Monday, October 22, 2012


Books, and their acquisition, have obsessed readers across the ages. Can this paper-borne addiction last into the digital age?

From a piece in the Independent...

The first documented use of the word bibliomania, according to my OED – the twenty-volume second edition, bought as a present to myself when I received the advance on my first novel, and which cost me the advance on my first novel, which meant effectively that I wrote a book to buy a book – was in 1734, in the Diary of Thomas Hearne, bibliognost, antiquarian and assistant keeper of books at the Bodleian. "I should have been tempted," writes Hearne, "to have laid out a pretty deal of money without thinking my self at all touched with Bibliomania."

Then in 1750 Lord Chesterfield writes, warning his son, "Beware of the Bibliomanie." But the word doesn't appear to come into popular usage until 1809, when the Reverend Thomas Frognall Dibdin publishes his book Bibliomania, or Book-madness; containing some account of the history, symptoms, and cure of this fatal disease. The disease, in Dibdin's mad, medico-rhapsodico account, manifests itself in a desire for first editions, uncut copies, illustrated copies, and a "general desire for Black Letter". Book madness, in Dibdin's diagnosis, is a paper-borne disease.

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