Some months ago, while browsing in the section where books on libraries, book history, and the English language are classed (so typically directly in front of the cashier, at one’s feet — why this consistent positioning of this class of books?) of my most local used bookstore (Encore Books of Montreal) I came upon a rare gem that piqued my interest. I did not acquire it then, but rather last week brought home a remarkable book: Holbrook Jackson’s The Anatomy of Bibliomania, published by Faber and Faber Limited (1950, reprint).
Let me say at the outset that this is not a book I intend to read soon in its entirety. A fear, perhaps, of exhausting the book’s 649 pages prevents my wariness from slogging through it. This is almost a book that I would see myself reading. I will read this book; when? is the only question. Currently I am undergoing something of a novel binge; this prevents me from plunging right away headlong into this curio.
The Anatomy of Bibliomania is extraordinary for, above all else perhaps, the jocular, ribald hilarity of its table of contents. There are subsections on such topics as: “anti-bibliokleptic measures”; “books bound in human skin”; “bibliopegic dandyism”; and on the “belligerent usefulness” of books. Whole chapters are dedicated to: “book-drinkers”; “bibliophagi or book-eaters”; grangeritis; “the cure of bibliomania” (subsection 1: “whether it is curable or not”; 3: “Bibliophilia is the only remedy”).
How ought one define bibliomania? Madness for books? Book madness? Obsession, compulsion, for the written word? Jackson defines it, surely. This is a book I fear.
(I wonder what analogous term might best characterize the current mania for the digitally wired word? Can “bibliomania” still serve and suffice? What about the mania for online news, our constant “environmental scanning”? Related terms (not synonyms) might include infobesity, mental obesity, information addiction, information anxiety, all of which, like bibliomania, carry negative connotations.)
My discovery of Holbrook Jackson‘s study, dense with classical and canonical English citations, occurred as if by an act of providential grace. I’m extremely happy just to know that a book like this exists. I am drawing attention to this book as I inaugurate this blog, which I will use to discuss and share my reading experiences and related thoughts.
If you’re reading this, I hope you’ll visit bibliomanic frequently. There’s so much to digest.