Thursday, May 08, 2008

You can love books or you can loooove books...

I'm a bit behind, admittedly, but Shelf Awareness included a link to this light, fun article by David McKie from the Guardian (UK) about one man who loved books too much. Sir Thomas Phillips, apparently, went from bibliophilia to bibliomania over a lifetime in the 19th century. To be more precise, "Vello-mania, he called his condition, because it ran as much to the purchase and hoarding of documents as it did to books." Surely this sounds awkwardly familiar to some of us: "The books and documents took over the house. The family - two wives, three daughters of the first marriage - knew their place: second best to the books and to boxes, some of which stood for several years waiting to be unpacked."

I was intrigued by a comment left about a writer named Al-Jahiz. There seems to be some question as to how he died, given that it was in the year 868, but one theory, on this essay by David Tschanz and elsewhere, is that his passing came "as a result of an accident in which he was crushed to death by a collapsing pile of books in his private library." Consider yourself warned!

I went to a new library in a new neighborhood yesterday and it was perfectly dusty and the books were charmingly out of date - only just - and I grabbed two Dashiell Hammett books, ones I've been meaning to read for awhile but have not, so I'm actually in a non-hoarding mood. Big into borrowing. But I know we go through phases, right? I'm sure I'll start itching to own again soon.

Of course, the question on this blog always falls back on the same point: will anyone ever feel this way about e-books? Is this kind of coveting, which involves so much waste, really something to preserve?

But then I feel slightly less remorse when reading something like this that gives me an out... should I ever actually sign up: "Eco-Libris wants American readers to put something back for all their bookworm pleasures. It’s encouraging them to donate a dollar for each book they read, so trees can be planted to offset all the paper consumed." This is definitely something to consider as we move forward, books in hand, or in pocket, or in bag, etc etc...

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