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A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books Hardcover – August 15, 1995

4.6 out of 5 stars 39 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

What a delightful book about books and people who love books! As a second generation bibliophile, a possible bibliomane who had several people move out of my house a year ago because they erroneously believed that my books were taking over the household, and a devout employee of "Earth's Biggest Bookstore," I can vouch that Basbanes accurately describes the glorious role of book collectors as archivists of human knowledge, and -- in continual counterpoint -- sometimes pathologically obsessed book junkies.

From Library Journal

In Part 1 of this informative and well-written work, syndicated book columnist Basbanes explores the history of book collecting from antiquity to the 1940s. This ground has been covered before, but Basbanes retells his story well; and, as the extensive notes and bibliography show, he has done his homework. Part 2 portrays the state of collecting in the 1980s, using a series of sketches of notable figures in the field. The material here derives from extensive interviews and therefore provides information available nowhere else. For instance, Basbanes tells the moving story of Aaron Lansky, who has dedicated himself to rescuing books in Yiddish, and offers the fullest published account of Stephen Blumberg's theft of 23,600 books from 268 libraries in 45 states. Anyone interested in books will want a copy of this.?Joseph Rosenblum, Guilford Technical Community Coll., Jamestown, N.C.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 638 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Company; 1st edition (August 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805036539
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805036534
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 2.1 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (39 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #503,555 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By taking a rest HALL OF FAME on June 30, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Literally anyone who enjoys reading will prize this book. I had mentioned and quoted briefly from the book on my personal page, and received questions about the work, as well as many people who said they too had the disease.
There is truly a Psychological condition that describes people obsessed with books, the condition is known as Bibliomania, derivatives include Bibliomaniac, and Bibliomane. The Author describes a condition of buying books you have no intention of reading. For most of us (I am afflicted) this means we buy and read books as much as we can. I have crossed over to collecting old books, and since they are in Latin, Greek, and other languages unknown to me, my defense that I will read them is weak.
You will read about a man who "collected" over 23,000 books from various libraries and other book outlets just to possess them. His library grew as he traveled around the Country adding to his collection. His taste was excellent and his library contained priceless volumes by the hundreds. His story illustrates how easy access is to rare books and further how they can be purloined. It is not a how to steal books section, just one amazing tale.
The book also documents the building/collection of some of the finest libraries in existence. The libraries are as varied as there are books. One women set out to build the definitive library of children's books, what she has collected will amaze you.
The attitudes of the caretakers of these works view themselves as just that, keepers for a time, their feelings about where books should be, and should never be will surprise you. What is done with many collections after the original assembler dies will also surprise you.
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Format: Hardcover
Basbanes' book is a must for any serious bibliophile. It takes you, almost chronologically, through the history of creative collecting, from the ancient Greeks to the modern book maniac. Among others, you'll meet Samuel Pepys (he of the famous diary) and Princeton's William H. Scheide, a rich old coot who owns one of the few surviving Gutenberg Bibles. My favorites are the eccentrics, and there are plenty of them here. You know, the wackos whose houses are literally filled to the ceilings with books and nothing else. If I had the money and the chutzpah, that'd be me.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an erudite account of various aspects of book collecting, its practitioners, and their collections. Basbanes covers in detail the histories of some of the greatest collections, and those of the individuals behind them. His thoroughly researched work also explores two collectors whose activities might be more accurately described by changing to "real" the "gentle" of the book's title. A piquant note is added by the fact that true to form one of these two wrote a pseudoanonymous review for Amazon.com but could not resist to reveal his identity by listing his address as "heaven", a take-off on his name "Haven". The author's many years of successful non-fiction writing for the media have resulted in gripping accounts; a must for anybody who shares his - and my - love for books.
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Format: Paperback
Many of us inveterate readers of books treasure the solitary time spent with a solid book in hand, the scent of ink, the ability to make little notes in the margins that are particularly meaningful, that holy grail of private time that somehow erases all anxiety at the moment a cover is opened and a bookmark traced to the last thoughts from the previous session. The concept of the 'enemy' of eBooks is a healthy one - make more books available at a cheaper price and keep them all in one little electronic gadget to take everywhere, given a poser supply - but does this mean that books on paper will become obsolete? And if they become obsolete, what of the room designated in the booklovers' homes as the libraries, that sanctum where thought is centered and absorbed just by looking are the titles on the heavy shelves?

Read A GENTLE MADNESS and recapture the secure feeling that traditional books are here to stay. Nicholas A Basbanes surveys the tribes of book lovers who have gone to all manner of extremes to follow their addiction to books. This book was originally published in 1995 but now there is this paperback version far more portable and enhanced not only by further entries by Basbanes but published by probably the most significant publisher for the job - Fine Books Press. Yes, Basbanes addresses our shared skepticism about the Internet as the source for all knowledge and the black pit for book writing and those thoughts are well worth reading.

But the joy of this book is reading Basbanes meticulous examination of bibliophilia and bibliomania that has existed since the creation of the printing press. There are stories in this intellectually sophisticated, beautifully written book that are worthy of the attention of biographers aplenty.
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By A Customer on December 16, 1998
Format: Hardcover
Having my own small collection of 800 books, a few first editions, several autographed editions I can relate. I loved this book. It was given to me last year by my best friend, another book lover, and I have enjoyed it so much. I am not a great, gifted collector, but still a collector and I can tell you where each book was purchased, the date, and sometimes even my mood. Some of the books I will not let anyone borrow they are too precious to me. Yes, I too suffer from this divine madness as my two children also. It is a great hobby, madness whatever..."So many books so little time."
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