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See, for example, Maurice Rheims's discussion in La vie étrange des objets (1959), translated by David Pryce-Jones in 1961 as The Strange Life of Objects ("The Collectors' Instinct among Animals," pp. 19-20).


In early 1994 the New York firm of Frederick Schultz Ancient Art mounted an exhibition, entitled "Power Tools," designed to illustrate this conclusion, which had been argued by a number of archeologists.


Four decades earlier Bohun Lynch, in Collecting (1928), had similarly referred to "poor folk who definitely and at any price refuse to part with the possessions of their forefathers" (p. 42); he ended his book by saying, "it is the things that we look at and touch for no practical ends with which, for one reason or another, we can least happily dispense."


An example of the unsatisfactory handling of this point occurs in Herbert Read's introduction to Niels von Holst's Creators, Collectors and Connoisseurs: The Anatomy of Artistic Taste from Antiquity to the Present Day (1967). After declaring that "purposive collecting" and "mere accumulation of miscellaneous objects" must be distinguished, Read then in fact links them, in their origins and functions, when he says that "possessions in general may be said to give a sense of security" (p. 3).


One writer on collecting who does specifically include experiences in his definition is Russell W. Belk, but his discussions proceed as if he is thinking only of tangible items. See "Collectors and Collecting," Advances in Consumer Research, 15 (1988), 548-553 (reprinted in Interpreting Objects and Collections, ed. Susan M. Pearce [1994], pp. 317-326); and Collecting in a Consumer Society (1995), e.g. p. 66.


When the collecting of living things focuses on human beings, as in a collection of slaves, it of course becomes morally reprehensible. John Elsner and Roger Cardinal, in their introduction to The Cultures of Collecting (1994), which I discuss further below, examine the Holocaust as an instance of such collecting. The collecting of people is frequently a metaphor, as when the entomologist narrator of John Fowles's novel The Collector (1963) says, "Seeing her always made me feel like I was catching a rarity"—she was "for the real connoisseur" (p. 1). David Vander Meulen has called my attention to June Carter Cash's concept of "klediments" (in her 1979 memoir, Among My Klediments), which encompasses people as well as inanimate objects. As quoted in the Dictionary of American Regional English entry for "clatterment" (of which "klediment" is a variant spelling derived from regional pronunciation), Cash says, "A klediment can be almost anything that has earned a right to be a part of things close to you. It can be precious antique furniture gathered from grandmother, pieces of china, little handmade doilies, the straw mats on your floor, or the priscilla curtains you made yourself. A klediment can be a thing you love . . . A klediment can be a thing you just won't throw away . . . A klediment can be a person dear to you." Clearly Cash is talking about something larger than "possessions," for she is not claiming to possess the people close to her; her definition of "klediment" recognizes that each person's intimate environment comprises things one does not possess as well as those one does own. The study of collecting, as I have defined it, helps to show how the latter affect one's way of responding to the former.


James's foreshadowing of recent discussions is also illustrated by his observation that the loss of a collection produces "a sense of the shrinkage of our personality, a partial conversion of ourselves to nothingness" (p. 178). A convenient brief survey of psychoanalytic ideas on collecting appears in the opening pages of Ruth Formanek's "Why They Collect: Collectors Reveal Their Motivations," reprinted in Interpreting Objects and Collections, ed. Susan M. Pearce (1994), pp. 327-335. See also the checklist at the end of Muensterberger's book.


He also acknowledges the high costs of passionate engagements, incurred by "our uniquely evolved consciousness," and says, "The passion for collecting is a full-time job, a kind of blessed obsession." Notice that Wallace Stevens also uses the adjective "blessed" to make essentially the same point (the famous Stevens passage is mentioned at the end of the present essay).


The quantitative element in expertise is recognized by Stowers Johnson in his autobiography Collector's World (1989) when he says, "I have found the very volume of a collection deepens experience and betters discriminatory judgement" (p. 203).


As Tibor Fischer understood when he made an antique bowl the narrator of his novel The Collector Collector (1997). See also Thatcher Freund, Objects of Desire: The Lives of Antiques and Those Who Pursue Them (1993); cf. his "The Tales a Table Could Tell," New York Times Magazine, 16 January 1994, pp. 22-27, 38-40, 48, 54, 60.


"Collecting and Collage-Making: The Case of Kurt Schwitters," in The Cultures of Collecting, ed. John Elsner and Roger Cardinal (1994), pp. 68-96.


Indeed, I find the logic of the argument unclear. If fetishism is "the beginning of the beginning of collecting seen as narrative" (p. 110) and if "collecting is a story, and everyone needs to tell it" (p. 103), then everyone is a fetishist. But why does Bal define collecting in such a restrictive way as to write, "Yet, it is obvious that not every human being is, or can afford to be, a collector" (p. 103)? Bal's essay, "Telling Objects: A Narrative Perspective on Collecting," appears on pp. 97-115 of the Elsner and Cardinal anthology cited in the preceding note.


