|My library isn't a collection|
From the very first post on this blog 10 years ago, I have always insisted that I have a library and not a connection. In fact, I was taken aback when a friend of mine laughed because I told her I am not a collector. She obviously doesn’t know any real collectors.
A few of the Sherlockian books that I own might be classified as “collectable,” but that’s of secondary consideration to me. I acquire books for their content, not their pristine dust jackets. And many of them I use for researching in writing trifling monographs. To that extent, my library could be called a research library.
All of this came to mind recently while listening to a wonderful episode of the “I Hear of Sherlock Everywhere” podcast devoted to the “Shaw 100” – John Bennett Shaw’s ever-changing list of what he called “A Basic Holmesian Library.” Check it out at your favorite podcast source or at https://www.ihearofsherlock.com/
Near the end of the episode, hosts Scott Monty and Burt Wolder engage with guest Tim Johnson on the issue of how difficult it would be for someone who is not a multi-millionaire to acquire all the volumes on this list. (Answer: Very difficult.) It’s a natural question, I suppose, since Shaw was the Sherlockian collector par excellence and apparently aimed his list at collectors. But I call your attention to the title of his list: “A Basic Holmesian Library.”
I would argue that a collection is a library, but a library doesn't have to be a collection. These terms are rather fungible, and I suspect that some collectors will disagree.
Without focusing on it as a goal, and without emptying my pockets, I have gradually acquired the great majority of books on JBS’s list. But for the most part, they are not in the first editions with dust jackets that collectors prize so much. Nor has the pursuit of some elusive volume ever kept me awake at night. If what you want is a library and not a collection, it’s not that expensive or difficult to build one.
When I informed Bill Mason several years ago that I’m not a collector, he said, “Well, you’re a lucky man.” But I’m sure that collectors are lucky, too. If you are among them, good luck with the chase!