Book Collecting: History and Techniques

Current faculty: Bruce Whiteman
Years taught: 2008

Description: This course will be of interest to both neophyte and experienced book collectors, private and institutional. The first half of the course will focus on the history of bibliophily in Europe and North America, beginning with the ancients and progressing through to the 21st century. We will examine how books are gathered into collections: why collecting happens, how books spread through Europe in both ancient and modern times, who the great collectors were, and the records they left behind of their collections, whether they survive or not. The second half of the course will focus on the ways in which collections are born and grow, including booksellers and the book trade, auctions, the scholarly and bibliophilic literature, description and terminology, building a reference library, the care of collections, the use and abuse of the Internet, book collecting clubs and societies, and values. Although not a course in bibliography, the basics of book structures (paper, type, binding, and printing) will be given some attention as well in response to students’ needs.

Members of the course will visit at least one Los Angeles antiquarian bookshop and one private collector. The course will be taught at the Clark Library.

Requirements: Students will be expected to own and to have read John Carter’s ABC for Book Collectors (8th edition) and Nicolas Basbanes’ A Gentle Madness. A list of further readings will be supplied in advance. An effort will be made to incorporate individual student’s particular bibliophilic interests into the course content, so all students are encouraged to contact the instructor in advance in order to discuss their areas of collecting or proposed collecting.

Course History

2008: Bruce Whiteman teaches this course for the first time.