Thursday, July 17, 2014

Bibliomaniac vs. Collector?

Bibliomania - a disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged...characterized by the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a more conventional book collector. 

Having just spent several days boxing up some of my precious books to be stored while we are remodeling, at least part of which construction is motivated by the need to have more bookcases for my books, I might seem to some people who read less seriously or who have converted to reading e-books to be a candidate for the above-defined disorder.  However, I do read the books I buy--or at least intend to read the books someday--and except for the fact that I save paperbacks whose contents are worthy, even if the yellowing pages and dog-eared books are not, my collection does have intrinsic value recognized by other serious bibliophiles.  I think I am still relatively sane in that regard!

Sample of Isaac's handwriting from his journal
I also believe that Isaac Werner acquired books worth collecting.  (See "Isaac's Library," blog archives 2-2-2012.)  His journal from his mid-20s describes how he planned space on his bookcase for future acquisitions, and he consulted a particular book and other publications for recommended reading.  He approached additions to his library very seriously.

Thanks to Marcia Brown, past director of the Pratt County Historical Museum, I now own a book from Isaac Werner's library!  Her sharp eye and amazing memory spotted three books in the recent deacquisition sale at the public library, and she bought them for me, delivering them to me the afternoon of the Filley Grand Opening (See "Arts Thrive on the Prairie," 7-3-2014), making that special day even more special for me! 

All three books bear the library's inventory bookplate reading: "Presented by Dix Collection," and the book titled Among My Books by James Russell Lowell, copyright 1870, bears the inscription "I.W. Werner, Rossville, Ills., May 29th, 1870," a date consistent with Isaac's years in Rossville as the proprietor of a drug store.  I assume that Dr. "Doc" Dix, a close friend of Isaac, may have bought these three books at Isaac's Estate Sale following his death.  Isaac's probate records document the sale of many titles from his library with the name of the purchasers; however, there were so many books in his collection that a large portion of his library was boxed and sold in lots, without the specific listing of titles contained in each box. 

All three books bear copyright dates prior to or during the years Isaac lived in Rossville, when he was doing his most active collecting (having more disposable income as a young druggist than he had later as a struggling farmer on the prairie).  One of the books is McGuffey's New Juvenile Speaker:  Containing more than Two Hundred Exercises for Reading and Speaking, published in 1860, at a time when Isaac was still a student in Wernersville, PA.  Isaac mentions in his journal referring to books on grammar and elocution in his library, which also supports the possibility that this particular book could have been owned by Isaac when he was a young scholar.

The third book is Recent British Philosophy, by David Mason.  There are penciled notations in the margins
A margin note from Philosophy book
on several pages, as well as at the back cover.  I have examined samples of Isaac's handwriting to compare with the margin notes in this book, and many of the letters appear very similar to the style of Isaac's penmanship.  However much I would like to be certain that this book did belong to Isaac and the margin notes are his, I cannot be sure.  You may make your own comparison from the journal sample above and from the sample of Isaac's signature at the opening of last week's blog.  (See "What's in a Name?" archives 7-3-2014.)  

As I shared in earlier blogs, prior to beginning to write the manuscript about Isaac and his community, I bought several books that I knew from his journal that he owned, and I attempted to buy the editions near the time of his acquisitions of the books.  I wanted to see what Isaac was reading in order to understand more closely who he was, and it was obvious to me that Isaac's education did not end with his formal schooling.  His curious mind explored history, art, literature, medicine, and other serious subjects.

In the Commencement Address I delivered this past spring, I told the graduates, "Learning doesn't stop when you leave school, and if each of us isn't learning something new every day, we just aren't trying."   Isaac obviously agreed.  (See "School & Community, Then & Now," blog archives 5-21-2014.)

I suspect there are still Isaac's books to be found on book shelves in his old community, and thanks to Marcia Brown I definitely own one of Isaac's books.  If you have some dusty old books on your shelves that were published in the late 1800s, check to see if Isaac's signature is inside.  I know there must be more of his library to be discovered!

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