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bib-lio-phile: a lover of books especially for
qualities of format; also : a book collector
--Merriam-Webster OnLine

"Bibliophilia" is the term used to describe a love of books, while "bibliophile" refers to a person who loves to read and collect books. Book collecting includes seeking, locating, acquiring, organizing, cataloging, displaying, storing, and maintaining books that are of particular interest to an individual collector. The true collector is distinctly different than a casual book owner, who accumulates books for reading.


The true collecting of books can be said to have begun with the collecting of illuminated manuscripts of second-hand and commissioned origin. This practice became common in the 15th century, particularly with the elites of Burgundy and France. With what appears to be the largest collection of his day, Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy accumulated a collection that contained about six hundred volumes.

There are two particular events in history that fueled individuals in the early days of book collecting, the invention of movable type in book printing and the Reformation. The invention of movable type made it easier and cheaper to print books, which in turn made it easier for people to get their hands on books. During the Reformation, Henry VIII confiscated the property of monastic institutions throughout England, Wales, and Ireland. The university, college, and monastic libraries of the time were plundered and many of the books either destroyed or sold off. In order to keep the books from being lost or destroyed, many who could began to collect them.

Book collecting as a pastime, rather than a necessity, is more of a modern invention. Book collecting essentially began as a way to bring together a collection of books for use and study, rather than as collectibles. Other early collectors were dubbed so, simply because they owned a shelf of volumes stamped with their coat of arms.

In China, the history of collecting books began over two millennia ago. In the early Han Dynasty the Chinese government made an effort to collect books as many important books had been burned in the Qin Dynasty. As in Western culture, book collecting became more prevelant and easier when block printing was invented in the early Tang Dynasty.


So, just how does one modernize the collecting of books? Well, in an age where computers are all the rage, you have eBooks. While not exactly the same as collecting books, the collection of virtual copies of manuscripts is similar to bibliophilia. With the recent advent of eBooks many new books are being published online in eBook format and are available for download at a price, much like buying a physical copy of the book at a store.

The largest concern with collecting virtual books is the issue of copyright. Some projects, such as the Gutenberg Project, are completely legal and only post manuscripts which have outrun their copyright.