New Book

 

To Have and to Hold:

An Intimate History of

Collectors and Collecting

by Philipp Blom

AM 221 .B58 2003

 From the New Yorker via Amazon

Taking as its inspiration Walter Benjamin’s dictum that a collector’s passion borders on “the chaos of memory,” this curiously moving history argues that collecting is driven by the desire to control that chaos. Blom traces the development of collections since the Renaissance through lively portraits of famous collectors, like the Englishman Sir Thomas Phillips, who believed that he was meant to own one copy of every book in the world; the Austrian Franz Joseph Gall, who lined his walls with row upon row of skulls; and the American Alex Shear, who has amassed more than a hundred thousand relics of nineteen-fifties America. Blom shows that there is no limit to what can be collected, or to the intensity of the pursuit. Ultimately, he suggests, “the shadow looming over every cabinet” is a kind of willful, if unacknowledged, futility. To collect is to freeze the world in its tracks and hold it still. But if this succeeded what would be left to collect?
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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