See “Shelf Life” by James Wood in the Nov 7 New Yorker for a glimpse of one thing that’s true in this day: it’s hard to find a new home for thousands of intelligent old books; and one thing that’s been true always, hard to take though some find it: a collection is not necessarily greater than the sum of its parts.
Wood tried to dispose of his deceased father-in-law’s good history books with the respect they were due. He found a university uninterested, a library that only wanted newer books, a bookstore that had no money, a bookstore that had no space, and eventually a couple of buyers who chose to acquire only some of the volumes.
Many people with a collection to sell want it to stay together, and believe it is more valuable and attractive together. But the pleasure is in the collecting. A book collection’s owner is its glue. Owner gone, collection over, books dispersed to other fates– am I the only one who doesn’t think that’s sad? All ownership is temporary.