Women Collectors in Their Own Words

From The Book-Hunter in London (1895).

Engraved frontispiece by L. Du Guernier to Steele’s Ladies Library (vol 1, 1714). From The Book-Hunter in London (1895).

It can be difficult to define exactly what it means to be a book collector or what kind of activity counts as collecting. Traditional definitions of book collecting have often neglected or even specifically excluded women. Therefore, I’m particularly interested in descriptions of book collecting by women themselves.

In Hobbies: Leisure and the Culture of Work in America, Steven M. Gelber observes:

“So pervasive was the conflation of men, market, and collecting that it has been difficult for most observers to even see that women were collecting, albeit in a style that was different from men. …The only women collectors taken seriously by men were those who collected on men’s terms. Those whose hobby was aesthetic or sentimental were stealth-collectors who simply disappeared from the historical radar.”

In Anatomy of Bibliomania, Holbrook Jackson claimed that “Book love is as masculine (although not as common) as growing a beard.” Thomas Dibdin wrote in The Bibliomania, or Book-Madness that bibliomania “has almost uniformly confined its attacks to the male sex, and among these, to people in the higher and middling classes.” Despite that perception, women have occasionally experienced the disease of bibliomania themselves. The culinary collector Elizabeth Robins Pennell wrote in My Cookery Books that “Dr. Hill Burton defines [book collecting] first as a ‘human frailty,’ then as a ‘peculiar malady,’ which is the definition I accept. Certainly I can trace my attack to its deadly germ.” In his essay “Mary Hyde and the Unending Pursuit,” Jerry Morris quotes collector Laura Barnes from a Rare Book Review article:

“I was recently informed, in a friendly but insistent manner, that only men can be great book collectors. It seems that men alone possess the necessary obsessive-compulsive behaviour to build important collections. Now, I am not one to seek out – let alone brag about – being afflicted with a psychological disorder, but I do consider myself a serious collector.”

To get beyond general claims about women as the enemies of books, or bibliomania as a strictly masculine pursuit, it helps to go straight to the source. Essays and memoirs by women bibliophiles can help us to understand their experiences and philosophies of book collecting in their own words.

Stray Thoughts of a Book CollectorMarjorie Wiggin Prescott wrote Stray Thoughts of a Book Collector in 1932, in which she describes her approach to book collecting.

“The field for bibliophiles is so large that it is difficult to choose the location where one hopes to build; one frequently feels like a child selecting a candy from an enormous box of sweets. At best, so little can be remembered of all there is to learn about books and literature, that it is wise to settle in a small corner of this book-site and it is advisable to build well and slowly, rather than erect an entire village and try to cover the available acreage too rapidly.”

The American Book CollectorIn 1933, Genevieve B. Earle wrote an article for The American Book Collector called, “Pandora Buys a Book: A Collector in Search of an Author,” in which she lamented that she did not know of any other women book collectors.

“Ever since, I’ve had an exciting time with books, bookshops, auction sales, etc., but never once have I seen or heard of a woman book-collector. Where do women book-collectors keep themselves? Have they no clubs, no haunts, no rendez-vous? The Land of Bibliophilia must be the Garden of Eden with the Adams in complete possession of all their ribs. …Recently I heard Dr. Rosenbach discuss in a fascinating way women as book-collectors; but his ladies were dear, dead, and gone,–Kings’ Mistresses, Queens and Princesses of Yesterday. Is it possible that in this most gorgeous field of hobbies, we have left you, my Brethren, an uncontested domain? Will the gate be forever barred to us? Strange, for it seems to be the one fine leisure interest men and women can pursue together.”

In response, there was an anonymous letter to the editor the following month, which asked:

“Why not? Why cannot the women have a ‘Hroswitha Club’ run along the same lines that the Grolier Club is for the men? I feel sure that many of our women librarians, collectors, bibliographers, and perhaps book-sellers would appreciate such a meeting-place where they could talk over their hobbies with fellow-enthusiasts.”

The Hroswitha Club of women collectors was in fact founded eleven years later in 1944. Whether this exchange of letters in The American Book Collector provided the inspiration is unknown.

