="http://completebooker.blogspot.com>The Complete Booker</A> as well :)

Laura said...

Oh darn. That link should be:
The Complete Booker !

c2rcc said...

I've been slowly collecting all of the Overlook Press editions of PG Wodehouse's books. They are so fun. I also grab any Ngaio Marsh book I see -- there are about 34 of them, and I'd love the whole collection. I only have a handful of signed books, though I'd love to get more. :) -Cori

Lenore said...

Definitely, Maybe was cute! Much better than I expected. I collect signed books, but that's all.

Trisha said...

I'm much more hoarder than collector when it comes to books. No signed copies, no expensive editions, and every book I own can be read, borrowed, and earmarked. ;)

Kathleen said...

This is a very dangerous post for me to read (ha) as it is sending my mind in a million directions as I think about how I can become a collector! I like the idea of having all the signed copies of books in one place though and that should prompt me to spend money!

J.T. Oldfield said...

I collect signed copies of books as well. I just added to my collection last night when I saw Elif Shafak read. Normally, I only bring one book to get signed, even if I have more than one title by the author, but I'm running out of space on my regular book shelves, so I brought both the Bastard of Istanbul and the Forty Rules of Love so that they could both go with my signed books on my special book shelf. BTW, I am giving away an extra signed copy of the Forty Rules of Love on my blog this week for any other autographed-book collectors out there!

Kitten said...

I am a book collector as well. If I read one book by an author, I'll buy every single volume (s)he has written, even if it takes me forever to get around to read them.

Zibilee said...

I don't know if I would classify what I've got going on as a collection in the proper sense of the word, but I do have a lot of books by favorite authors and things that I don't want to part with. I collect all sorts of books, but not exclusively in hardcover or signed editions, though I do have some. I think I tend to collect in the loose sense of the word, snapping up copies of whatever piques my interest to read in the future. I do tend to get rid of things that aren't favorites and just hang on to a select few that I really enjoyed, but I wouldn't really call myself a collector. Great topic, Marie...I had never really considered this before!

Pam said...

I don't collect books. I don't even buy very many books. But this post makes me WANT to collect them. I like the idea of collecting copies of beloved book. I have two absolute all time favorite books - A Tree Grows in Brooklyn and The Good Earth. I own recent paperback copies of both. Maybe I will collect more of those two titles. Hmm... I feel an compulsion coming on. Going to look online right now....

jennysbooks said...

I don't collect books in the sense of wanting more than one copy, but I am mildly obsessed with finding the Best Ever Possible Copy of my favorite books, so I will buy multiple copies in order to choose between them. (But I always do get rid of the superfluous copies.)

Frances said...

I really wish that I had more clearly defined/organized collections but I don't. Lots of signed copies, multiple copies and family books. Maybe I just need to take a closer look and reorganize. I mean, geez, I am a librarian after all. This should be easy, right? :)

caite said...

not a collector...but as an Atwood fan, I have serious envy of that signed copy. I could even change my name to Boston Bibliophile.

mattviews said...

I don't collect books but I do keep different editions/translations of my favorite reads. I have 6 copies of The Master and Margarita--one of each translation. I have a whole set of E.M. Forster's works from the same publisher so they all look very neat on the shelf. I don't own any signed copy and I am not interested in first editions.

Esme said...

Cookbooks are what I collect-my other books I tend to giveaway. Now that I have signed books I will keep those.

Alexia561 said...

Another great post! Like Trisha, I think I'm more a book hoarder than a collecter. I have a collection of ARCs from my days in various bookstores, and my Dean Koontz collection, but that's about it. Am starting a collection of signed copies, but so far it's a very, very small collection. :)

Hannah Stoneham said...

Very interesting post... I only really collect books by accident. hen I started out reading a lot (which was a long time ago) - I would never have thought of it - but along the way I have picked up a clutch of signed books and one or two first editions and I have a vague awareness that I ought to hang on to them rather than a collector's instinct if you know what I mean.

Great post - thanks indeed for sharing

Hannah

Marie said...

Matt, do you have the graphic novel version of Master & Margarita? I love your M&M collection and the idea of collecting translations of a favorite book- how cool.

