Monday, November 25, 2013


Fear of Books

The Oxford English Dictionary defines bibliophobia as "Dread of, or aversion to, books." The only citation in the OED is to Thomas Frognall Dibdin, Bibliophobia. Remarks on the Present Languid and Depressed State of Literature and the Book Trade (London: Henry Bonn, 1832). An earlier example of the word appears in an anonymous article "On the Affectation of the Graces," in The Gentleman's and London Magazine (February, 1778) 92-93:
The two famous universities of this land are over-run with the infection. It is attended with a Bibliophobia, which not only prevents the diseased persons from attending to the porter-like language of Homer's Gods, but compels them to convert their libraries into dressing-rooms, to be consulting the looking-glass when they should be consulting the lexicon, and learning the art of pleasing some pretty married woman, when they should be reading the art of logic with their tutors.
Two rare words denoting fear of books, librophobia and neolibrophobia, are hybrid derivatives, of mixed Greek and Latin origin. So far as I can tell, they don't appear in any dictionaries.

For librophobia see "Inexhaustibleness of Literature," Waldie's Select Circulating Library (August 7, 1838):
If a literal-minded man, who took for granted everything he heard, were to listen to or read the lamentations of some good gentlemen and ladies concerning the deluge of new publications that are issuing from the press, he would expect to find the streets, roads, hedges, and ditches, as infested with books as the court and palace of Pharaoh, King of Egypt, was once infested with frogs. He would expect to find all sober people labouring under a species of librophobia, and in constant apprehension of being smothered with waste paper or squeezed to death between bulky quartos.
For neolibrophobia see Edward North, "Remembered Teachers," in S.N.D. North, Old Greek: An Old-Time Professor in an Old-Fashioned College. A Memoir of Edward North, with Selections from his Lectures (New York: McClure, Philips & Co., 1905), pp. 7-14 (at 13-14):
The same study was taught by him as it always had been, with the same nut-brown textbook, the same illustrations, the same well-worn traditional Joe Millerisms. He had a kind of neolibrophobia. A new text-book was his special abhorrence.
Related post: Contempt for Books and Letters.


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