Address to the Hroswitha ClubIn 1960, Miriam Y. Holden gave members of the Hroswitha Club a tour of her library on women’s history. She told them:

“We have all of us learned that the collecting instinct can be a most rewarding source of pleasure and satisfaction for the collector, regardless of the fact that no collection is ever complete or ever perfect. I disagree with Oliver Wendell Holmes who thinks ‘Every library should try to be complete on something, if it were only the history of pin heads.’

The search for the unattainable is always fascinating. The fun of seeking and securing becomes a form of sport. We are continually lured on, in spite of ourselves, by dealers and their unending flood of tempting catalogues in every language and from all corners of the earth.”

“What nobody still seems to know about woman, even at this mid-point of the twentieth century, is the reality of her historic meaning as a potent agent, in creating the patterns of society which are known to history. To reveal woman’s part in the making of long history, is the purpose of my library. I am trying to collect and make available to historians, students, and writers, the records of Woman’s Role in Civilization and show what her political and legal and economic status in various centuries and countries was, and what progress she was able to make in education, science, culture, and religions.”

The Miriam Y Holden collection of 6,000 volumes on women’s history is now housed at Firestone Library, Princeton.

Collector in BeingFrances Hooper’s pamphlet A Collector in Being, was also a talk given to the Hroswitha Club in 1973 about the origins of her collecting. She wrote:

“It is very pleasant and absorbing to be a collector. You just naturally are one. Or, I guess you aren’t.

There are three main difficulties, I have found, about collecting. 1–to keep on the main track of your principal collections and not to go afield. 2–to find the time to attend to what you already have and to enjoy these in depth. 3–to find compatible spirits with whom to share your enthusiasms and interests.”

There are big and little collectors and steady ones and spasmodic ones. And, people collect anything. Buttons to castles. There is no explaining the urge. If you have it, you can’t resist it. And it can so easily take you over. Take over your common sense and any sound monetary judgment if you ever had any.”

Frances Hooper’s collection of Kate Greenaway is now at the Hunt Library, Carnegie Mellon University. Her Virginia Woolf collection is at Smith College.


Mary Hyde EcclesMary Hyde Eccles: A Miscellany of Her Essays and Addresses, published by the Grolier Club in 2002, which includes the delightful essay “Grolier Watching, by a Lady,” recounting her experiences with the Club before women were first admitted to membership in 1976.

In “A Library of Dr. Samuel Johnson, she describes how her collecting interest started:

“My true interest in rare books began with graduate work in Elizabethan drama, and the determination (how it occurred I do not remember) of studying all the plays produced in London between 1600 and 1605 in their earliest available editions. This whimsy made me impose upon the good nature of custodians at the Huntington and Folger libraries, the Carl H. Pforzheimer Collection and the famous Rosenbach Company. There is an emotional pleasure that is indescribable in touching the past so closely. This is not to say that such material must not be supplemented with all the relevant books of modern scholarship. It must. However the contemporary record strikes with a direct force that its translation can never recreate. I found myself ranging far afield, calling for celebrated books which had no bearing upon my subject, simply to see them. Though wholly aware of the deception, the custodians, without exception, were indulgent.”

The Donald & Mary Hyde Collection of Dr. Johnson and Early Modern Books and Manuscripts is now at Houghton Library, Harvard.

Posted in Collections | Tagged | 3 Comments

Recent Acquisitions: New Ladies in My Library

New books

One of the difficulties of looking for women book collectors is that they are not always identified as such. One can search for variations on “women book collectors,” “lady bibliophiles,” and so on, but this approach is hardly comprehensive. Skimming book titles and indexes of books about books looking for female names is another approach, but quickly becomes overwhelming. Unless you already know the name you’re looking for, it’s hard to narrow down the results.

Just when I thought I’d exhausted my current search strategies, I stumbled across a simple new idea.While browsing the Oak Knoll website, I came across an auction catalogue of a woman’s library, one whose name I had never seen before. I needed to figure out what combination of search terms would produce more items like that. It finally occurred to me that all similar catalogues from that time period would preface the woman’s name with “Mrs.” or “Miss.” A title search for the keywords “Mrs.” and “library” or “collection” brought up a few familiar titles and a number of new ones, which I promptly ordered.

Names new to me:

  • Mrs. Charles W. Engelhard
  • Mrs. Laetitia Hollier
  • Mrs. Christian R. Holmes
  • Mrs. E.F. Hutton
  • Rose Standish Nichols
  • Mrs. Whitelaw Reid
  • Louise Elkins Sinkler
  • Mrs. William A. Taylor
  • Mrs. Henry Walters

I will be trying this search in other library catalogs and book search engines to see what else may be out there. Meanwhile, I need to do some more research on these new names and add them to my bibliography.

