As it turns out, I m a fraud.Compared to the stories told in this book, and the stories that surely countless others could tell of their own obsessions with the printed work, I m like the guy in the back of a Star Wars convention who says, Oh, I ve seen Return of the Jedi once or twice, I think Because the fact is, you people are out of my league.And that just might be the difference between liking this book appreciating it for its humorous accounts of bibliomania and its interesting history of book collecting and loving it on a level that only someone who personally identifies with the neurotic episodes contained therein can love it.Objectively, there is plenty to find fascinating about A Gentle Madness, not the least of which is that it offers the healthy perspective of correlating batshit crazy book collecting with the preservation of historical records Without these nutsos doing their thing, it is not unreasonable to believe that many aspects of history might have otherwise been lost to the ages Book collecting is important At the same time, a majority of these book collectors are people with whom I cannot readily identify For example, there is an account of an older woman who collected children s booksthousands of them Her interests leaned toward the rare, but truthfully she would have accepted anything into her collection that showed signs of being handled by actual, real life children You d think her motivations were rooted in a love for children themselves, or at least in a desire to recapture her own childhood by allowing herself to be absorbed by these books But nope Her desire was simply to collect She wanted no snotty brats touching her books, and she certainly had no interest in actually reading them The reason I can t relate to these experiences is that I feel as though I am the exact opposite I love reading I will read practically anything somebody gives me, or anything that catches my eye But once I m done with it, the book itself is fair game In fact, I would rather give a book away for someone else to enjoy than keep it for myself I understand this concept is foreign to most Goodreaders who proudly display photos of their bookshelves, or their book porn which seriously is a practice that needs to STOP unless the books are specifically pornographic in nature, they are not book porn , but that is how I differ from most of you psychos However, I still love you all. I don t knowI see all the 5 star ratings and, I guess some people were looking for or expecting something different from this book than I was I found a great deal of it extremely interesting The parts that seemed to be giving insight into bibliomania grabbed and held me Too often however I found the book devolving into lists of books from given collections and he opened the next wood box to reveal a vintage volume of Shakespeare and or what these books went for at auction There were pages and pages listing book prices etc I was looking for insights into the mind and possibly heart of bibliophiles and their criminal sinister cousins bibliomaniacs I d say many of us here are bibliophiles and I m relatively sure most have had the experience of trying to get a book from the library that the computer and before that the card catalog How many remember card catalogs said was in the library s collection.but it wasn t It wasn t out for repair, no one had it checked out, wowwonder where it went And, there were always certain categories of books that seem seemed to be stolen in every library I used.So, the profiles were very interesting, especially that of Blumberg, who probably got the single most inkbut the facts and figures weren t what I hoped for I d like to have seen interviews with the collectors and possibly thieves and commentary from the doctors etc So, a good book and apparently it s a favorite of many I d have preferred insights. This review has been revised there is a new edition of the book and can now be found at A work of nonfiction that provides a steady stream of facts, and still manages to be engaging and enjoyable throughout, earns a five star rating from me Nicholas Basbanes spins many tales about the origins of famous libraries, and the migration patterns of some of the oldest books in existence Reading this added to my must see bucket list Toward the end of this tome, there is a very long section on Stephen Blumberg, the man known as the most successful bibliokleptomaniac in history It is a spicy talefortunately, he respected the books he was hiding, and they were returned, eventually, to all the victimized institutions all across the country and in Canada, as well He was sentenced to almost six years in prison and heavily fined Blumberg would not have been caught had a friend not turned him in for a bounty Basbanes mentions many smaller but intriguing collections, such as the Mulholland Library of Conjuring and the Allied Arts This was exciting for me, because my husband and I have had the opportunity to see this I had heard a couple stories about how David Copperfield came to buy the entire Mulholland collection, but I did not know the reason it was sold The back story involves a banker who was implicated in the savings and loan scandal It seems that this collection was a bank president s private perk When that bank collapsed in 1990, the late John Mulholland s collection was seized by a government agency to recoup the bank s losses and it did The last owner paid 575,000 for the original collection, and his