Tuesday, February 26, 2008

A Strange Preoccupation

Though I don't understand the lure of collecting, I succumb to whatever it is wholeheartedly. Why is it that we become enamored with a useless, hard to find sub sub category of any one material thing? And why choose elephant figurines (Jem) rather than tootsie roll wrappers (Brian)? Dunno, but I sure love my useless sub sub category - antique classic mini books. I don't read them, I have large ugly duplicates for that. I just look at them. I don't know why they thrill me so. Nothing can explain my excitement when I found out, during last fall's visit to Melanie and Brian, that there was a display at the Boston Public Library featuring my chosen obsession. Was I considerate about other people's sightseeing priorities? Was I able to conduct normal conversation until I'd seen that exhibit? Was I late, as I am for everything else, for the library opening that morning? Nope. I was quaking and exclaiming (at an un-library like volume) as I viewed such gems as a tiny picture book illustrated by Picasso, the smallest Bible in the world, a copy of Dante's Divine Comedy employing the first use of the tiniest typeface in the world 'Fly's Eye', and the smallest book in the world (brought to us by the write on grain of rice guys) which was hardly visible even under a magnifying glass. Everyone else thought it was decently cool, but to me it was a little heaven. The feeling of being in a room surrounded by exquisite specimens of the sub sub category that makes you giddy... I was inspired to work on my collection and we visited Bromer Booksellers, the owners of most of the collection. Their tiny books started in the hundreds. I drooled and then left. Back to my meagre but treasured collection at home.
This last weekend roles were reversed and I had the pleasure of seeing Melanie go ga-ga over her mania - stamps. The Smithsonian's Postal Museum is the home of the best stamp collections in existence. We armed ourselves with magnifying glasses and Mel gave me a crash course in philately. She pointed out subtleties in watermarks, perforations, and plate numbers. The crowning glory of the collection, the thing she really came from Boston to see (and I thought it was me) was The Jenny. The most famous stamp in history. One sheet of one hundred stamps was sold before the upside down plane was noticed and they're worth just tons of money now.

We spent so much time in the exhibit talking about the colors Carmine and Lake (which is not blue as you would think) and Type I and Type II specimens that one guy stopped us and asked if we were in any way associated with or worked for the U.S. Postal Service. We took that as a compliment.

P.S. A shout out to my sister Val who is also drawn to antique classic mini books (runs in the genes?) What do the rest of you collect?


Zebulin said...

I collect lint in my belly button. Oh yeah.

Peter said...

Pennies when I was young. Petoskey's for my entire life. Variations of dollar coins to carry around in my pocket (there used to be only one but now they just keep coming out with more and more and more). All my completed six star sudoku puzzles complete with the time it took me to solve them. And last, but not least, my best targets from bullseye shooting.

Melanie said...

Zeb, my husband does too (along with his candy wrappers).

Sarah, thanks - this was fun!

Valerie said...

Oh my gosh Sarah, you'll never believe what I found in Vienna. I spent 40 euros (it was originally 48) on it but it is the treasure of all that I own. I'll try to send you a picture of it.