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.