By Nicholas A. Basbanes
Whilst first released, A mild Madness astounded and extremely joyful readers concerning the ardour and fee a collector is keen to make in pursuit of the publication. Written earlier than the emergence of the web yet newly up to date for the twenty first Century reader, A mild Madness captures that final second in time whilst creditors pursued their passions in dusty bookshops and road stalls, excessive stakes auctions, and the subterfuge priceless of a real bibliomaniac. An event one of the troubled, A light Madness is vividly anecdotal and punctiliously researched. Nicholas Basbanes brings an investigative reporter s middle to light up creditors earlier and found in their pursuit of bibliomania. Now a undying vintage of amassing, no lover of books can pass over A mild Madness.
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Extra info for A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books
At the same time that the John Carter Brown Library was rising on College Hill in Providence, and barely a block away, a much smaller variation on this theme was being devised by Rush C. Hawkins, a retired Union Army brigadier general and, since 1855, an avid collector of books produced during the incunabula, or “cradle period,” of Western printing, before 1501. At first, Hawkins had wanted a traditional library to house his paintings and his books, but when Annmary Brown Hawkins, his wife of forty-three years and a cousin of John Nicholas Brown’s, died in 1903, he moved the location from New York to Providence as a tribute to her, and modified the design to include a mausoleum.
Using this rich precept as both framework and guide, I was further determined to find today’s collectors, to talk about their craving for books, and try to grasp what impels them to acquire with such determination. Their stories are told in part 2. My journey brought me in contact with a breathtaking variety of riches. At the Huntington Library, I saw 5,300 fifteenth-century books, known as incunabula, stored two floors below ground level in an area called the outer vault. Behind a two-foot-thick steel door, in the inner vault, I handled the manuscript of Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, a presentation copy of John Smith’s History of Virginia, and a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland given by the illustrator, John Tenniel, to the engraver, with comments by Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) written inside.
Thirteen years later, at the age of eighty-nine, the colorful cavalry officer who had led a regiment of volunteers in the Civil War known as “Hawkins’s Zouaves” died after being struck by an automobile on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. The general was not buried among other departed heroes in Arlington National Cemetery, however, but in the tomb next to Mrs. Hawkins, where he confidently had predicted that his presence would become an “anchor” for their precious artifacts. ” That day came in October of 1990 when all of the books and some of the paintings were moved to more secure quarters in the John Hay Library on campus.