Saturday, March 26, 2016


The Concupiscence of the Book-Collector

Robertson Davies (1913-1995), The Papers of Samuel Marchbanks (New York: Viking, 1986), p. 285 (ellipsis in original):
Once again, after a pause of many years, catalogues are beginning to reach me from sellers of old books in England. If I had any strength of character I should throw these into the garbage pail as soon as they arrive but I am a weak creature, and I always risk a peek. This is fatal, for in no time at all the concupiscence of the book-collector burns hotly within me. I send off an order and in the course of time a new treasure is added to the cupboard at Marchbanks Towers....Real bibliophiles do not put their books on shelves for people to look at or handle. They have no desire to show off their darlings, or to amaze people with their possessions.They keep their prize books hidden away in a secret spot to which they resort stealthily, like a Caliph visiting his harem, or a church elder sneaking into a bar. To be a book-collector is to combine the worst characteristics of a dope-fiend with those of a miser.

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