Wednesday 17 February 2016

Collecting Books. Not

There must be something about February...

Several of my fellow bloggers have been moved to talk about their libraries. Is it the long, dark evenings? The dreary weather? An excuse to sink into the comfy chair with a nice, hot mug of cocoa? Whatever the reason, I shall join them.

I use the word 'library' advisedly, because it sounds serious, scholarly, grown-up. What in fact they have there - taking up valuable space and straining the joists - are nothing more than 'book collections'. A book collection is like a gnome collection, but not as easy to mock. After all, most would agree that books are attractive and somehow worthy. Nevertheless, 'library' is still very much a euphemism for a bit of literary hoarding.

Don't get me wrong, I love books. The smell of them, the chunky feel, the way they look so welcoming when crammed just a wee bit untidily in a bookcase; they make a house a home. On this basis alone I would condone their acquisition. However, I seem to be much more ready to part with them than some! When we moved to Seaton in 2002 I used it as an excuse to thin my collection, well aware that many of my books were almost never opened. Goodbye BWP et al. I made a few bob and relieved myself of about two tons of box carrying. Moving from Seaton to Bridport provided a similar opportunity, also taken. Even now though, a number of my books are no more than home decor. Some of those are kept for sentimental reasons, but some are simply kept...

I don't really get that precious about books, and am always ready to loan them out, sometimes for ever. One or two good 'uns have gone that way. I used to have a fairly decent collection of fishing books, including the first annual of the British Carp Study Group. I bought it in 1974 I think, at a fishing tackle show at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Vincent Square, London. I loaned it out, and haven't seen it since 1970-something. Never mind, I can always get another from a second-hand bookseller...

er...or maybe not!

There is a slightly ironic footnote to this tale. Some years ago Mrs NQS returned from a tour of the Rickmansworth charity shops and announced that she'd bought a couple of books for me. Here they are...

Published respectively in 1980 and 1983, they wound up in my 'library' in exchange for something like a £2 donation to the British Heart Foundation. A copy of The Third BCSG Book is now being offered by the dealer in the screenshot above for £150! Tucked into one of them was the scrap of paper. As you can see, it is entitled 'Carp List'. Straight away that suggests to me a juvenile hand. A list of hefty carp follows, recording the weight, what type of carp it was, and the venue. Any carp fanatic reading this would instantly pick up on the venues, 'Conservative' and 'Fisheries'. These are both Colne Valley carp waters, both operated by clubs with a waiting list of about a hundred years. In other words, highly exclusive, don't bother to apply. The initials? LL = 'Large Lake', SL = 'Small Lake' and NL = 'New Lake'. I know this because I too was once a member of the 'Cons' club, as it was affectionately known. By the time I was fishing the Cons from about 1999 it held carp to over 50 pounds, including several over 40. Huge fish, hence why membership of the Fisheries and Cons clubs was so highly sought after. Judging by the size of carp in the list above, our mystery angler was most likely fishing the lakes in the 1980s. To be honest, that little bit of paper is probably responsible for me hanging on to those books. It adds a small measure of intimacy and makes me curious. Who was the angler? Was he young like I imagine? Why did he part with the books? What's the story?

Perhaps there is some middle-aged bloke out there now, going 'You know, I once had the 3rd and 4th BCSG books...I used to keep my list of carp in one of them. Now, who did I lend them to...?'


  1. Gav, I've a feeling that 1st BCS book of yours ended up in my hands at some point. I've a vague recollection of Dick Walkers's autograph being involved somewhere. I'd no idea it was yours. It must have been Phil who got hold of it.
    Either way, I read the book half to death with articles by Chris Yates -A Pot of Gold and Alan Cubbly -On the Lighter side, being memorable articles.
    The book's cover went missing sometime and the book was borrowed in turn about 30 years ago by a guy called Jim Clavin. He was a fanatical collector of fishing publications; especially Carp books. My feeling was he was inordinately proud to have this one on his shelves, so I left him with it.
    I'll attempt to investigate the list.
    £250! crikey!

    1. Ah, yes, this is ringing bells! I remember Jim Clavin too. 'A Pot of Gold' by Chris Yates, a terrific article. Google it as an image search and there's the photo, 1972(?) vintage. Great stuff.

      The Dick Walker autograph is another story. Same tackle exhibition, different publication. Dick Walker was at the show, and I found a magazine with his photo on the cover. It was an ACA (Anglers Cooperative Association - remember that?) magazine, and I presumably got it from their stand, though I don't really remember if I'm honest. Anyway, I shyly sidled up to the chain-smoking icon and asked him to autograph it. I've no idea where that went...don't tell me your brother had that too?! :-)

  2. Gav, I doubt it. If he had something like that, he would have already sold it on ebay.
    I wouldn't be surprised if he hasn't a single book in his office; I mean house, I've never seen any in there in over twenty five years, and I go there at least once per decade.
    I'm the one with the books, but also hand out and lose them. It's only fair really, considering I emptied the long gone Pinner Grammar School of it's entire collection.
    Had to be done, they had Dick Walker's, Still Water Angling.

  3. Rare books aside, you do have to consider that Gav has probably the right idea when it comes to getting rid of books on a regular basis.
    I'm no different to everybody else and probably have around 400 books adorning bookshelves in two different rooms. The total would be far higher if it wasn't for the fact that the paperbacks that I buy every couple of weeks for easy reading, are given after reading, to my father-in-law, who then reads them and gives them to the local hospital shop.
    But let's face it, why do we keep so many books and are we ever likely to delve into most of them again, some of mine haven't been opened in 20-30 years!

    1. Cheers Derek. To be honest, if I hadn't been prompted into action by moving house I wonder if I too would still have books that hadn't been opened for decades?

  4. I have come to the conclusion Gav that our books somehow define us. We are them and they are us. To get rid of them is to get rid of a part of us. Maybe that's why I keep hold of so many...

    1. I had to have a proper think before replying to your comment Steve, and even though I've done that I'm still choosing my words carefully. Because on this topic I fundamentally disagree with you, but certainly don't want to come across as glib, or dismissive of your viewpoint. If you'd said our books are a reflection of who we are I think I'd be with you there, but do they somehow define us...? Personally I would say we are defined by what we do, not by anything we have - books included.
      There, look, see what your pithy profundity has got me doing? Arguing! That says more about me than any of my books!

    2. With hindsight, I'm cringing slightly about my recent bookshelfies blogpost; realising it makes me sound pompous and up myself. I just love books, plain and simple - and, contra the usual why-keep-them-if-one-never-reads-them-again argument: well, I do re-read them, sometime just snippets but often cover-to-cover. I'm *always* immersed in a book. With reflection, I suppose I read almost four or five hours a day. Not a great TV watcher, clearly! It's interesting though that lots of us seem to feel we need to justify having them - it's almost like we're slightly ashamed of our books. Which is weird...

    3. Thanks for the comment, Jon, and I've just left one on your blog. Most (though unfortunately not all) of the books I have parted with over the years are those that have failed to get their hooks in me. If a book does that - and I expect you know what I mean - then it stays. Unless I foolishly lend it out...

  5. So, who wants some old bird books then? World Parrots anyone?