The Everett D. Graff Collection in the Newberry Library

Colton Storm, Newberry Library Bulletin, December 1960

The probability that a writer today can invent new ideas about either book collecting or book collectors is almost beyond consideration. Distinguished bookmen such as Lawrence C. Wroth, John Carter, and Randolph G. Adams have characterized collecting and collectors with accurate skill. Their writings and the efforts of their followers have affirmed in this country a doctrine of scholarly collecting which needs no apologists. Responsible collectors (persons or libraries) are without exception individualists who disdain conformity, yet nearly all of them appreciate the essentialities of the bookman's gospel.

Perceptive collectors, those who deserve the dignity "bookman," are connoisseurs. Their practice of judgment is based on the strength of knowledge. They approach their peculiar problems with courage. They exhibit responsibility toward books and toward collections. They are an elite who believe they can "recover somewhat from the deluge of time" with the antidote of books.

 

Basically, collectors are in search of books which display origins, define reasons, or describe experiences. As Mr. Wroth put it on one notable occasion, "It is the accumulated esteem of the generations for its subject matter which makes a book desirable, or, in the case of little-known books, it is the recognition in their matter of the potentiality of future esteem which makes them desirable. Normally, esteemed books are rare, or at least scarce, because they have been read to pieces and many people want the few copies that remain. Not many can have them, and rarity thus becomes a grace added to esteem." (A Tribute to the Clements Library. Ann Arbor, 1948, pages 6-7)