«I N O N L Y A FEW CASES is the acquisition of general out-of-print and of rare books identical. Usually two different approaches and two different ...»
American librarians are more conscious today than they were twenty years ago that foreign books need mention neither America nor tobacco to be worth buying. The slight trickle that is grandly referred to as the Farmington Plan helps to keep librarians aware that all the world is interested in everything. A few years ago ten bad books a year on Victor Hugo might be bought by twenty American libraries, while one good book on him, published in Belgium, would not even be heard of. Perhaps with better bibliographical tools and with better universal coverage librarians will be able to improve their collections tremendously. The necessary human element is still the cordial relationship between libraries and dealers. Where that relationship exists, superb work has been accomplished; the lack of it has often done such damage that our libraries are still far behind in our delirious, exhilarating race toward adequacy.
Fashion has always played a large role in the minds of collectors.
In the great days of American buying, the man who owned a telephone company frequently beat the man who relied on cables. Most large libraries now have the basic early works printed abroad about the new continent. The day is with us now for Western Americana, with pamphlets of local imprint plainly charted by the McMurtrie type of state bibliography. More recently color-plate books of birds and flowers and topographical views have more than come into their own. What really starts a deluge is a printed bibliography with the happy dealer shouting "not in..." or more rarely "not found in... " This can become ridiculous. A short while ago a copy of Balzac's most minor work on the tying of a cravat was offered with the added inducement that it was "not in Pforzheimer." Someday Gone with tlze Wind may be described as "not in Huth, Clawson, or Dibdin."
This digression on collecting fashions reminds us that the acquisitions librarian should know and enjoy the world of the private book collector and the literature of private book collecting. The private The Antiquarian Bookmarket and the Acquisition of Rare Books collector has not only formed many of the great collections that give scholarly distinction to libraries; he can also teach us much about the acquisition of books, for though institutional book collecting may differ in some ways, in many ways it is part of the same exciting search.
What librarian could not learn from the imagination and sheer genius for collection building revealed by Michael Sadleir in his "Passages from the Autobiography of a Bibliomaniac," introductory to the bibliography of his unsurpassed collection of nineteenth century novels,I6 a collection that now enriches the research strength of an American library?
When a library takes on a new interest it is often the result of a new collection, more or less complete, which has come by purchase or gift.
It should be the solemn duty of every library to do everything in its power to add something annually to each of its major collections.
When a university undertakes to teach a new subject, the problem is very different. The only likely solution then seems to be to buy a collection as complete as the purse can afford, if the collection can be found.
Back files of periodicals rank now with Elizabethan quartos in expense. The older libraries are very lucky indeed when they are well stocked with the scientist's first desideratum, a rare item of quite a different stripe. It is difficult today to find runs of German periodicals.
The professor's widow used to call in the dealer and hope for the best, but today all too often the local university makes her feel a traitor not to replace its bombed set at a fraction of what a dealer would pay. Holland and Switzerland may have the set you need, but no one in either country is unaware of current values.
The purchase of Latin American books is extremely troublesome, as Fall and others have indicated. Some libraries like to have a local dealer in each country, but none would admit to complete satisfaction. It is so terribly hard to find dealers who will reply to letters, and some countries have no national bibliographies. In Venezuela, it is said, one does not put one's novels on sale. They have to be presentation copies and so unprocurable until, as has happened, the author is divorced and the mother-in-law can be persuaded to clear her shelves.
Perhaps of all countries, Egypt presents most difficulties. Exchanges are agreed to but nothing comes. Books are ordered by purchase, but Egypt does not want dollars. The only solution, in one case, has been to find a dealer with a second mknage in France where, at a certain time every year, at his convenience not the library's, accounts can be settled. In the more remote parts of the Near and Far East, where the chances of duplication are least, some libraries have benefited most by
D O N A L D G. WING A N D R O B E R T V O S P E Rgiving travelling scholars a few hundred dollars to buy what they will find useful on their return. In fact, if one knows his faculty and the faculty knows books, the acquisitions librarian should miss no chance to work them hard when they go abroad for a leisurely sabbatical.
Illinois' Gordon Ray, much cited here, offers a fine case in point. Many European scholarly collections have been ferreted out for American libraries by book-wise men of this kind.
There are as many ways of locating and acquiring antiquarian and rare books as there are imaginations to grapple with their multifarious problems. Everyone cannot get a set of the Kanjur out of Tibet by yak train with one air mail letter, but it has happened once.
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