Bibliomania is a recognized psychological condition characterized by the obsessive need to possess books. For those of you who read The Lady of Bolton Hill, you know the novel’s villian suffers from bibliomania. I’ve always believed that a really good villian ought to have an admirable trait (a hobby, love for a person, desire to succeed) that has been magnified to such a degree that it turns him or her bad. This makes them infinately more fascinating than the run-of-the-mill villians who are motiviated only by greed. In The Lady of Bolton Hill, Professor Van Bracken has an obsessive love for antiquarian books. He will do anything in order to acquire enough money to pursue his love of books, including building a mansion in the Vermont wilderness which he keeps at a constant 60 degrees, the optimal temperature for book preservation. The setting is chilling both physically and spiritually. The Professor’s bibliomania also leads to a string of crimes and kidnappings to amass the fortune necessary to acquire the world’s rarest volumes.
For anyone interested more in real life bibliomaniacs, I recommend Nicholas Basbane’s fabulous book A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books. I drew heavily on this book for insight into the condition. Basbanes sheds light on the subject by providing dozens of cases of real-life bibliomaniacs, such as the homocidal Don Vincente, a Spanish monk whose monestary was mysteriously robbed of all its valuable books in the early 1830’s. Shortly after the unsolved robbery, Don Vincente left the order and opened a rare book store in Barcelona. Over the coming years, Don Vincente committed at least eight known murders of men who possessed fine book collections, most of which ended up in the former monk’s shop. Don Vincente was ultimately caught and executed for his crimes in 1836.
Basbane’s book recounts dozens of such stories, and it is a fiendishly good read for people who enjoy the world of rare book collecting.
Here a a couple of other unhealthy book obbsessions:
- Bibliophagy (book eating)
- Bibliokleptomania (book stealing)
- Bibliotaphy (the hoarding and hiding of books, usually through burying them)
- Bibliomancy (using books, usually the Bible, for divination by flipping to a random page and pointing to a passage)