"The passion to possess books has never been more widespread than it is today; indeed, obsessive book collecting remains the only hobby to have a disease named after it. A Gentle Madness, finalist for the 1995 National Book Critics Circle award, is an adventure among the afflicted." - from jacket copy
In this title, Basbane combines the perspective of historical research into this celebration of books and those who have gathered, preserved, and revered them over the centuries. Part 1 explores the history of book collecting from antiquity to the 1940's. Included in this section is a special emphasis on book lore and book culture in Great Britain and North America. Part 2 discusses the state of collecting in the 1980's, including profiles of living collectors and discussions of great contemporary stories within the field (such as the rare-book thefts of Stephen Blumberg, the mystery man who used $17 million of someone else's money to gain recognition as the greatest book collector alive, and others. Many of these anecdotes derive from his extensive interviews, and are not found in other sources.
Also included are Basbane's extensive notes, a detailed index, and one of the most comprehensive bibliographies on recent book collecting.