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The Bibliomania or Book-Madness

Containing some account of the history, symptoms, and cure of this fatal disease

The Bibliomania or Book-Madness by Thomas Frognall Dibdin
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Dibdin’s Bibliomania is an anthem to the printed book, a warning to the unwary about the perils of obsessive book-collecting, and the confessions of a rabid book-collector. As a casual glance at the book will show, Dibdin’s footnotes predominate over text, and it is in the footnotes that the interest lies. They invite questions as often as they answer them. What is the supposed similarity between ‘Orator’ Henley’s library and Addison’s memoranda for the Spectator? What cutting words did Edward Gibbon write about Thomas Hearne? Why should we not be surprised to find a book on American history by a Spanish admiral in the library of the President of the Royal Society? Who was Captain Cox who ‘could talk as much without book, as any Innholder betwixt Brentford and Bagshot’? Was Polydore Vergil a plagiarist and John Bagford a biblioclast? What is bloterature? Sometimes Dibdin tells us, sometimes he assumes we know, and sometimes he chooses to tantalise us. The endnotes provide some of the answers and will, it is hoped, lead readers to discover new books and new writers, or, more often and more pleasurably, old books and old writers. This book is based upon Dibdin’s first edition of 1809, to which have been added an introdu±ion and more than eighty pages of valuable endnotes, mostly concerned with biographical details of the printers, librarians, bookbinders, writers, book-collectors and bibliomaniacs to whom Dibdin refers. An appendix contains John Ferriar’s Bibliomania, the poem which prompted Dibdin’s work. A select biblio-graphy and a substantial index are also included. Peter Danckwerts is a graduate of four UK universities. He is currently working on an annotated edition of Byron’s English Bards and Scotch Reviewers for Tiger of the Stripe.
Tiger of the Stripe; Read online
Title: The Bibliomania or Book-Madness
Author: Thomas Frognall Dibdin; Peter Danckwerts
Book Madness The Bibliomania, or the collecting [of] an enormous heap of Books, without intelligent curiosity, has, since libraries have existed, been the rage with some, who would fain pass themselves on us as men of erudition. Their motley Libraries have been called the Mad-houses of the human Mind… The Bibliomania has never raged more violently than in the present age… [D’Isræli 1807, i, p. 10] Is there really such a thing as The Bibliomania? Were John Leland, Thomas Hearne, the Duke of Roxburghe, Earl Spencer and Dibdin himself suffering from some sort of obsessive–compulsive disorder? Certainly, some were driven to spend vast sums on books they could not hope to catalogue, let alone read. Although the texts were of primary importance to many of these collectors, even Dibdin, whose Introduction to the classics [Dibdin 1808] lays such emphasis on textual accuracy, cannot ignore the allure of large paper copies, Blackletter type, copies on vellum, and luxuriant bindings. ?Dibdin’s Bibliomania is not, of course, a medical text, but a light-hearted and entertaining jaunt through the byways of bibliophilia, only occasionally skirting the sadder aspects of true mania (as in the case of Leland). It is interesting that a certain gloom only descends upon Dibdin’s writing in Bibliophobia [Dibdin 1832] when book prices are falling. One might have thought that low book prices would be welcomed by the collector but, not only does it devalue his existing collection, it also calls into question his judgement in buying so extravagantly in the first place. In Dibdin’s case, one also feels that he regrets that the true worth of some noble volumes is no longer appreciated as it should be.

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