Friday, 9 October 2015

Going Once, Going Twice...: my Dream Literary Collection and Invaluable

Every book lover knows that a book is a door to a whole new world, a way of escaping the humdrum of every day life and a great way to fill up whole afternoons, if not days. One of my favourite things about book blogging so far has been getting to know so many other book lovers sharing their own passion with the world. Nothing quite beats freaking out over an upcoming release together! But book lovers are successfully camouflaging as normal people everywhere and some of those can be found at, who were kind enough to invite me to have a look at their online catalogue of rare books and much more and decide what my dream literary collection would consist of!

Since I never stop thinking about what my future library will look like I thought this challenge might turn out to be relatively straight-forward. I, for a moment, forgot that when it comes to books I am hopeless at making a decision, especially when you through in first editions, manuscripts and maps. I managed it though, eventually. So below I offer you a look at what not only my dream collection would consist of but also what the library housing it might look like.

Oh, you betcha I'm getting me a globe for my library! From Lot 197 I picked this Cary's New Celestial Globe since I've always wanted one of these. There is something stunning about the detail and attention with which these globes were crafted. Made in, roughly, the 19th century, this globe has 12 engraved and coloured curved panels, each detailing a segment of the night's sky. I was torn for a while whether to choose the Celestial globe or the equivalent Terrestrial one, each of which is estimated to be worth between $10,000 and $12,000. Never accuse me of having cheap taste. Since my Geography is pretty good I decided to go for this one since I love the illustrations of mythical beasts. Myths, legends and history will be a strong theme running throughout this whole collection we're building here, so be warned! I think this globe would make for a great first impression when entering my library, wouldn't you agree?

Next is something I'm hungering after ever so not subtly: an illuminated manuscript from the Middle Ages. As frequent readers of this blog might know I am currently studying for an MA in Medieaval English. Naturally I have a massive passion for anything from the Middle Ages, although my interest quite solidly lies in the early Middle Ages. Unfortunately Invaluable doesn't have anything even remotely Anglo-Saxon or Old English on offer, but then neither does the Special Collections-section of my current University library so they can hardly be blamed for that. Most of it is simply, and unfortunately, lost. However, that doesn't deter me from desperately wanting an illuminated manuscript (MS) in my dream collection. It's a shame that the description for Lot 161 doesn't actually mention which text this is although there is of course a chance the seller themselves doesn't know either. That would be the first thing I'd do with this text if I could get my hands on it. It would also provide me with a good chance to preserve my recently-acquired paleography and transcription skills! These two beautiful leaves are estimated between AUD500-1000, which is woefully outside of my budget.

Each good library or collection needs a number of staple literary classics. If someone wanders into your library and can't find a single Jane Austen book you're not very well-stocked. It's with that in mind that I chose the next object: a 1792 edition of Paradise Lost, John Milton's masterpiece. I did find a second edition of this book as well on Invaluable but I preferred the look of this edition, which is naturally the more expensive one. My dream collection won't come cheap. Although there is some wear and tear on this copy I personally love to see that a book "has lived". I was made to read Paradise Lost last year and even if I didn't really like all of it (what's God's problem?) I definitely recognize it as one of the key texts in the development of English literature. Not only did it anticipate the Romantic movement, it is also one of the best works to come out of that whole tradition. It introduced us to a sympathetic Satan, setting up the Byronic hero before Byron was even born! I'll just leave you with a short and cheerful quote from this book and move on to the next item:
'The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.'
Next up is something a little bit more modern. A lot more modern and contemporary actually, but no less brilliant. Yes, I'm talking about Harry Potter and I'm serious. Although so far all my choices have been, if I may say so, educated and slightly pretentious, I'm a book lover at heart which means every book has something to offer me. I can't imagine having a dream collection and not, somehow, including the Harry Potter-series in that. J.K. Rowling and her books can very much be credited for getting me where I am or who I am now, hence these hardback copies from Lot 218 deserve their place right next to Paradise Lost. For many people roughly around my age Harry Potter was the equivalent of what Star Wars was for kids in the 70s. Not only did it introduce so many people to the joys of reading, it also introduced a lot of people to each other. Some of my best friends I've only met because of Harry Potter and I know it's the same for many others. Invaluable doesn't have the biggest selection of modern fiction, unfortunately. On the one hand maybe these haven't trickled down into auctioning houses yet, but on the other hand it would be great to have a wider selection of contemporary fiction to fill my library with,

The final piece that I'm choosing is one that is both stunning but also one with which I'm trying to send a message. As frequent readers will know, I set up this blog to be able to read more widely, discover the literature of other countries, cultures and societies, and thereby broaden my horizons! So far it's done a good job because I've read literature from Korea, Bolivia, South-Africa, and more. A key text which I also read was the Qur'an and I definitely feel that it has helped me grow as a person. So I was very happy to find Lot 512 with its beautifully illuminated Ottoman Qur'an. Dated to 1867, this is an absolutely stunning edition, showing the craftsmanship of the Ottoman empire as well as the stunning illuminations that trademark Arabic texts. I'd want my library and collection to reflect my attitudes towards life and humanity and that's why I'd include this edition of the Qur'an. In many ways it's as sacred to me as the Bible is, although I'm a Christian, but no one should dogmatically prevent themselves from not reading or seeing someone else's point of view. 

 So, this is where I end my foray into the depths of and many thanks to the people at Invaluable for giving me the chance.As you can see their collections of books are quite extensive and hold some utter gems. Although, as I said, they're not the best on contemporary fiction, I'd recommend every book lover to have at least a quick peek at their website. It's incredibly easy to manoeuvre and I've got one or two things that I'm keeping an eye on in case I find a pot of gold sometime soon!


  1. The globe!! My dream is to have a secret "lair" which is basically a library full of old books and favoutie books with a cozy armchair. The globe would add the perfect finishing touch. I love your selections!

    1. Ooh I should've looked for an arm chair as well! A 'lair library' would definitely good because you could just escape to it and no one would ever find you! Thanks for commenting :)