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cannot define it without reference to price, worth, or value; and if these be unstable it cannot constitute a bargain. 'An advantageous purchase' say the dictionaries; but if the price drop subsequently is it advantageous to you? You may think to play the wise man by collecting early editions of your own or your father's contemporaries, but it is odds on that you will burn your fingers. Yet the works of those great writers, those immortals
On Fame's eternall beadroll worthie to be fyled'
are stable in our affections as is the sun in the firmament. Whatever fortune may overtake the works of those ephemerals whom by mere fashion we applaud to-day and neglect to-morrow, the works of those great writers who have been accorded a niche in the hall of Fame will ever command our purses no less than our respect.
'The road lies plain before me ; 'tis a theme
OST book-collectors embark upon
their life-long hobby without any clearly defined scheme of collecting, buying just those books which take
their fancy, and in many cases not realising that they have caught the dread contagion of bibliomania until they suddenly realise that more shelf-room is required for their books, and that the expenditure upon their hobby is growing out of all proportion to their means. It is then generally too late to stop, and although they may avoid the book-stalls for some days, nay even weeks, the passion of collecting is only dormant, and will break out with renewed vigour either upon a sudden (though perhaps only temporary) condition of affluence, or upon the receipt of that
most insidious of all temptations, a bookseller's catalogue—especially if it be a clearance'one.
This passion for collecting books resolves itself at length into two categories. Either the patient grows rapidly worse and plunges headlong into the vortex of auctions, catalogues, and bibliographies, amassing during the process a vast nondescript mass of books; or else he improves slowly but surely, growing daily shrewder in his purchases. So that at length, having completely recovered his composure, he finds himself the possessor of a collection of books valuable alike from commercial and utilitarian standpoints.
The former of these collectors is generally said to suffer from acute bibliomania. His knowledge of books is vast but of a general kind, and for practical purposes it cannot compare with that acquired by his fellow-collector who had seen the folly of a headlong course. His complaint is well known; indeed it was recognised in the first century of our era, when Seneca condemned the rage for mere book-collecting, and rallied those who were more pleased with the outside than the inside of their volumes. Lucian, too, in the next century, employed his prolific pen in exposing this then common folly.
Even the wise collector, however, runs some risk of being engulfed by his hobby and swept away by the flood of books. There is but one remedy, or rather alleviation, for book-collecting is quite incurable and follows a man to his grave (unless, of course, he be cast upon a desert island), and that is specialism.
Every collector should become a specialist. It will give him a definite ambition, something to look for among other books, something to complete; and there is a thousand times more satisfaction in possessing a select collection of works of a definite class or upon a definite subject, than in the accumulation of a vast heterogeneous mass of books. He will get to know the greater part of the works upon his own subject, become an authority upon it in time, and perhaps will even attempt a bibliography if it be an out-of-the-way subject. He will know precisely what he wants, what to search for, and what price to pay. In short, he will be lifted out of the vast sea of miscellaneous books into the clear atmosphere of a definite and known class of works.
It is such an easy step, and such an immensely important one, this determination to confine one's collecting activities to a certain class of books. * What a blessing it is,' said a book-loving friend to us not long ago, ‘not to have to worry about all sorts of books. I have never ceased congratulating myself that I took the resolution to confine myself entirely to Herbals. Before, I had a vast but untrustworthy knowledge of titles and editions which a bad memory did not assist. Now, thank goodness, I have forgotten all that, but I flatter myself that I really do know something about Herbals.'
And what a profitless occupation is the aimless collecting of heterogeneous books. If bibliographical knowledge be our aim, their very diversity tends to confuse us. If recreation be our object, better far to join a circulating library than garner volumes which, once read, are never to be opened again. Learning and study cannot be intended, for the formation of a library of nondescript books collected upon no system or plan can, at best, endow us with but a smattering of knowledge.
There was once a certain bishop who used continually to collect useless luxuries. The Emperor Charlemagne, perceiving this, ordered a merchant who traded in rare and costly objects to paint a common mouse with different colours and to offer it to the bishop, as being a rare and curious animal which he had just brought from Palestine. The bishop was transported with delight at the sight of it, and immediately offered the merchant three silver pounds for such a treasure. But the merchant, acting on his instructions, bargained with the bishop, saying that he would rather throw it into the sea than sell it for so little. Finally the bishop offers twenty pounds for it. The merchant, wrapping up the 'ridiculus mus' in precious silk, is going away when the collector, unable to bear the thought of losing so great a