I’ve always been a bibliophile. I love reading. I love walking into libraries and book shops, browsing endless rows of books, stacked from the bottom of the floor to the top of the ceiling. I fear that one day I will be killed by a bookshelf falling on me, but what a death that would be! Alas, they will say, “he loved books and they killed him.” I can think of no better epitaph than that.
Recently, I’ve taken up the obsession of book collecting, a noble pursuit, and one that is filled with many mysteries. Few creatures are as misunderstood as the book collector, and especially the ones of the antiquarian kind. They have their own language, and not many understand their bibliomania. Most are not in it for the money, but for the passion, for the pursuit of that elusive book that haunts them late at night. Is it a first edition they seek? Is it a signed copy? Is it just the name of the author that drives them to despair? They must possess this treasure at seemingly any cost or detriment to their mental sanity; like a CERN scientist chasing neutrinos with chalked hands and a collider.
No doubt you are thinking, “well what book do you seek, good Sir?” I shall tell you, it is a signed first edition of Damn Rare: The Memoirs of an African-American Bibliophile by Charles L. Blockson. The irony is not lost on me that I’m searching for a rare book written by a rare bibliophile with “rare” in the title.
In my first attempt to locate this book and read it, I scoured my public library, but to no avail. Not even through an inter-library loan could a copy be found. The nearest library that actually has a copy is in Champaign-Urbana, a good 45 minutes drive away, and this being an academic library I can not check it out without being a student or faculty of the university − for shame! Searches on AbeBooks and Amazon give me prices ranging from $30 to $130 dollars should I wish to purchase a copy. This cements my theory that the book is a rarity indeed, for why else would it be so expensive? I must now commit my time and energy to tracking down a copy of this book and I will keep you posted on my progress.