This weekend (June 18-19) we will be attending a conference in Cambridge with the promising title of: Mania and Imagination: Perils and pleasures of the private collector, present and future. Odd though it may seem, I am actually excited by the idea of spending two days discussing the current and future state of book collecting. Especially the future bit. The conversations I am most often engaged in along these lines generally trend towards irritation and despair. Things like PODs, kindles, robopricing and the relentless decline in the value of books once thought to be rare have put a sour taste in the mouths of many who first entered the world of book collecting in the pre-digital age. Optimism about the future of collecting books seems to be a scarce commodity among the bibliophiles of my generation.
But I’m expecting that the conference in Cambridge will reflect a more hopeful outlook. I find it hard to imagine that many participants would pay a fee and travel all the way to King’s College, for two days, just to grumble about how the current and future prospects for collectors have been ruined by the internet.
I do, I admit, wonder what the perils referred to in the conference title might actually be referring to. Mania? That, of course, would be nothing new. But perhaps it is changing its form. That could be interesting. And there is a session devoted, simply, to Dilemmas. I am eager to learn what those might be. (I think it must be the problem of how to adjust to a world where the digitally-driven flood of collecting opportunities exceeds our capacity to evaluate or purchase them. Could it possibly be anything else?)
So I am looking forward to seeing old friends, perhaps meeting a few new ones, and having a generally stimulating weekend talking about old books. And I will also be taking notes, which means you may hear more about this again in the future. The glorious future.