The Numismatic Bibliomania Society



The E-Sylum: Volume 18, Number 50, December 13, 2015, Article 42


Now back to our core topics of numismatics and numismatic literature. Here's an exchange from the Yahoo Colonial Coins group of interest to numismatic bibliophiles. -Editor

Ray Williams writes:

After perusing the Kolbe Fanning catalog I received yesterday, I paused to think about my library. Am I a bibliophile? What is a bibliophile? Both questions I have no answer for. I consider my library a working reference library. My wife Diane constantly tells me that I don't need any more books - that I can't possibly read everything I have in my lifetime. I remind her it is a reference library and the material is available when I need to read it.

That being said, I have beautiful Quarterman reprints of Crosby and Maris, and a number of reprints of rare books. These are perfect for research and I can mark them up with notes in the margins and not worry about the book's value. I don't need to spend hundreds or thousands for an original copy. There are some books that don't have reprints such as Dickeson, but may be available online. The Newman Numismatic Portal is digitizing many numismatic works, that will be available for everyone.

But, I do own an original Crosby and an original Maris, and some other original works too. There is something about holding a nicely bound original book from the 1800's... The same book that Wayte Raymond used in his office or home. The same Maris book that Quarterman used to make its reprints... There is a certain sentimentality that colonial collectors have - that's why we attempt to keep pedigree information intact for our coins. Knowing who possessed the coins before us adds to the romance of owning them. Keeping this information intact for the future owners is a task of love.

The same is true for me with some books. Having an original of a classic reference is a thrill. I have friends that collect books as collectibles. And then when the time comes, they sell/auction them to other book collectors. When the time comes to part with my library, it will have two markets - those that collect books and those that need working references for their coin collections. But some snowy evening this Winter, you can find me in my recliner, with a fresh pot of coffee and my 1875 Crosby in-hand. Just another of many ways I enjoy our hobby.

James Higby writes:

The etymology of the word says it all: biblio = book; phile = lover. Put "em together and go look in the mirror!

Jeff Rock writes:

Ray, as someone who has built, disposed, built and disposed of a few libraries over the years, I have to say that you are a bibliophile. Yes, you can say that your library is only a research library -- but, truth be told, a research library would be just a couple of shelves of books and a computer tablet to view titles in the public domain without ever having to buy physical copies. Anything that wasn't useful would be tossed or sold. An original Crosby or Maris is not useful -- as you said, there are excellent reprints available that will do the job.

Yet I've owned several Marises (Marisii?), a couple of Hall's on 1787 Connecticuts and a dozen Crosby's (I just sold two at auction, cutting my hoard down to just three copies...which is three more than are needed, of course). I seldom looked at the originals -- if I needed to use the books for research I would use the reprints and not risk damaging the more valuable ones. But every now and then I would take the original off the shelves, thumb through it, breathe in that wonderful musty smell, and think about who owned that book before me, what they used it for, what coins they had in their hands as they were comparing images, etc.

My response to your question of whether you are a bibiliophile is easy -- ALL of us who collect colonial coins in a serious matter are bibliophiles. We are collectors. We want our coins, not in a crass monetary manner like a miser hoarding his gold, but rather to learn about them and bring the past to life. Our libraries are the same. We want the reference books -- and the obscure titles, auction catalogues that are 150 years old and price lists of firms long out of business not because we are hoarding paper, but because they are there, they have something to teach us and they are tied together with the areas we collect.

I have known NO serious collector of coins who didn't also appreciate numismatic books! All major collectors of the past had impressive libraries -- Garrett, Brand, Norweb especially. Newman and Ford built libraries that were just as impressive as their collections. At the one Siboni BBQ that I was able to get to I spent more time drooling over the books on his shelves than I did over the coins on display -- and there were some mighty impressive coins on display!

In fact, I would go even further -- if you DON'T have a decent library, you are simply NOT a serious numismatist. You could be a casual collector or, worse, an investor. But if you don't have more books than shelves available, then you are doing something wrong! So when Diane tells you that you don't need any more books, tell her that if you want to be considered serious, you really do....and hey, they haven't been that bad of an investment over the years either!

Wayne Homren, Editor

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