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A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books Paperback – Bargain Price, February 28, 1999
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"Nicholas A. Basbanes has compiled a wonderful gallery of eccentrics, isolatos, charmers and visionaries . . . an ingratiating and altogether enjoyable book." --Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World
"A Gentle Madness is an impressive achievement in its compilation of vast information, as well as being instructive and interesting. It is compulsory for anyone seriously interested in books or curious about the manic nature of collecting." --Philip Kopper, The New York Times Book Review
About the Author
Top Customer Reviews
In his chapter "The Blumberg Collection", Basbanes writes about the extreme of book mania, and I wrote this review to at least point the reader to this chapter. Get it from the library if you don't want to purchase the book, it's only 50 pages. It is best to discover this chapter on your own, but the outer fringe of book loving is pretty ugly, but great reading.
I really, really love books. I am a book dealer and gain deep pleasure from just knowing that I have a Great Books set (which I will probably never read) just in case I *need* to read Kant at some point. If you have more books than you could possibly ever read and love the feel, the look and the presence of your library, then take it from a kindred spirit that one of our kind has written a book for us.
Providing a historical account of the formation of the great libraries, in particular those of the US, he analyses the motives of the "collector"; what it is that drives the desire to possess a book that knowingly will not be read. The chapters are case-histories of individuals (like me and probably like you) with the obsessive need to possess printed books, pamphlets and ephemera.
Rather than us being simply mad, Basbanes stresses the importance of the bibliophile collector to the development of national libraries and collections and for saving valuable material that would otherwise, in another context, have been regarded as worthless.
Inevitably money increasingly appears as the dominant factor that allowed an individual to amass a "great" collection; the need for the "gentle madness" of obsession playing second fiddle to the need for a very big bank check. But this emphasis on wealth is balanced by a rivetting chapter on the convicted bibliokleptomaniac, Blumenthal. In this final case history Basbanes takes a man convicted as the "greatest" book thief of the 21st century and provides a compassionate analysis that leads the reader (or at least it lead me) to question whether the jury were correct to convict him as being someone of sound mind. The dividing line between this "gentle madness" and insanity is a very fine one indeed.
The book is brilliant.
The title alone is fantastic. I can think of no better way to describe the often illogical mania people like me have for books. We are, I think mad in many ways and yet it is a non-threatening sort of madness. I have been crazy about books since I was a little boy and used to gaze up at my parents crowded book shelves in the living room. And to this day, when I have a couple of minutes to spare, I love to glance over the titles in my own library at home, reminiscing about past reads and anticipating future adventures. A gentle madness indeed.
Mr Basbanes does a fantastic job of cataloguing most of the famous and infamous bibliomaniacs in history. He describes the famous historical collectors as well as modern examples. He discusses what they do and how they do it and somehow is able to get into their psyches and examine why they do it. Of course not all are the same but they all do seem to share the same indescribable love for books. Some collect for the benefit of mankind while others do it for their own bragging rights. I enjoyed reading about the collections that 19th and 20th century collectors put together, fantasizing about what it would be like to be rich enough to build the kind of library they could. But I think I preferred reading about the more common person who put aside other pleasures of life in order to pursue their passion on a more modest basis. I guess I identify more with them.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is a must have book for those of us who are obsessed with books--all books. It was received in excellent condition and was exactly as the seller described. Thank you.Published 4 months ago by M. Tyler
This is one of the most endearing works about books and bibliomania I have ever read. I intend to buy a hard copy and file it in my collection . Read morePublished on May 23, 2014 by Murali Poduval
A wonderful book but too cumbersome to read in bed. It would be interesting to do a tour of libraries just the way one would visit the national parks or museums.Published on June 30, 2013 by Shirley Dumesnil
Without a doubt, this book is a fascinating glimpse int the world of book-collecting. Thorough and intriguing it is one of those books that can be read over and over.Published on April 17, 2011 by Jane Austen 777
Unfortunately, I didn't manage to finish this whopper of a book before I had to return it to the library. Read morePublished on March 4, 2011 by Iona Main Stewart
This was a good book, although a trifle long, and delving into area's of book collecting that I was not personally interested in. Read morePublished on September 20, 2008 by Richard J. Hackett
Ok not normal, but there are people out there that love books as much as I. Basbanes has created a brilliant collection of book collectors and collections. Read morePublished on January 7, 2008 by Kristy Caley
I doubt that I can add much to all of the praises that have already been written about "A Gentle Madness. Read morePublished on December 17, 2007 by L. Anslow