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Wedded to Books

Wedded to Books

Nineteenth-Century Bookmen at Home

(p.103) Chapter Three Wedded to Books
Loving Literature
Deidre Shauna Lynch
University of Chicago Press

This chapter reconstructs the early-nineteenth-century episode in the history of book-selling dubbed “the bibliomania”--the frenzied pursuit by affluent collectors of rare books from the dawn of printing--and the equivocal response to this obsession made by Charles Lamb, Leigh Hunt, and Thomas De Quincey. Those essayists presented themselves as lovers of literature, not of books, and helped orient romanticism toward an idealism that dissociates meaning from materiality. Yet the essayists also capitalized on the bibliomaniacs’ ways of navigating the paradoxes of a literary culture that had come to associate literature both with intimacy and subjectivity, and with an impersonal print culture. The chapter thus attends to how collecting could delimit a space of domestic privacy--as Hunt suggests when he describes himself as “wedded” to his books. It concludes with an archive of home-made literary scrapbooks, a forum in which romantic-period women managed to step forward as collectors.

Keywords:   collectors, bibliomania, essay, domestic privacy, romanticism, Leigh Hunt, Charles Lamb, Thomas De Quincey, print culture, scrapbooks

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