Book Collecting: The Thrill of the Hunt


August 23, 2015

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“Good as it is to inherit a library, it is better to collect one.” Augustine Birrell   

In this day and age, books may seem to be taking a back seat to printed e-books, but the art and science of book collecting is still going strong. William Allison is teaching a fascinating course about the importance and satisfaction of book collecting called “Indoor Treasure Hunting: An Introduction to Modern Book Collecting.”  We visited with him to find out more.

WIH Reporter:  What is important to know about your upcoming class?

Allison: Book collecting is a fascinating and engaging pursuit, involving not only learning about books as objects, but also the thrill of the hunt and the joy of discovery. We will introduce the ins-and-outs of books and book history in a fun and entertaining fashion. You will leave the class equipped with tools to pursue more serious collecting, no matter your level of existing knowledge.  It should be a fun and interesting experience even if you do not aspire to build a collection, but just want to know more about books.

WIH Reporter: What would surprise us to know about the topic of your class?

Allison: Book collecting is not limited to the rich nor are book collectors stuffy. Many wonderful and interesting collections have been built by people without great monetary resources to devote to their collecting. A collection can focus on any topic that interests you. There are collectors of graphic novels, social movements, forgeries, illustrated items, bibliographies, books about books, as well as authors, such as Papa Hemingway or Stephen King, or areas such as Americana or books about Texas, and anything else you can think of. There are no rules or boundaries that have to be obeyed beyond having an enjoyable experience! Book collecting can also help expand your understanding of an area or subject.

WIH Reporter: What mistaken impressions might we have about the subject of your class?

Allison: That it will be dull or dry or that book collectors are only interested in unimportant minutia of editions! We will talk about many fun and interesting stories and anecdotes of book collecting and collectors. If you are already a collector, we will delve into some more advanced topics and you can help share your knowledge through the small class discussion format. Also, while the internet has changed much about books and publishing, it can be a great tool for collectors. In many ways it is easier than ever to find books that interest you and do research on them

WIH Reporter: What format do you plan to use in the class?

Allison: Because it is a small class, we will be able to have discussions rather than a pure lecture. We will be very hands-on, passing around books from my collection to illustrate the discussions. There will be PowerPoint slides to facilitate most of the talks and I will provide handouts (electronic or paper) including further reading and resources for those who desire it. Also there will be an optional field trip to the Thirteenth Annual Book Fair at the Printing Museum on Saturday November 7th.

WIH Reporter: Is there anything else we should know about your upcoming class?

Allison:  The thing I always emphasize is how much fun book collecting can be, and this class should be likewise fun and interesting. As Vincent Starrett said: “Every new search is a voyage to the Indies, a quest for buried treasure, a journey to the end of the rainbow; and whether or not at the end there shall be turned up a pot of gold or merely a delightful volume, there are always wonders along the way.” (Penny Wise & Book Foolish.)

Allison’s 4-week class, “Indoor Treasure Hunting: An Introduction to Modern Book Collecting” begins on November 4th at 1:00 p.m. to 3:00 pm. For more information or to sign up, click here.