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The History of Bibliomania: Book-Buying Madness

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I’ll just buy one book, maybe five.
Gabrielle Simonson — 26 January 2017
If you’re someone like me, you can’t walk out of a book store empty handed. Sometimes I have to cover my face while passing the storefront window, because I know if I look inside, I’ll leave 30 minutes later with heavy shopping bags and lighter pockets. If this is you, don’t worry. We’re not alone, in fact, compulsive book buying can be traced back to the early 19th century.

According to The Guardian, many people from Europe, especially England, were afflicted by what they called “bibliomania,” a book collecting obsession. Cleric and bibliographer, Thomas Frognall Dibdin wrote Bibliomania, or Book Madness: A Bibliographical Romance as a satire of the craze that was taking place. Dibdin added a list of “symptoms” including an insatiable need for finding first editions, books with unique linings or text, and rare copies.

While this disease isn’t a real medical diagnosis, it resonated with Europeans who sought out books as both a way to preserve Europe’s history and flaunt their wealth. But then of course, there were people who did it for the thrill of owning books, and maxing out their bookcases. Sound familiar?

Dibdin predicted that commercialization would effect book collecting, and he was right. When the steam powered printing press was introduced, there was less competition to buy books. It was less special for book collectors, and the “mania” quieted down.

Oh well, that just means more books for me!

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