Academic journal article Notes

On Book Collecting

Academic journal article Notes

On Book Collecting

Article excerpt

I bought my first old books when I was thirteen years old. My friend Jos and I took advantage of the breaks in grammar school to visit a small antiquarian bookshop together. They had all sorts of books: paperbacks, magazines, literature, old editions. Prices were low, so we managed to buy something there almost every week. My friend, who was then writing poems for his girlfriend, bought anything because he was very eager to read. I preferred the old books because their age fascinated me. I also remember admiring the collection of old books of the priest of our church.

Although I came from a poor family, at the age of ten I was paid one book a year (a music book, of course) to play organ in a little chapel. In my grammar school days (approximately thirteen-seventeen years old) I had some money to spend because I was paid as an organist in a church. During my teens I became acquainted with more people who loved music and old books, and that was an inspiration. One of them was an eye doctor who had a remarkable library. And so it started! I became a collector, and music was and still is the central subject of my collection.

The next important step was meeting the now famous viola da gamba player Jordi Savall. He collected books and music too, and at that point he had a bigger and overall better collection. Together we went to visit antiquarian bookshops. I remember for instance one in Paris, where the lady of the shop just gave us the key to their depot down the road and let us look around there all by ourselves! Hours later we came back to the shop, loaded with books that we wanted to buy. We could not afford everything, of course. There was one book we both wanted, and luckily we found two copies and bought them both: Hubert le Blanc's Défense de la basse de viole contre les enterprises du violon et les prétentions du violoncelle (published in Holland, as were many books by French authors of the mid-eighteenth century).

Jordi and I played and traveled a lot together. Everywhere we went we looked for bookshops and asked to explore them. At that time, my long hair and big beard did not always help when we decided to enter chic antiquarian bookshops. Booksellers were often openly prejudiced against us, but once they saw us handling the books very carefully, and of course once we had proved ourselves by buying and paying, we were welcome to come back.

Perhaps all collectors know of books that they would like to buy, but that are just out of reach. Often such a book is too expensive from the start. Then every time you find it for sale somewhere, it has become even more expensive, and you regret not buying it in the first place. I remember two books in particular that I have been wanting to buy but could not afford for a long time: Dom Bedos de Celles, L'art du facteur d'orgues, and Juan Bermudo, El arte tripharia. Jordi and I had found the latter book for sale, but the price was six thousand dollars (even for the smaller first edition), and that was just too much for us at the time. We both still regret we did not buy it then, because we never found it again.

It is only quite recently that I have been able to buy Dom Bedos's L'art du facteur d'orgues. I have been a client at the Voerster bookshop in Stuttgart for many years, and have found a great number of books there with which I just immediately fell in love. When visiting I would often make a pile of books that I would like to buy, and then see what I could afford later. After such a visit Mr. Voerster and I would sometimes have dinner together. The last time I visited him, about three months before he died, he had asked me during dinner if there was a book that I never bought because it was too expensive. I told him that for me that was Dom Bedos. After dinner he showed me a beautiful copy for an appropriate price, and it is now in my collection.

I still travel a great deal and frequent antiquarian bookshops wherever I go, visiting old friends and new establishments. …

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