Posted in Collections | Tagged | Leave a comment

Margaret Bingham Stillwell, Curator and Scholar

margaret stillwell1

Margaret Stillwell, from Librarians are Human.

Margaret Bingham Stillwell, curator of the Annmary Brown Memorial Library, overcame personal tragedy and professional barriers to become the first woman professor at Brown University and a respected authority on early printed books.

While Stillwell was still an undergraduate at Brown University, George Parker Winship hired her to be an assistant at the John Carter Brown Library, where she worked for seven years. From 1914 to 1917, she worked at the New York Public Library to catalog the early Americana collection under the supervision of Wilberforce Eames. There she met Chester Cate, a librarian of the Huntington Library, and they soon fell in love. He died in a supposed hunting accident several years later, and after that she never married.

In 1917, General Rush C. Hawkins recruited Stillwell to become Curator of the Annmary Brown Memorial Library in Providence. Three years later, General Hawkins unexpectedly died after being hit by a taxi while crossing the street. Unfortunately, after his death the library trustees discovered that the promised endowment for the library had never been officially put in his will. With extremely limited funding and little support from the library trustees, Stillwell faced numerous challenges in continuing her work. She remained dedicated to completing the work General Hawkins had hired her to do, even though he had not left any funds with which to accomplish it.

The library had no heat or electricity in most of the building for the first ten years, and winter temperatures at Stillwell’s desk routinely dropped to as low as 44 degrees Fahrenheit. After years of pleading with the trustees, she finally had to threaten to resign if heat was not installed before the next winter. The trustees also refused to buy essential reference works, so Stillwell had to borrow them from friends at other libraries.

In 1948, when the library was transferred to the management of Brown University, Stillwell was the first woman to be appointed to a full professorship on the University Faculty, although she never received a full professor’s salary.

margaret stillwell2

Margaret Stillwell, Librarians are Human.

Stillwell published a number of scholarly works on the subject of early printing, as well as her memoir, Librarians are Human: Memories in and out of the Rare Book World, 1907-1970. Her greatest achievement was the massive survey Incunabula in American Libraries, a Second Census, published in 1940 and usually known simply as Stillwell. She was a very productive scholar, publishing at least 18 titles in all, even with the limited resources she was forced to work with. She was invited to become a member of the Hroswitha Club of American women book collectors, which she recalled as one of the most enjoyable experiences of her life, and she became the first honorary woman member of the Grolier Club in 1977 on the day after her ninetieth birthday.

Her contemporaries in the rare book world included Belle da Costa Greene of the Morgan Library and Ruth Shepard Granniss at the Grolier Club Library. While studying Ruth Granniss’s correspondence at the Grolier Club Library, I was delighted to see letters to and from Belle da Costa Greene and Margaret Stillwell, which hinted at friendly and collegial relationships among all three. They served on various committees together, visited each others’ libraries, sent congratulatory notes on each others’ exhibits and publications, and shared references and books back and forth. Despite their different personalities and backgrounds, they shared the experience of being women in a male-dominated rare book world, and it was wonderful to see a little of this in their letters.

Further Reading:

Goff, Frederick R. “Margaret Bingham Stillwell: A Personal Reminiscence.” Gazette of the Grolier Club, n.s. 26/27 (1977): pp. 30-37.

Needham, Paul. “Margaret Bingham Stillwell.” In Grolier 2000: A Further Grolier Club Biographical Retrospective in Celebration of the Millennium (New York, 2000): pp. 363-365.

My bookshelf

My shelf of Margaret Bingham Stillwell’s books.

Bibliography of Margaret Bingham Stillwell:

The Annmary Brown Memorial: A Descriptive Essay (Providence: The Annmary Brown Memorial, 1925).

The Annmary Brown Memorial: A Booklover’s Shrine (Providence: Privately Printed, 1940).

The Awakening Interest in Science During the First Century of Printing, 1450-1550, an Annotated Checklist of First Editions Viewed from the Angle of Their Subject Content (New York: Bibliographical Society of America, 1970).

