Home » Bibliomania: The Unhealthy Cousin of Book Collecting

To a certain degree, it seems part of the human condition to accumulate. We “stock up” on toilet paper and batteries, add CDs to our home music libraries, or download new songs to our IPod playlists. Even our yards are full of swaths of nursery-purchased flower varieties, or house patio furniture, fireplace pits, hammocks and above-ground pools and trampolines.

For most of us, we grumble about “too much stuff,” but we do exercise some restraint. Our floors are clear and our “stuff” fits into our drawers and cabinets. We don’t need to accumulate. But for some, accumulation becomes a diseas: hoarding. And its pathology can take many forms, including bibliomania—the obsessive, compulsive accumulation and hoarding of books.

How exactly is bibliomania different than ardent book collecting? Book collecting is done be individuals passionate about books, who are vested in looking for, finding, purchasing and displaying or maintaining their collected books. They often specialize, and as such create library collections of value: that value can either be monetary value, or personal value—as in finding a first edition of a particular work by one’s favorite Western genre author.

Bibliomania, on the other hand, is characterized by the acquiring and keeping of books which may have no inherent value, whether personal or monetary. For example, multiple identical books (same story, author, edition) may be obsessively hoarded, and giant numbers of books are accumulated which are well beyond the capacity of any person to keep track of or enjoy. The books may not be maintained or even perhaps ever looked at. Bibliomania is one form of Obsessive-Compulsive disorder and indicates a hoarding problem in which a person’s social relationships or very health is negatively affected.

Although bibliophiles (lovers of books) certainly exist in abundance, these individuals do not suffer from bibliomania—a funny-sounding, although certainly entirely un-funny, disease.

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