Nobody I know has just 1 book. Many, if not most people, have accumulations of books. For
quite a few people the accumulation starts with text books and there is a rhyme and reason to
that accumulation. When we started Raven & Gryphon Fine Books, we had to make space in
the basement, now known as the Bookroom, and I was ruthless in tossing stuff out. Included in
the purge were boxes of textbooks from my undergraduate and MBA programs. It was tough to
do but when I asked myself when was the last time I looked at any of them – out they went. But
even general accumulations have a rhyme and a reason – they reflect what interested the
acquirer at that time. Most of the people I know purge accumulations periodically, for as we all
know books take up space!
I thought today, I would muse about very specific groupings of books – sets, series and
A set of books is a number of volumes that the publisher has produced that reflect a specific
topic or theme. And generally, the intent is that the purchaser has the whole set. Partial sets of
anything are by definition incomplete and have little value in the book market. Sitting downstairs
is a set of Dickens works in 25 volumes. Problem is it is missing one volume. It will sit until I can
find the missing one. Sets may be issued over time and thus each volume has a different
publication date. Just this week I bought a set of 5 L. M. Montgomery’s Journals, each with a
different year. Sets can be authors works, encyclopedias, types of literature such as science
fiction, the History of Canada, and so on.
A series of books differs from a set in that the publisher, and likely the author(s) as well, don’t
know what the series will consist of until it is finished. Good examples are the “Found Authors”
musings that I have done previously such as Phil Rickman’s Merrily series and Donna Leon’s
Guido Brunetti series. I must tell you that just yesterday, I received Dressed for Death the third
book in the series. As you may recall, I started with #5 and then I went back to the beginning –
only 26 more to go! And, of course, there is the Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot series.
A collection of books is determined by the collector. When the collector states that I am going to
collect X, this creates a parameter that does not exist for the accumulator. I am both a collector
and an accumulator. I go searching for items that are defined as part of a collection. But, I also
go into a bookstore, see a book and go hmmm, I think I would like to have that book – such
items accumulate! Like most book collectors, I have multiple collections: J. P. Donleavy and
other fiction writers; books illustrated by Beresford Egan; books published by the Fanfrolico
Press; and, of course, books on books. Collecting and reading books on books has been hugely
important in my being able to convert to the dealer side of the book business. I will have future
musings for sure on “collections”.