Beginning of the World of Books, 1450 to 1470: A Chronological Survey of the Texts Chosen for Printing During the First Twenty Years of the Printing Art, with Synopsis of the Gutenberg Documents (New York: The Bibliographical Society of America, 1972).

Bibliographical Survey: Printing in the 15th and 16th Centuries as Represented in the Hunt Collection, with a Note on the 17th Century (Pittsburgh: Hunt Foundation, 1958).

Essays on the Heritage of the Rennaissance from Homer to Gutenberg (Providence: Brown University, 1982).

Fifteenth-Century Books in North American Libraries (Portland, Maine: Southworth-Anthoensen Press, 1940).

General Hawkins as He Revealed Himself to His Librarian, Margaret Bingham Stillwell (Providence: 1923).

The Heritage of the Modern Printer (New York: The New York Public Library, 1916).

Incunabula and Americana, 1450-1800: A Key to Bibliographical Study (Columbia University Press, 1931; 2nd ed: New York: Cooper Square Publishers, 1961).

Incunabula in American Libraries: A Second Census of Fifteenth-Century Books Owned in the United States, Mexico, and Canada (New York: The Bibliographical Society of America, 1940).

The Influence of William Morris and the Kelmscott Press as Shown by an Exhibition of Books from the Later English Presses, at the John Carter Brown Library in December, 1911 (Providence, 1912).

Librarians are Human: Memories in and out of the Rare-Book World, 1907-1970 (Boston: The Colonial Society of Massachusetts, 1973).

Noah’s Ark (New York: Edmond Byrne Hackett, 1942).

The Pageant of Benefit Street: Down through the Years (Providence: The Ackerman-Standard Press, 1945).

Rhythm and Rhymes: The Songs of a Bookworm (Mount Vernon: The Press of A. Colish, 1977).

Vignettes and Rhymes on the Times: Observations of a Bookworm (Providence: Brown University, 1986).

Washington Eulogies: A Checklist of Eulogies and Funeral Orations on the Death of George Washington, December, 1799-February, 1800. In Bulletin of the New York Public Library vol. 20, no. 5 (May 1916): 403-450.

While Benefit Street Was Young (Providence: The Ackerman-Standard Press, 1943).

Posted in Collections | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Are Women the Enemies of Books?

Bookmaking on the Distaff Side

Anne Lyon Haight, “Are Women the Natural Enemies of Books?” Bookmaking on the Distaff Side (1937).

“There is a significant and instinctive enmity between women and books.”  Holbrook Jackson, The Fear of Books (1932). 

In 1937, Anne Lyon Haight asked “Are Women the Natural Enemies of Books?” Haight went on to refute this idea with a history of several notable women bibliophiles. Unfortunately, the works on women book collectors are vastly outnumbered by the many writers who have called women the enemies of books.

In 1880, William Blades wrote a book titled The Enemies of Books, in which he enumerated all the dangers which might befall rare books. The complete list from his revised and enlarged edition of 1888 includes ten enemies: fire, water, gas & heat, dust & neglect, ignorance & bigotry, the bookworm, other vermin, bookbinders, collectors, and servants & children. Many book collectors of that time would have added Women to the list, a danger regarded as equally threatening to the survival of their collections.

The first book collector to record this opinion was Richard de Bury, an English monk who wrote the Philobiblon, a treatise on the love of books, in 1344. Writing in the voice of books themselves, he described woman as “that biped beast … always jealous of the love of us, and never to be appeased, at length seeing us in some corner protected only by the web of some dead spider, with a frown abuses and reviles us with bitter words, declaring us alone of all the furniture in the house to be unnecessary, and complaining that we are useless for any household purpose.” Subsequent writers, particularly in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, overwhelmingly agreed with this opinion. They repeatedly described woman as the enemies of books, jealous of them, and completely incapable of understanding men’s bibliomania.

Women are “the sworn enemies” of books.  Paul Eudel (1877)

“Almost all women are the inveterate foes … of books worthy of the name. First, they don’t understand them; second, they are jealous of their mysterious charms; third, books cost money; and it really is a hard thing for a lady to see money expended on what seems a dingy old binding, or yellow paper scored with crabbed characters.” — Andrew Lang (1881) “Woman, often jealous of the book, is a Bibliophobe by instinct.”  Octave Uzanne (1889)

“[W]omen, as a class, are the enemies of books, and are particularly hostile to bibliomania.”  Eugene Field (1896)

Women are the “implacable enemies” of book collecting.  Bernard-Henri Gausseron (1901)

“The Book encountered a dangerous enemy: Woman.”  Léon-Félix de Labessade (1904)

Even when women did become book collectors, they were seldom recognized as such. In 1915, George Watson Cole wrote, “Book-collecting has been a pursuit almost invariably followed by men. The long lists of bibliophiles of every period and of every country are singularly devoid of women’s names.”