It reuses some material from a previous book, Museums, Objects and Collections: A Cultural Study (1992). (These books, incidentally, contain useful listings of writings about collecting.) For other publications of hers, see notes 14 and 18 below.


In one of her anthologies, Interpreting Objects and Collections (1994), she offers a criticism that applies to her own definition: "Forming a worthwhile definition of what makes a collection, and distinguishing it from other kinds of accumulation, is difficult, not least because all such definitions tend to be self-serving and circular, and so leave out much interesting material for reasons which do not bear much investigation" (p. 157).


Pearce does say that collectors are "normal members of the contemporary social and family world" (p. 234); but by regarding only a third of the population as collectors she nevertheless makes collecting, by definition, an abnormal activity.


For a comprehensive list of such studies in English relating to book collecting, see my Introduction to Bibliography: Seminar Syllabus (pp. 20-27 and 49-61 in the latest revision, 1996). An extensive list dealing with art collecting can be found in Frank Herrmann's The English as Collectors: A Documentary Chrestomathy (1972; rev. 1996) and in the accompanying exhibition catalogue published by the National Book League (1972).


This attitude is exemplified in Ivor Noël Hume's statement, "I find . . . the commonplace of yesterday more evocative than its treasures" (All the Best Rubbish [1974], p. 9). (His use of "treasures" of course refers to what has been traditionally sought after and has achieved status in the marketplace; he is not suggesting that the "commonplace" items are not also treasures in a different sense.) A similar point of view pervades Howard Mansfield's In the Memory House (1993). Although many kinds of objects are neglected, the range of items that people do collect in a dedicated way is immense, as evidenced by any number of journalistic articles focusing on collections that seem unusual or bizarre. See, for example, Lucie Young, "The Possessed: When Too Much Is Not Enough," New York Times, 6 February 1997, pp. C1, C6. (This article, incidentally, cites Russell Belk [see note 5 above] as saying in an interview that the conventional estimate of the number of Americans who collect—one in three—is too low; but there is no suggestion that he thinks the definition underlying the estimate should be changed.) For further examples of the wide variety of items that have been considered "collectible," see John Windsor, "Identity Parades," in The Cultures of Collecting (see note 11 above), pp. 49-67.


Susan M. Pearce's anthology Museum Studies in Material Culture (1989) emerged from a conference celebrating the twenty-first anniversary of the 1966 founding of the Department of Museum Studies at Leicester University. Among Pearce's activities on behalf of this field is her editing of a series called "Leicester Readers in Museum Studies." She also edited a volume, Objects of Knowledge, published as Volume 1 of Athlone Press's "New Research in Museum Studies." And the Oxford periodical Journal of the History of Collections, founded by Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor in 1989, developed from a 1983 conference and the resulting 1985 volume, The Origins of Museums (also edited by Impey and MacGregor). The general topic of how knowledge has emerged from the assembly of objects persistently recurs in such books. A good example of a detailed study of this point is Paula Findlen's Possessing Nature: Museums, Collecting, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Italy (1994). A recent symposium entitled "The Meaning of Things," sponsored by the Cooper-Hewitt Museum on 25 April 1998, included a paper by Amy K. Levin on "Museum Collecting and Collecting Museums."


"Objects as Evidence, or Not?", in Museum Studies in Material Culture, ed. Susan M. Pearce (1989), pp. 125-137 (quotation from p. 126). For further examples of the debates over material culture and of the difficulties people have had in thinking of texts as objects, see footnote 11 (pp. 275-276) of my "Printing History and Other History," Studies in Bibliography, 48 (1995), 269-289.


Some introduction to this field can be found in several of my essays, such as "Physical Bibliography in the Twentieth Century," in Books, Manuscripts, and the History of Medicine: Essays on the Fiftieth Anniversary of the Osler Library, ed. Philip M. Teigen (1982), pp. 55-79; "The Evolving Role of Bibliography, 1884-1984," in Books and Prints, Past and Present: Papers Presented at The Grolier Club Centennial Convocation (1984), pp. 15-31; "Issues in Bibliographical Studies since 1942," in The Book Encompassed: Studies in Twentieth- Century Bibliography, ed. Peter Davison (1992), pp. 24-36. A more thorough introduction, not yet published, was provided by my 1997 Sandars Lectures, entitled "Analytical Bibliography: An Historical Introduction." A fairly comprehensive listing of the literature of analytical bibliography is included in my Introduction to Bibliography: Seminar Syllabus (pp. 169-198 in the latest revision, 1996).