Book collections as works of art

by time news

In 2019, the volume of the electronic literature market in Russia grew by 35% and reached 6.5 billion rubles. Over the past year, according to Liters, this segment grew by another 31% to 8.5 billion rubles. At the same time, according to forecasts of the Eksmo-AST group, the volume of the entire book market (including paper, electronic and audio books) will decrease by 15% in 2020. The advantages of e-books are well known and undeniable. However, the rapid growth of this market does not at all mean that there are fewer real bibliophiles. And many still collect paper books, but already as works of art.

Let’s leave aside the phenomenon of author’s thematic libraries, which is weakly amenable to systematization, which was collected, for example, by the hero of the novel by Arturo Perez-Reverte “The Dumas Club, or the Shadow of Richelieu” Varo Borja (he collected publications about the devil).

Let’s talk about family, small-circulation, exclusive and other libraries. The books for them are laid out according to all the rules of graphic design, with margins, indents, ideally designed headers and footers and other kunshtuk dear to the heart of the typographer. They are printed on high-quality, specially selected paper, supplementing the text with outstanding illustrations. Such books are bound by hand, their trims are made in color or gold. But perhaps most of the passion and craftsmanship is invested in binding. In suede or morocco leather, with gold embossing, with the library owner’s monogram on the spine – books in such bindings as women dressed in haute couture.

“Today, as a rule, people between the ages of 45 and 65 collect libraries,” says Eduard Lapkin, head of Lamartis, a well-known publishing house in bibliophile circles. “On the one hand, they have money for this expensive hobby, on the other, they have strong nostalgia for the golden age of reading, 1960-1980s, the pre-computer era, when books were considered a treasure and any intelligent family had a book collection” … However, according to Lapkin, today very few customers have a clear idea of ​​the future library. A common story: there is a new house or apartment, and there is an office with bookcases and shelves on which you need to put something. Several strategies are possible here.

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The most costly in terms of time and money (moreover, requiring deep knowledge) are antique books. The most common way is to buy inexpensive Soviet collected works from second-hand booksellers, for example, 200 volumes of the Library of World Literature (1967-1977), or the 50-volume Library of World Literature for Children (1976-1987), or the entire series “Literary Monuments”, which is published from 1948 to the present day. These publications have decent designs and responsibly edited and verified texts.

All that remains is to “change” the books from their native covers into luxurious leather ones with gold embossing. Although there are some nuances here: the appearance of the bindings should correspond to the style of the work. Moreover, this is not a cheap pleasure: the price of one binding hovers around $ 100, excluding design (the design of leather bindings is a special intellectual form of creativity, and not every artist can succeed in it). If there are 1000 books in a library, it is roughly clear how much its appearance will cost.

Another fairly common option for a complete set of private libraries is the purchase of modern, highly artistic publications. For example, the same “Lamartis” is proud of the multivolume Liberal Arts Library. It includes the most important compositions for an educated person, such as “Analytics. Politics. Rhetoric “by Aristotle,” Thoughts and Memories “by Bismarck,” Journey to the Southern Ocean and the Bering Strait “by Kotzebue and others. In addition, books with original engravings and a circulation of only 20 copies are published here. The range of works and authors is the most exquisite: from “Poems” by Michelangelo Buonarroti to “The Chosen One” by Edgar Allan Poe and “The Life of Arseniev” by Ivan Bunin. The scanty circulation and hand-etchings almost immediately turn the books into a rarity.

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The St. Petersburg publishing house “Vita Nova” calls its collections of books “halls”: the ceremonial hall, philosophical, heroic, etc. Here it is worth highlighting the series “Boudoir” – volumes on matte coated paper in cherry-wine leather Sabra. These are examples of great literature about love from antiquity to the present day. The decoration of the series is “The Book of the Marquis” with erotic drawings by Konstantin Somov. The book was published in French in 1918 with a circulation of 800 copies. Vita Nova translated the texts into Russian and for the first time republished all of Somov’s frivolous fantasies.

The St. Petersburg company “Alpharet” also demonstrates its approach to the publication of rarities. She specializes in reprinting hard-to-find pre-revolutionary books, such as Antiquities of the Russian State (1849–1853) with watercolors by Fyodor Solntsev. For the first time, the book was prepared and published by order of Nicholas I, and now it has been republished.

In real life, all strategies are usually mixed: individual books are made to order and Soviet collected works are bought at the same time. Much is acquired for sighting purposes for children and grandchildren. A professional vector of collecting is also often observed: a person associated, say, with the defense industry, can collect books about weapons, wars, biographies of military leaders, etc. In this market segment there is work and consultants: they can first make a list of books on a certain topic , for example, “The Art of the Silver Age” or “Japan in European Literature”, agree on the list with the customer, then purchase books and, finally, put them in leather bindings.

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Of the curiosities that are observed among Russian bibliophiles, it is worth noting the interest in Soviet periodicals: the files of the newspaper “Soviet Sport” or “Pravda” are put in leather, the annual issues of the magazines “Krokodil” and “Ogonyok” are often intertwined. Books can also become rarities thanks to the texts they contain, as happened, for example, with the most complete collection of works by Joseph Brodsky, published at the beginning of the 2000s by the Pushkin House, or with the seven-volume collection of Marina Tsvetaeva (1994-1995) by the Ellis Varnish “.

Well, the most correct, perhaps, approach to collecting a book collection is to start from your own history and memories. If you read White Fang or The Old Man and the Sea as a child, then the collected works of Jack London and Ernest Hemingway will warm your heart. And you should not consider books as a quick investment: the costs will not pay off soon or never at all. But moral dividends are guaranteed.


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