François Boucher, Portrait of Madame de Pompadour (1756). Via Wikimedia Commons

François Boucher, Portrait of Madame de Pompadour (1756). Via Wikimedia Commons.

Since book collecting required wealth and education, earlier women bibliophiles were usually from the noble classes. For example, Madame de Pompadour, mistress of Louis XV, was one of a number of French women collectors during the 16th through 18th centuries. However, these ladies were often dismissed as serious book collectors; they were accused of collecting because it was fashionable, not from a true love of books. In Invitation to Book Collecting (1947), Colton Storm and Howard Peckham wrote of French collectors:

“The pastime was then pursued as much by women as by men, the hobby being curiously bound up with their love affairs. As Dr. Randolph G. Adams slyly puts it: ‘All the great woman book collectors were immoral.'”

Dr. Rosenbach was kinder in his judgement of women collectors. In the chapter “Mighty Women Book Hunters” in A Book Hunter’s Holiday (1936), he wrote, “It speaks rather well, I think, for the kings of France that they chose for friends beautiful ladies who loved beautiful books.” He ended the chapter with an appeal to women, “Ladies, why leave the triumphs of this sport to men?” Today, there are probably more women book collectors than ever before. When the famous collector Mary Hyde Eccles spoke in 1990 at a Grolier Club exhibit about women collectors, she said:

“The fascinating question raised by all this is why, in five centuries, in six countries, do  there seem to have been so few women book collectors? The answer is obvious: a serious collector on any scale must have three advantages: considerable resources, education, and freedom. Until recently, only a handful have had all three, but times are changing.”

Book collecting can have as much appeal for women as for men. Anne Lyon Haight’s article “Are Women the Natural Enemies of Books?” concludes:

“It would appear that book collecting is a truly feminine pastime, containing many elements which appeal to their sex; romance, intellectual curiosity, love of the beautiful and the quest of something difficult to obtain. . . . Book collecting, however, is a common denominator of all ages and a medium through which the minds of both sexes may meet with pleasure, and therefore greatly to be recommended as a delightful occupation.”

Posted in History | Tagged | 1 Comment

Catalogues of Imaginary Libraries

Thomas Wharton, The Logogryph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books (2004).

Thomas Wharton, The Logogryph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books (2004).

“To write vast books is a laborious nonsense, much better is to offer a summary as if those books actually existed.”  — Jorge Luis Borges

Catalogues of imaginary libraries are an obscure but fruitful area of collecting. The tradition of imaginary books, which exist only within other books, goes back at least to Rabelais, who invented a list of book titles for the Abbey of Saint-Victor in Gargantua and Pantagruel (c. 1532).

Famous imaginary books include the Necronomicon in H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos series, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy in Douglas Adams’ series of the same name, and The Red Book of Westmarch in J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings. Some works of fiction take it a step further with the addition of footnotes to imaginary books, such as the fictitious history texts cited in Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell. 

Numerous works of fiction use the concept of imaginary libraries, often with mysterious or magical properties. Jorge Luis Borge’s Library of Babel is an infinite library containing all possible 410-page books, while Terry Pratchett’s Unseen University Library connects through L-space to every other library in the multiverse. In Carlos Ruiz Zafón’s The Shadow of the Wind, the Cemetery of Forgotten Books contains lost books preserved by a secret society. The labyrinthine monastery library in Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose is at the heart of a dangerous mystery.

The concept of imaginary books has some overlap with hoaxes and forgeries, where the forger may be attempting to invent or recreate a book that never truly existed. One of my favorite examples of this is The Old Librarian’s Almanack, an fictitious book supposedly first published in 1773 and reprinted in 1909. It was a pamphlet in the style of Poor Richard’s Almanac, presenting the opinions and advice of a librarian in 1773. The true author, Edmund Lester Pearson, published the “reprint” with his friends, John Cotton Dana and Henry W. Kent, who owned the Elm Tree Press of Woodstock, Vermont. Wayne A. Wiegand provides an excellent summary of the whole episode in The History of a Hoax: Edmund Lester Pearson, John Cotton Dana, and The Old Librarian’s Almanack (1979). For more on the subject of literary forgeries, see Forging a Collection: The Frank W. Tober Collection on Literary Forgery (1999).