famous curator, Ricky Jay continued to enhance it over a period of years In the end, about 850,000 had been spent on a collection that was then sold to Copperfield for 2.2 million dollars Nice return.Another collector who gets space in this book is Fred J Board, who collects oddities This man makes his own rules The oddest thing he owns, in my opinion, must be the book printed on pasta, fastened with steel bolts Not sure I d drive to Connecticut to see that There are many human interest type stories included in this fabulous reference book, since the passion for collecting cannot be separated from the personalities of these bibliophiles They are the reason that so much history has been preserved and is available for study Since this is a reference book, it need not be read from cover to cover I did that out of habit It s well organized and indexed I m glad to have this in my collection, and would certainly recommend it Ricky Jay is a famous magician and also a most engaging writer I highly recommend Learned Pigs Fireproof Women And he is no longer the curator of the Mulholland Collection p.s well indexed means 100 pages of index Lest anyone think I m a speed reader, I am not. I m not sure that i actually fall into the category of bibliophile or bibliomaniac, although i ve often called myself one I do have a collection of over 3,000 books there are still so many in boxes that i haven t catalogued them all but many of them i just bought because i wanted to read them and was afraid they might go out of print before i got a chance than because i wanted to own a valuable possession There are a few i own because i want to OWN, or read again, and again, but i am not, for the most part, a connoisseur In fact, one theory holds that the defining moment occurs when a person buys a book with the prior certainty that he will never read it, though others are less cynical, i don t know that i have ever bought a book with the prior certainty that i will never read it well, perhaps i have not intended to read it cover to cover, but definitely Needed to have it immediately at hand for reference or felt i did A Gentle Madness Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A Basbanes tops out at 638 pages but that s with 103 pages of notes and index so you only have to wade through 535 pages of actual text It starts out interestingly enough, with the preface and first chapter introducing the subject at hand and giving a brief gloss over the drive to collect books The first part of the book is devoted to the history of book collecting and is an interesting chronicle of the development of many private libraries as well One must have a sense of history to appreciate the history of any art including that of book and printmaking.Not that the entire tome is boring, exactly, or i don t think i would read the entire thing, it s just that occasionally i would find myself at the end of the paragraph without any idea of what it said do you ever do that it s one thing when you re listening to some windbag go on and on or watching t.v or something along those lines, but when you are reading, which is, in a sense, an active activity, and realize your mind is drifting But in this case, it seems to be a rather orgasmic experience just so i have your attention but than that, perhaps i am a bibliophilliac after all, just reading about book collections, and book auctions, and books, well you know, some things do it for some of us, and many things do it for some of us librarians are a sexual fantasy stereotype after all and what is it about orgasm that seems to wake women up and make men drowsy Is it just a satisfaction thing, or some kind of evolutionary adaptation to ensure pregnancy and species diversion Okay, back to the subject at handI found the second part of the book to be a bit intriguing as it provided intimate sketches of the bibliomanes themselves perhaps this was necessitated by the times Basbanes only had interview access to live subjects, after all An entire chapter is devoted to Stephen C Blumberg, the biblioklept who stole from rare book collections of libraries across the country to amass his own reference collection which he always considered his own personal ILL system he was saving the libraries from themselves, really Instead of admiration or even a sense of having found kindred spirits in this book, i found myself wanting to clear out many of my own processions which have become too numerous and cumbersome One of my biggest fears is that i will die leaving a pile of crap that my niece and nephews will have to sort through for me Even at my current rate of about 150 titles per year can i really read all of the books i own that i have not yet read and with new ones constantly appearing do i really want to And what IS the point of ownership anyway I ve always had a need to hold on to things, as if i can hold on to people and to history and to all the feelings attached to them if i can just hold that thing in my hand Poppycock One of my purposes in blogging the books i read is to try and hold on to the memories of what i felt when reading so do i really need those pages Perhaps much of this is brought about by the fact that i have come to the sudden realization that i am in desperate need of about 7,000 like, yesterday just to bring my bills current, mind you, to keep the creditors from repossessing my cats and the blood in my veins hey, maybe that wouldn t be such a bad thing, if they could just replace it with some