Bibliophilia & Bibliomania – The love of books vs. the excessive-compulsive disorder hoarding books (May 2008)

Susan's Thursday morning note May 29, 2008 
Booknotes Journal 2004 section on “Biliophilia and Biliomania”

Good morning!  I think I should write on the blues of no sunshine for weeks and rain rain everywhere, but I’ll stick with my original plan instead!  My cats are even giving me the “blank stare” look, just ticked that their little feet are once again wet from stepping outside.  Hang in there – there has to be a flip side to the weather report one of these mornings!

I thoroughly enjoyed a section on “bibliophilia and bibliomania” that I think you will all get a kick out of also, if you can picture yourself or someone you know with these attributes.  I had never heard the terms before, but the writings below describe these words.  Who do you think of when you read these lines?  Hopefully a little of yourself 

The born reader reads anywhere, anywhen, by day or night, by the night of the moon and the stars, or even, so I have heard, by lightning or the aurora borealis; by sunlight and candlelight, gaslight or electricity; on land or sea, walking or riding, standing or sitting or lying in bed; on chairs or sofas, on couches, in hammocks, in baths and at stool; on board ships, in punts, rowing-boats, and canoes; up trees; on ladders; on omnibuses, or bicycles, in railway trains, or automobiles, cables, carriages, tram-way cars, jaunting cars, buggies, balloons, airships or aeroplanes, or any other vehicle for sea, land or air; in hospitals, penitentiaries, prisons; in kitchens, parlours, caves, arbours, etc.; on the backs of horses, camels, mules, asses, elephants…during air raids and bombardments, wars, revolutions and pestilences; in joy and sorrow, health and sickness.  Holbrook Jackson, The Anatomy of Bibliomania (1950).

Bibliophilia: the love of books.
Bookworm: loves books for their content, or loves reading in general.
Bibliomania: an excessive-compulsive disorder involving the collecting or hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged.
(Listen to these words I’d never heard of that I hope don’t describe any of us!)…bibliophagy (book-eating), bibliokleptomania (compulsive book-stealing), bibliotaphy (book-burying).  (Wikipedia)

Description of a bookworm/bibliophiliac, and bibliomaniac:
The room was a small one, and would in any case have only just sufficed for homely comfort, used as it evidently was for all daytime purposes; but certainly a third of the entire space was occupied by a solid mass of books, volumes stacked several rows deep against two of the walls and almost up to the ceiling…

“But,” I exclaimed, “you said you only had a few books!  There must be five times as many here as I have.”

“I forgot the exact number, murmured Christopherson, in great agitation.  “You see, I can’t arrange them properly.  I have a few more – in the other room.”

He led me across the landing, opened another door, and showed me a little bedroom.  Here the encumberment was less remarkable, but one wall had completely disappeared behind volumes…  George Gissing, “Christopherson” (1906).

I have now ordered several books that I read about this morning for any of us interested in this topic – the love of just having books surrounding us.  The titles coming include…

Books About Biliomania – Addiction to the Classics by Esther Lombardi.  Described as “a must for all book-collectors, bibliphiles, librarians, bibliographers, and of course, bibliomaniacs.”

The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel.  This book is described at and looks fascinating!

Speaking of Books: The Best Things Ever Said About Books & Book Collecting by Rob Kaplan (actually this one is out of print, but looks great – I’ll have to be a bibliomanic and search for it myself behind the scenes!)

Okay, book lovers & book lovers to be out there – take the rainy weather, grab a cup of coffee, cover yourself with your favorite blanket and take advantage of the fact that you understand what I’m talking about today.  The incessant desire to read read read, to go to used bookstores, to go to new bookstores, to smell books, to surround yourself with the worlds we can only find within the covers of the books on our shelves.  We can travel, we can laugh, we can be understood, we can dream – all because of the print between those beautiful covers – lying all around our evidently “bibliomanic” homes!  I now take great pride if I am labeled a “bookworm!”

Have a great weekend!  Don’t let the weather get your spirits down.  Look up to the heavens.  Our help is promised.  Get out of your home and go visit someone if your mind is racing.  Take the books off your shelf, learn from those that have been where you are…you are not alone in any single experience that you’re going through.  Someone has been there (thought not in your exact shoes), but someone has been there and can help you – I find my greatest encouragers to be the friends I’ve met in my books.  Go make yourself proud in your decisions today and thank you so much for your encouragement and support for our little store!  Susan

Latin for this week: Helluo librorum - A glutton for books (bookworm).
Works Cited:
Book Notes Journal.  New York: Ryland Peters & Small, Inc.  2004.