I’ve never been in the States, so I may be wrong, but I can’t imagine collecting old and rare books over there the way I collect them here in the Netherlands.
First of all, there probably is a big difference in the way we search for collectibles. Of course, I use the Internet (I even bought some books from the States that way), but the right stuff for me (and I imagine for others as well) is snooping around in beautiful little bookshops such as still abound here in the Netherlands, especially around me here in Amsterdam.
In my blog (do you read Dutch?) I write about my passion for book collecting, especially 17th and 18th century books bound in vellum. I especially love parchment, or perkament as we call it, hence my blog name Perkamentus.
But as you will see from the pictures on my blog, I also like pamphlets, ephemera, fine press books, books about books and even antique objects (especially the stories behind the objects). [By the way, almost every picture on my blog is taken by me using antiquarian books and objects in my own collection. Because this makes my blog sort of an online showcase, I don’t use my real name.]
I'm 49 years old and have been collecting books for about 35 years. It was my study of history and of the Dutch language that fueled my passion (or disease, as some call it) for collecting books. Most of my books are bought at little book markets or in one of the many old bookshops in Amsterdam, Utrecht and The Hague (Den Haag). I also buy from auction houses like Beijers, Bubb Kuyper, Burgersdijk & Niermans and, in Brussels, The Romantic Agony.
I often use Internet listings as a guide (“from whom can I buy what, for how much and in what condition”). Because distance is not a big problem in the Netherlands, if I buy something valuable via the Internet from an unknown source I pay him or her a visit, collect (and inspect) my book(s), and pay cash.
The bookseller sites I visit most often are: Addall, Marelibri, Vialibri, Antiqbook and a Dutch site, Boekwinkeltjes, where every individual can offer books for sale. (NB: These auction houses and bookseller sites are listed on my blog under boekenveilingen and boekenzoeken. There are other useful links as well.)
I sometimes, though very rarely, play the "gentleman dealer" and sell some of my books.
What I like most - apart from collecting, reading and learning about book and print history - is the contact I have with other collectors, booksellers and bibliophiles like myself.
I would advise every starting collector to follow book news, like I do, from multiple sources. When I am in bookshops, markets and auction houses I always make time for a little chat with the owner. At home, I read a lot of books about books, and I also pay attention to Internet sources of book news. As a member of the Dutch Bibliophile Society (Nederlands Genootschap van Bibliofielen), I also like to share my passion for book collecting with others. All of these things are important, because they give you free and easy access to knowledge and understanding of the antiquarian book trade.
It’s a fact that you can build your private library with passion and a small purse, and I think most of us start out that way. But if passion is not coupled with increasing knowledge, then collecting is, in my opinion, a dead end ....
Published on The Private Library, presented here by permission of the author. Pictures: Perkamentus.