Collecting collections

Collecting books for collections is intensely enjoyable. Many people do it, especially young readers. It doesn’t matter what the book is, if it fits a collection, then it is worth having. I now do it myself. If a book has been published by The Nonesuch Press, I want it. I don’t know why and seldom bother to worry about it. Books in collections are slices of something good; fruity, restorative, rich. When a reader says, ‘I’m adding this to my collection’, I know what they are referring to. They are keeping it for later. Later is a realm of time ahead of us that has seats, shelves, warmth, and wooden tables of quiet food.

 A set of books is something you can enter (like a realm), and inside it is a complex place that is never still and never complete.

Images from PenguinBookADay

9 thoughts on “Collecting collections

  1. I had a 3000 strong vintage Penguin book collection, dated 1935 to 1970 and finally sold it at auction. However I have retained all the cerise coloured penguins (travel and adventure) series. I like them too much to part with them yet. I still have 2 or 3 I need to have all of them. You don’t see them much anymore. My penguin collecting lasted 10 years and I had the best times and experiences collecting them from all over the world. I enjoyed this post.

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    1. I remember when I first started following you – I looked at all your pictures of your Penguin sets. Sometimes customers ask me to get them sets like yours and I can’t – they are just not for sale anywhere. Some people collect them one by one, it’s very expensive and takes a long time but I always think: what lovely hobbies, what joyful energy, and what a rich rewarding focus for our days and lives – to collect literature!!!

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      1. Although, I have to add the following. I used to work in a Penguin bookshop in London as a young man, one which also sold secondhand Penguins. For years, as a fledgling artist, I tried to get hold of a copy of John Piper’s book on Romney Marsh but could never get one – King Penguin collectors snapped them up because it was number 24 or something in the series! That’s the downside of collecting series, I suppose. I did finally get one after I moved to another bookshop which had a huge secondhand department and the manager found a copy for me (an inside job, therefore!).

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      2. You are right about the downside of collecting. There are many books that people (especially young readers) ask for that I can’t get because the titles/editions are now “collectible” and so sit on dealer’s shelves (highly priced and waiting for collectors) and being read by nobody! Many of our early Australian children’s books fit this category now.


  2. You begin reading a series, starting from book one. You reach the last one with satisfaction but also a sense of loss – no more, no pleasurable anticipation waiting for the next volume to be published. The books sit together on the shelf, awaiting the promised re-reading (for which there is seldom time). So, where to now? Another series, another collection! Whether books or owls, collecting is addictive… 😛

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    1. It is addictive – and it says so much about us and our hearts; what moves us, what troubles us, what delights us and why, how, when… and our collections leave a mark on the world. They take off into a life of their own, become someone else’s. My library at home is about 12000 books, all in the most bizarre groups. One collection is simply ‘books that are red’. What will happen to them all……

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