Jan 23, 2017


I like to reproduce a post from Facebook page of one of my favorite author Steve Berry, it is about Bibliomania.

Do you like to collect books? That is something many dedicated readers do. There have been many book collectors throughout history that have amassed large collections. A few people take it to the extreme by furiously or compulsively collecting books for the mere lust of possession, collecting books which have no value to the collector. This is know as bibliomania, an excessive preoccupation for acquiring and possessing books. It’s different from bibliophilia, the love of books. A bibliophile or bookworm is an individual who loves to read books.

Image from Marimihai.com

This 1809 book, “BIBLIOMANIA; OR BOOK MADNESS; CONTAINING SOME ACCOUNT OF THE HISTORY, SYMPTOMS AND CURE OF THIS FATAL DISEASE” (London, 1809), by the Reverend Thomas Frognall Dibdin, was one of the first to describe bibliomania. Although the book is a fictional work, many of the characters in the book are modeled after the author’s friends and acquaintances. 

In the upper classes in Europe and England during the 1800s, the social elite and scholars did whatever they needed to do to collect books regardless of the cost. Some collectors spent everything they had to build their personal libraries. English book collector Richard Heber started collecting books in 1804 and ended up with eight houses bursting with over 146,000 rare books, a collection he spent an estimated 100,000 pounds to accumulate. Others built their libraries by stealing the books.

One such collector was Dr. Alois Pichler, a librarian at the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg, Russia in 1869. A few months after he started working there, the staff noticed an alarming number of books were disappearing. The staff and guards started looking for unusual behavior and noticed Pichler acting strangely. They noticed that he constantly wore his large overcoat and refused to remove it, and he left the library several times a day. In March 1871, Pichler was found in possession of over 4,500 stolen library books on everything from perfume making to theology. He was tried and convicted of theft and sent to Siberia.

More recently, Stephen Carrie Blumberg from Ottumwa, Iowa was arrested in 1990 for stealing over 20,000 books worth around $5.3 million over a twenty year period. The books had been stolen from universities and museums in 45 states, 2 Canadian provinces and Washington, D.C. He was tried and convicted and sentenced to 71 months in jail. Although the FBI tried to identify the owners of the books and return the books to them, in many cases it was impossible to identify the owners since Blumberg had removed marks of ownership from almost all of the books.

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