Although I am intrigued by many types of fictional libraries, this particular collection focuses solely on the concept of catalogues or bibliographies of imaginary libraries. These may range from a simple list of titles  to book reviews, cover designs, or excerpts from the imaginary books themselves.

Catalogues of Imaginary Libraries:

Bibliotheca Fanatica, or, The Phanatique Library: Being a Catalogue of Such Books as Have Been Lately Made and by the Authors Presented to the Colledge of Bedlam. London: 1660; reprinted 1811.

Brown, Thomas. Musaeum Clausum, or Bibliotheca Abscondita: Containing Some Remarkable Books, Antiquities, Pictures and Rarities, of Several Kinds, Scarce or Never Seen by Any Many Now Living. Catalogue first printed in Miscellany Tracts, 1684; reprinted in Miscellaneous Writings1931.

Donne, John. The Courtier’s Library, or, Catalogus Librorum Aulicorum Incomparabilium et Non Vendibilium. Catalogue first printed in Poems, 1650; reprinted separately 1930.

Feodor Vladimir Larrovitch, an Appreciation of his Life and and Works. Edited by William George Jordan and Richardson Wright. New York: The Authors Club, 1918.

Klinefelter, Walter. Books about Poictesme: An Essay in Imaginative Bibliography. Chicago: Black Cat Press, 1937.

Klinefelter, Walter. The Fortsas Bibliohoax: With a Reprint of the Fortsas Catalogue and Bibliographical Notes and Comment by Weber Devore. Catalogue first printed 1840; reprinted 1941.

La Cour, Tage. Ex Bibliotheca Holmesiana: The First Editions of the Writings of Sherlock Holmes. Copenhagen, Denmark: Danish Baker Sreet Irregulars, 1951.

Lem, Stanisław. A Perfect Vacuum. Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press, 1999.

Rabelais, François. Catalogue of the Choice Books Found by Pantagruel in the Abbey of Saint Victor: Devised by François Rabelais: Translated and Annotated by Walter Klinefelter, a Student of Catalogues. Printed in Pantagruel, c. 1532; translated and printed separately, 1952.

Rolfe, Frederick. Frederick Rolfe’s Reviews of Unwritten Books. Edinburgh: Tragara Press, 1985. 4 vols. Originally printed in the Monthly Review.

Rubens, Charles and J. Christian Bay. The Dummy Library of Charles Dickens at Gad’s Hill Place. Chicago, Illinois: Privately Printed, 1934.

Scharioth, Barbara. The Fish, the Piano, and the Wind: An Imaginary Library. Hamburg: Carlsen, 2009.

Segal, Ben. The Official Catalogue of the Library of Potential Literature. New York: Cow Heavy Books, 2011.

Stanley, Joan C. Ex Libris Miskatonici: A Catalogue of Selected Items from the Special Collections in the Miskatonic University Library. West Warwick: Rhode Island: Necronomicon Press, 1993.

Steiner, George. My Unwritten Books. New Directions, 2008.

Sweet, Pat. This is Not a Book. Riverside, California: Bo Press, 2010.

Tuleja, Tad. The Catalog of Lost Books: An Annotated and Seriously Addled Collection of Great Books that Should Have Been Written But Never Were. New York: Fawcette Columbine, 1989.

Watson, Alex P. Excerpts from Nonexistent Books: Short Selections from Books that Don’t (or Shouldn’t) Exist. CreateSpace, 2012.

Wharton, Thomas. The Logogryph: A Bibliography of Imaginary Books. Kentville, Nova Scotia: Gaspereau Press, 2004.

Wilson, Paul. The Invisible Library. LitDistco, 2013.

Further Reading:

“Bibliographic Ghosts.” Collection Management 8, no. 3 & 4 (1986): pp. 109-112.

Blumenthal, Walter Hart. Imaginary Books and Phantom Libraries. G.S. MacManus, 1966.

