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Re: Are tolkien collectors the most hardcore completeists?

Subject: Re: Are tolkien collectors the most hardcore completeists?
by Khamûl on 2009/9/1 3:46:18

In Tolkien's Gown (2004) Rick Gekoski drops loads of snippets regarding his experience of dealing in (mainly) 20th century books: Modern First Editions. I can't find the quote (not that it matters); but at one point he laments the fall in popularity amongst collectors in collecting single authors. Or maybe he just observed this trend. Is it a trend? I don't know...

People have been collecting for centuries. And while people used to collect, say, Shakespeare or Dickens, it seems clear that during the 20th century there was the rise of the collector who basically collected 'great works' in First Edition format; the collector with a lot of money and a wide taste in literature.

So they would have a few first editions of Joyce, and a First Edition of Tolkien etc (-or at least they would aim to have that in their collection!). They wouldn't collect multiple titles by one author. They would maybe only have LotRs and The Hobbit by Tolkien in their collection.

I think the point is that, this collector doesn't 'specialise' in any particular author or title or publishing house or field. So they are generalists; reading and collecting widely.

I only (really) collect Tolkien and H. P. Lovecraft. Tolkien certainly differs in a few respects, but I can't think why the Tolkien collector should be any more of a completeist than any other collector. I think it just seems more neurotic, as they end up acquiring multiple copies of the same title.

This would happen (I guess) with any single author collector, but wouldn't happen if you were, say, an Arkham House (publisher) completeist. As this would require you to acquire all AH books; but this would be many authors, all of which could be read. There would be very little duplication of actual written material.

Tolkien didn't really publish (or write) that much I don't think. His work is only really published by one publisher: GA&U>UH>HC. Yes, there are the academic publications, but in the main Tolkien has a small body of work published with a single publisher.

Ultimately completeists (and I probably speak mainly of myself here!) are simply transferring this trait of their personality onto their collecting I believe. If they weren't collecting books, they would be collecting or ferreting away at something else. Something equally useless in the eyes of others.

Personally, I now have about 75+ copies of The Silmarillion; and I don't collect translations! I can't provide any adequate explanation of why...

BH