Do you read your rare books?

A profane question that often comes back to us rare books dealers, is whether our customers "read the books of their collection... "

According to an idea still widespread (and - we have to say - fed since the 19th century by portraits regularly drawn in literature), bibliophiles would be like "fetishists of the book", obsessed by all sorts of silly details meaningless for the rest of the world, and for whom the possession of a book would represent, in the end, the main part of their interest for the book in general.

As a bookseller I think that I am in a pretty good position to have an opinion on the question, (and the reading of the various comments left by our followers throughout this blog gives us, for sure, some clues for a response!). But before testifying... I would love to read your own reactions!

I will therefore limit myself to giving you just the first line of my own answer: "Yes, my clients can all read...".

It’s up to you to continue!

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posted by  Julien at  16:32 | comments [6]


posted by   CAMPANELLA (T.)
4 Apr 2020 at 18:48
Buonasera. Leggo sempre i miei libri e li commento nella mia bibliografia di astrologia.
Good evening. I usually read my books and I commenred the in my bibliography of astrology.
Leandro Cantamessa

posted by   BALZAC (H. de)
4 Apr 2020 at 23:27
I do not, on the whole, read my antiquarian books - which are not of a literary but of a scientific nature - but I do, from time to time, use them as works of reference.

posted by   CAJÉTAN
5 Apr 2020 at 20:57
I've spent more time with my collection lately in light of the COVID-19 lockdown. I look at the illustrations first, but read the works in French and English. I can pick out some words in Italian and Spanish, don't understand the Latin and can't read the German Fraktur at all!

posted by   CAMUS (A.)
5 Apr 2020 at 22:40
Most of the books in my collection I've read in cheap editions (before purchasing the first editions). I visit the first editions now to review favorite passages or to open up and read selections at random.

posted by   LAMBERT (J. H.)
7 Apr 2020 at 06:55
I have collected books in optics, ranging from a 1477 printing of a handbooks for preachers based entirely on metaphors and similes of vision and the eye, through Kepler and Newton, up to Einstein's 1905 paper suggesting the particle nature of light. I have read many of theses books, particularly the early ones. I published an English translation of J.H. Lambert's Latin 'Photometria' of 1760. My mother-tongue is English, I read Latin, scientific French (but I would stall out in Montaigne), and though I've learned to 'read' (i.e. decipher) Fraktur what I do can only be described as fighting my way through with a German dictionary at my elbow (well, on my harddrive). My Italian is limited to the recognition of nouns.

For some languages, I have found Google Translator remarkably helpful. Though it is useless for Latin, it seems (just) adequate for many European languages. I wonder what other collectors have found in this regard. I would not call the result "reading" (which connotes other things) but rather something like a slow-study, and you have to treat the results with considerable care since there is no nuance or care in shade of meaning.

For those of us that do, Why do we read our books? My own (technical) education was critically dependent of books and I have always been keen to study those books that served the same purpose in centuries past. Books as instruments of progress -- Lux Mentis. I have little interest in books as objects.

posted by   NEWTON (I.)
7 Apr 2020 at 14:29
I certainly read my rare books. Indeed, I have acquired most of them for the purposes of reading and studying them, and I have referred to particular copies that I own in several publications. Unlike my avatar, however, I do not dog-ear, or indeed otherwise mark them. This is of course inconsistent, since I far prefer to own books with (contemporary) annotations by named readers to ones that are clean copies.
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