If I have a weakness -- and everybody agrees that's understating it -- it's that I'm overfond of stuffy old compilations of essays. Belles lettres. Books that were written just for the joy of putting words down on paper. Resting on a shelf in the bathroom convenient to the throne right now is Curiosities of Literature, a selection of essays from a much larger collection of the same name by Isaac D'Israeli, father of the similarly-named British politician.
Ben's dad Ike was the sort of scholar who is never happier than when writing about other writers writing about writers and their books. And in an essay on "the rabid Abbé Rive," he provides the divine's useful list of types of book amateurs:
A bibliognoste, from the Greek, is one knowing in title-pages and colophons, and in editions; the place and year when printed; the presses whence issued; and all the minutiæ of a book.
A bibliographe is a describer of books and other literary arrangements.
A bibliomane is an indiscriminate accumulator, who blunders faster than he buys, cock-brained and purse-heavy.
A bibliophile, the lover of books, is the only one in the class who appears to read them for his own pleasure.
A bibliotaphe buries his books, by keeping them under lock, or framing them in glass-cases.
To these categories, D'Israeli adds two more, both professional: The bibliothecaire or librarian and the bibliopole or bookseller, particularly of rare books.
So where do you fall on the spectrum? Me, I'm somewhere between a bibliophile and a bibliomane.
And are there any more useful categories that could be added to the above?
Above: Some of the books in my bedroom. Not, it goes without saying, the largest collection of books in the house.