fresh, healthy, non migrainey bloodbecause i have absolutely nothing of value Maybe it s also just brought on by the fact that i m tired of having so much damn stuff, and having to walk over, move it around, or plow through it constantly Night after night I have spent carting down two flights of stairs books than I ever thought I possessed Journey after journey, as monotonously regular as the progresses of a train round the Inner Circles upstairs empty handed, and downstairs creeping with a decrepit crouch, a tall, crazy, dangerously bulging column of books wedged between my two hands and the indomitable point of my chin the job simply has to be done once it is started there is no escape from it but at times during the process one hates books as the slaves who built the Pyramids must have hated public monuments A strong and bitter bone sickness floods one s soul How ignominious to be strapped to this ponderous mass of paper, print, and dead men s sentiments Would it not be better, finer, braver, to leave the rubbish where it lies and walk out into the world a free, untrammelled, illiterate Superman Solomon Eagle, Moving a LibraryI won t even mention those multiple cross country moves even the cross town moves are bad enough Time to lighten up While i m still in the mood, but how How How I first started reading this book soon after it was released At that time I found it interesting, but got bored and put it down I kept thinking, It s fun to collect books than it is to read about collecting books Recently I picked up this volume again, gave it a second chance, and couldn t stop reading Don t know what made the difference But the second time around I was spellbound Maybe it s that I m a lot like Basbanes, actually Not to mention the fact that I see myself in many of the collectors he describes I love books, have quite a collection myself, but will never EVER be a collector on the level of those who this book describes I ll never own a Shakespeare folio, not anything nearly that rare But I can vicariously live the life of the most successful bibliophiles through books like this Basbanes does a wonderful job of descibing the pleasures of ultra rare books His descriptions of actually handling a Gutenberg bible make it seem as if you re right there with him, caressing the binding, inhaling the aroma of the paper, seeing and feeling the printer s impressions This is a vicarious experience no book lover should miss. A teetering tower of books with a filmy clothed girl of perhaps 14 sitting on top A few choice beasts winding their way around the stacks Description ofwhat Well, only a picture I wish I could draw But when I think of bibliophilia, I think of that This not me coming out as a closeted book pervert Quite the opposite These children, in history and literature, were supposed to represent the innocent and quiet nature of learning, or knowledge At least, that is how I have seen it widely interpreted Yet, it was my fantasy to look exactly like that Willowy figure, exuberant eyes Instead of the elephantine adolescent that I was Unfortunately, this book reminded me of my pathetic gracelessness in which I exercised my teen years Day in, day out I am so glad that is over On the flip side, it renewed my intellectual vigor for book cover art and the literary processes of forgotten years Hi ho Gutenberg image error When It Was First Published, A Gentle Madness Astounded And Delighted Readers With Stories About The Lengths Of Passion, Expense, And That Collectors Will Go In Pursuit Of The Book Written Before The Emergence Of The Internet But Newly Updated For The Twenty First Century Reader, A Gentle Madness Captures That Last Moment In Time When Collectors Frequented Dusty Bookshops, Street Stalls, And High Stakes Auctions, Conducting Themselves With The Subterfuge Befitting A True Bibliomaniac A Gentle Madness Is Vividly Anecdotal And Thoroughly Researched Nicholas A Basbanes Brings An Investigative Reporter S Heart And Instincts To The Task Of Chronicling Collectors Past And Present In Pursuit Of Bibliomania Now A Classic Of Collecting, A Gentle Madness Is A Book Lover S Delight If you re a reader, a collector If you love libraries, if you re fascinated by the intrigue of the business of collecting, then you should than enjoy this book Books are big business, people sometimes literally die for books Collectors are ruthless Auctions are outrageous Collections are made and destroyed Books fuel an underground economy most of us are totally unaware of.A Gentle Madness is a wonderful history of the book and some of the greatest book lovers of the world At times it reads like a spy novel that puts you on pins and needles It truly is a book you won t want to put down. One of my very favorites I own two copies and have given others to fellow bibliophiles I d say I too suffer from this Gentle Madness, but suffer is such the wrong word There is so much pleasure in being mad for books I m also mad for book lovers, what wonderfully interesting folk we are
Nicholas A Basbanes is an award winning investigative journalist and was literary editor of the Worcester Sunday Telegram His articles have appeared in The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, and Smithsonian, and he is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship Basbanes lives in North Grafton, Massachusetts.
- 638 pages
- A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books
- Nicholas A. Basbanes
- 22 May 2019 Nicholas A. Basbanes