Carpenter, Edwin H. Some Libraries We Have Not Visited: A Paper Read at the Rounce & Coffin Club, August 26, 1947. Castle Press, 1947.

Credland, W.R. “Imaginary Books and Libraries.” Papers of the Manchester Literary Club 17 (1891): p. 285-291.

Folter, Roland. “Printed in the Mind of Man: The Strange World of Catalogues of Imaginary Books.” International Association of Bibliophiles Transactions, XXVth Congress. 2011.

Houghton Library. Bibliotheca Chimaerica: A Catalogue of an Exhibition of Catalogues of Imaginary Books. 1962.

Juel-Jensen, Bent. “Musaeum Clausum, or Bibliotheca Abscondita: Some Thoughts on Curiosity Cabinets and Imaginary Books.” Journal of the History of Collections 4, no. 1 (1992) : pp. 127-140.

“List of Fictional Books.” Wikipedia.org.

Miller, Laura. “The Greatest Books that Never Were.” Salon.com. July 5, 2011.

Nipps, Karen. “The Cover Design.” Library Quarterly 77, no. 2 (2007): pp. 241-245.

Park, Ed. “Titles Within a Tale.” Nytimes.com. July 23, 2009. 

Ruthven, K.K. “From Imaginary Libraries to Ficto-Bibliography: Performing Fiction as Fact.” Bibliographical Society of Australia and New Zealand Bulletin 27, no. 1-2 (2003): pp. 14-27.

Spargo, John Webster. Imaginary Books and Libraries: An Essay in Lighter Vein.

Stephens, Walter. “Livres de haulte gress : Bibliographic Myth from Rabelais to Du Bartas.” MLN 120, no. 1 (2005): p. S60-S83.

Posted in Collections | Tagged | 1 Comment

Dollhouse Library

Dollhouse library roombox.

Dollhouse library roombox.

One of the dangers of collecting is the prospect of the collections taking over the entire house. One way to avoid this is to collect in miniature, thereby containing everything to a more manageable scale.

In my case, this collection has gradually evolved into a miniature dollhouse library. The roombox, with a sliding plexiglass front to keep out dust and curious cats, has been finished on the inside with wallpaper, a hardwood floor, and crown molding.

Dollhouse bookshelf.

Dollhouse bookshelf.

The most important element of the library roombox is of course the bookshelf, filled with dollhouse-scale books. Most of the books contain readable text. My collection includes books from Mosaic Press, Bo Press Miniature Books, Dateman Miniature Books, Robert Massmann, and others.

Miniature books

Miniature books.

Other highlights of the library roombox:

Posted in Collections | Tagged | Leave a comment

Children’s Books about Libraries

The Children's Book on How to Use Books and Libraries

Carolyn Mott and Leo B. Baisden, The Children’s Book on How to Use Books and Libraries

I stumbled across the book that inspired this collection in a vintage shop. The cover of the book, which had been reused to make a blank journal, instantly caught my eye. Both the title — The Children’s Book on How to Use Books and Libraries — and the charmingly simple stick figure illustrations captured my imagination. I tracked down a complete copy and soon began collecting other illustrated children’s books about libraries.

At first I collected only books published before 1970, but then expanded to selected modern children’s books as well. I have to be selective, because my Google Books bookshelf of children’s books about libraries currently includes 348 titles, and more are being published every year.

Below are some of the oldest books in the collection. I’m always looking to add early books, because so far I have only thirteen illustrated children’s books published before 1970.

One of the first categories I collected was nonfiction children’s books about the history and use of libraries.

Another subject area is career books about librarians, which describe what the profession does and how a child might learn more about it.

A very popular genre is fictional characters going to the library. Numerous books describe the experiences of children or other characters going to the library and learning how it works.

Another popular theme is animals coming into the library, and the havoc that ensues once they’re there.

Alphabet books about libraries.

Poems about libraries.

In some cases, characters love books so much that they start libraries in their own homes.

Libraries have also inspired fantastical adventures. In The Flower, a boy in an all-gray world finds a book in the library about flowers, which inspires him to plant some seeds that turn into a beautiful flower. The Little Red Fish tells the story of a boy and his fish who get lost between the pages of a library book. In How to Live Forever, a library containing a copy of every book ever written is missing one volume that holds the secret to immortality.

Posted in Collections | Tagged | 1 Comment