top of page

WHY Collections are Interesting and Worth Collecting; or, The Importance of Collections

by Duncan McClaren of Lord Durham Rare Books Inc.

One of the specialties of Lord Durham Rare Books is the formation and selling of collections. Collections consist of a number of items brought together under a common theme. The items are usually a grouping of interesting books (first editions, presentation copies, for example), unique documents, and other pieces of ephemera. Collections are diverse and practically limitless in their variety. They can be large (several hundred or several thousand items) or small (a mini collection of three or four fascinating items). Collections can be of an author’s canon (different editions, letters, manuscripts, for example), works of several similar authors who have something in common, or the activities of an organization. Alternatively, collections can focus on a particular subject—for example, anarchism and the anti-globalization movement, the War of 1812, imprints of a private press or publisher, the Reformation, minor-league baseball, the Red Cross, etc. One can further define or restrict a collection by a period of time (the eighteenth century, for example), geography or national origin (mountaineering in the Himalayas), types of documents (diaries, common place books, movie scripts, artwork, and sermons, for example), language, sex (women’s poetry), and so on. Condition of the material, its scarcity, historical significance, and content are, of course, paramount in building any collection.

Dealers routinely offer catalogs to the public on various subjects. Ordinarily, they list and describe individual items. Acquiring material in this way and also at auction can be time-consuming and sometimes frustrating in a competitive market. Collections take us a step further and challenge our cultural assumptions. They bring together unusual items from the past that we might not have considered, reflecting the broad range and expanding circles of human interaction. Suddenly, we realize, for example, that an author such as Carolyn Wells (1862-1942), an American librarian, journalist and poet, who was the heir of the Houghton-Mifflin empire, was the author of 170 books in many different genres. What an astounding lot of literature to behold and to collect!

What should one collect? Purchase existing collections on the market that you can build upon and improve. Do not collect what has been collected again and again for the umpteenth time by all and sundry and can be found in many institutions. By all means collect what you like, but strike out boldly into new paths of collecting. If one is told that Longfellow is old hat and no longer relevant, perhaps that is an opportunity to go against the crowd and to examine Longfellow anew. Yes, a great collection is a lifetime passion based on diligence, knowledge, and connoisseurship. But not all collections have to be of this kind. One can build lesser collections on a multiple basis.

There is much to discover and to explore for the determined collector. Why not check out the over 150 collections offered at Lord Durham Rare Books(LDRB) now? Simply click through and enjoy!!

18 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All
bottom of page