Classification of Book Collectors

alex atkins bookshelf booksJohn Hill Burton (1809-1881) was a passionate book collector, as well as a Scottish historian and economist. In one of his works, The Book-Hunter, published in 1862, Burton shares his appreciation for several terms that Jean-Joseph Rive, an 18th century librarian and bibliographer, had developed to classify book collectors. Burton wrote: “To afford the reader an opportunity of noting at a glance the appropriate learned terms applicable to the different sets of persons who meddle with books, I subjoin the following definitions, as rendered in d’Israeli’s Curiosities from the Chasse aux Bibliographes et Antiquaires mal advisés of Jean-Joseph Rive:

A bibliognoste, from the Greek, is one knowing in title-pages and colophons, and in editions; the place and year when printed; the presses whence issued; and all the minutiae of a book.’

A bibliographe is a describer of books and other literary arrangements.

A bibliomane is an indiscriminate accumulator, who blunders faster than he buys, cock-brained and purse-heavy.

A bibliophile, the lover of books, is the only one in the class who appears to read them for his own pleasure.

A bibliotaphe buries his books, by keeping them under lock, or framing them in glass cases.

The accurate Peignot, after accepting of this classification with high admiration of its simplicity and exhaustiveness, is seized in his supplementary volume with a misgiving in the matter of the bibliotaphe, explaining that it ought to be translated as a grave of books, and that the proper technical expression for the performer referred to by Rive is bibliotapht. He adds to the nomenclature bibliolyte, as a destroyer of books; bibliologue, one who discourses about books; bibliotacte, a classifier of books; and bibliopée ‘l’art d’écrire ou de composer des livres’, or, as the unlearned would say, the function of an author.” [more accurately, the translation from the French means: “the art of writing or composing books.”]

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