Note: This is an August 23, 2011, reposting of this. For some reason, what I posted before was an earlier draft. Among other things, it completely omitted the last three paragraphs, and it was loaded with typos. This version, below, is apparently the version that I posted on August 13, 2011, but somehow (I gather) I unintentionally replaced it with an earlier draft on August 14, 2011.
I have been collecting different things over a long period of many years, and I don’t think there has ever been anything I wanted that I “couldn’t live without,” figuratively speaking. And that’s a good thing, because over a period of decades of collecting, there have probably been dozens, maybe scores, possibly even hundreds, of things that I wanted badly but was not able to obtain.
The reasons why I have missed things are probably typical: didn’t know about it till after it was sold; knew about an auction, but in some way fouled up on bidding; didn’t appreciate what the item was until it was too late; thought (rightly or wrongly) that the price was too high; simply couldn’t afford it; thought another one would turn up at a later date; acted fast, but someone else acted faster; couldn’t find out enough information about the item; and probably other reasons.
There was a certain drawing that I had wanted. When it became available and was offered to me, the price was, I thought, too high. Later it showed up on eBay, and I didn’t even know about it, and I don’t know what it sold for. That one has a couple of “reasons” attached to it. But I have so much material by that artist already, it is very hard to justify complaining.
So, life goes on.
There is always, always, always “more material” out there than (almost) anyone could sensibly afford, in any event — unless one’s collecting focus is extremely limited. It’s nice to have your collecting horizons be somewhat wide — otherwise you will rarely have the thrill of acquiring something.
Then again, I realize that some people can never be collectors, because they simply cannot afford it, or from some other reason.
So, I know I can be happy as a collector under all collecting circumstances.
And not being able to obtain things is definitely one of the circumstances that almost all collectors face. When I put together my first Hoffmann collection (which I sold maybe three-fourths of, more than ten years ago), even though I had been collecting a long time, I still had never found first editions of The Modern Hoyle, 1887, or Hoyle’s Games Modernized, 1898. I did have a first edition of Tips for Tricyclists, 1887, but it had been rebound.
In my present collection, I have decent first editions of all of those, including variant copies of the first edition of two of them. And I suppose that I have firsts of most of Hoffmann’s other major works. And I finally found the first year of Pick-Me-Up, which Hoffmann edited during that year, and many other things, including several separate issues of Every Boy’s Magazine from 1876, containing articles by Hoffmann titled Modern Magic. So, maybe there is always some chance you will find things that you have missed.
And as far as I know, even though I now have those items, no one ipso facto thinks better of me because I have them (no matter how much I brag about it), or would think any worse of me if I did not.
But my point is that I was able to accept not having certain works in my earlier collecting days, and that is more true now than ever, as I continue to see things in better and better perspective. So, when I talk about Baccarat Fair and Foul, 1891, and maybe seem a bit critical of it as a collector’s item, it is not sour grapes. It is not that someone else has the book, and I don’t. It’s just me stating a pretty impartial opinion.
When it comes to other book-collectors, I am usually happy for them when they have something that I do not have.
He wasn’t necessarily the first collector to say it, but I think Bob Lund said something like, “Nobody can have it all.”
That fact can be a great equalizer.