Natalie-I love it! :-)

Laura- neat :-) good luck with your collection :-)

c2rcc- those Overlook editions are beautiful. I have one; I would love to have more! Awesome collection :-)

Kathleen- LOL! :-) Keep me posted!

J.T.- I entered! :-)

Kitten-how fun :-)

Pam- let me know how it goes! :-)

Jennysbooks- that's neat. that's how I started with the Booker thing, trying to get a really nice hardcover of Possession. then i started thinking.... :-)

Frances- I'm almost surprised to hear that, considering all the interesting book series and small press series you feature on your blog. I would want to collect everything! :-)

jewwishes said...

Jane Eyre is my favorite book of all times, with Possession ranking in the top five of favorites.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) said...

I've actually never thought about collecting books in any particular condition or printing, although I am trying to amass a good collection of narrative nonfiction, including a lot of the classics in that genre. I did love that scene from Definitely, Maybe with the Jane Eyre books -- it did make me want to collect books, for a little bit anyway :)

....Petty Witter said...

A very interesting post. Just starting out collecting. Not a huge lover of poetry but I do love the 'cat' poems by T.S. Eliott and after being given yet another copy of his book decided I would like to collect copies of it in different languages, covers etc. Thanks for inspiring me to carry on.

Fibro Witch said...

I collect by subject and author. I have every kind of Star Trek imaginary technical manual there is. I can tell you how the transporter works. I have technical guides and schematics to every star ship in the fleet. (well not Voyager - it's apparently still classified) I collect all the biographies, autobiographies and picture books about Star Trek.

Next on the things I obsess about would be Barbie. I collect books about the doll, about the woman who "created" Barbie. Had a massive squee moment when I did a review of a new biography on my blog and the author posted a comment. I have books about her clothing, her homes, her pets. I also have several of the little golden books, paper doll books and coloring books.

Then I collect some authors. Authors I know, or authors I love. In this catagory would be everyone from Anne McCaffrey, to Craig Gardner Shaw. James Blish and J.R.R. Tolkien.

Of course back to subject matter, I collect books about Boston, be they history or fiction. The Boston Red Sox books written about the team or by team members.

Now I understand how I ended up with 1,000 + books

Dave said...

The New York Times had a funny essay about collecting books, contrasting the old school joys of the hunt with the modern, antiseptic method of ordering e-books. Here's the link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/03/07/magazine/07FOB-medium-t.html?ref=books

Erin in Boston said...

I have a few first editions, some of them are even signed. I don't know if the presentation you went to told you this, but when you get authors to sign, ask them to just sign their name. Personalizing it devalues the book somewhat.

Marie said...

Erin-thanks. :-) I actually like having them personalized, valuable or not. lately I've been asking people to sign them to "Boston Bibliophile" & that's fun because then I can talk about my blog, LOL. :)

Dawn @ sheIsTooFondOfBooks said...

I buy books and I keep them ... does that make me a collector?

I have about 20 signed first editions, but not of any specific group of award winners. would love to keep these books separated as a collection, but I don't have the space.

Like one of your other commenters, your post has my mind whirling with the possibilities!

Callista said...

I'm not really into collecting other than all of one author that I really love. But I don't care if they are new or well used or whatever.

I have a few books that were signed by the authors that I got for review but I wish they weren't because I want to pass them on. I want to add to my PR page to please not sign them without checking with me first because unless it's something I really want to keep, I don't want to have it signed.

Marie said...

Dave- that's a fun article. Thanks for pointing it out. :-)

Amanda said...

That is so cool! I love your Jane Eyre collection and very jealous of your Margaret Atwood signed book. I collect The Count of Monte Cristo...kind of like your Jane Eyre. When I find a cool unusual copy I have to grab it. I've gotten some fun signed copies now but I don't look out to buy them. I won a Neil Gaiman The Graveyard Book signed copy which I was beyond excited to get.

Serena said...

I used to have a collection of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera books, but it has gotten lost and dwindled to one copy over the years and a series of moves.

I like your idea of grouping all the books that have been signed. I think I'll have to borrow that one next time I organize

Anna said...

I don't collect rare books or anything like that, but I pretty much keep all of my books so I guess you could say that's a collection. When I get some new shelves, I'll probably separate my WWII books and my signed books.

--Anna
Diary of an Eccentric