Autographs: a Key to Collecting

Autographs: a Key to Collecting

Autographs: a Key to Collecting

Autographs: a Key to Collecting

Excerpt

"A Little Key," wrote Roger Williams in 1643, "may open a Box, Where lies a Bunch of Keyes." Thus the great advocate of religious toleration explained his choice of title for A Key into the Language of America, one of the rarest and earliest of the publications about New England that sought to unlock the doors to knowledge, experience and opportunity in America. Language, as Williams knew, was one of the most important of keys.

Miss Benjamin, in her first book, has chosen a similarly appropriate title. The bunch of keys that she holds forth is intended primarily for the use of that fortunate and growing group of people who have just become infected, or are blissfully unaware that they are about to become infected, by the pleasant and useful virus which arouses the collecting instinct. Once the symptoms have become unmistakable -- that is, once the victim's family and friends have begun to comment upon his condition, an indication likely to precede his own awareness -- his first action, if he is prudent, will be to learn how to use the keys here proffered. But one of the insidious effects of the virus is that it often builds up an immunization to all counsels of prudence. The victim, unaware of any tendency toward imprudence and carried away by the exhilaration of his new enthusiasm, will reject the advice of experience. He will make a game of his mistakes, reciting them with the same gusto that enlivens his anecdotes of victories achieved, and his frustrations will only enlarge his determination. He will not be bored by the tedious process of charting the pitfalls and closed alleys, nor will he at first regard the centuries-old tradition that has built both an ethic and an opportunity around this ancient human trait of collecting -- an ethic calling for honor, urbanity and civilized practices and an opportunity evoking, too often, fraud and avarice in the path of the uncritical novice. But wisdom will come soon or late, and the inexperienced collector will take hold of the keys here offered, using them for his pleasure and often for his profit. He will find not all, perhaps, but some of the . . .

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