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"To the bibliomaniac, the real lover of books for their own sake, these unknown and outcast volumes, these pariahs of literature, are infinitely more interesting than their better known and more universally cherished fellows, and acquire additional value for him in proportion to the persecution they have suffered, their scarcity, and the difficulty he experiences in acquiring them."--Index Librorum Prohibitorum (1877) by Ashbee

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

Bibliomania can be a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder which involves the collecting or even hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged.

Bibliomania is not to be confused with bibliophilia, which is the (psychologically healthy) love of books, and as such is not considered a clinical psychological disorder.



One of several unusual behaviors associated with books, bibliomania is characterized by the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a genuine book collector. The purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania. Bibliomania is not a psychological disorder recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in its DSM-IV.

The term was coined by John Ferriar (1761–1815), a physician at the Manchester Royal Infirmary. Ferriar coined the term in 1809 in a poem he dedicated to his bibliomanic friend, Richard Heber (1773–1833). In the early nineteenth century, "bibliomania" was used in popular discourse (such as in periodical essays and poems) to describe obsessive book collectors.

In 1809, the Reverend Thomas Frognall Dibdin published Bibliomania; or Book Madness, a work described by literary critic Philip Connell as "a series of bizarre rambling dialogues which together comprised a kind of dramatized mock pathology, lavishly illustrated and, in the second edition, embellished with extensive footnotes on bibliography and the history of book collecting." The "symptoms" displayed by the biblomaniacs in Dibdin's work include "an obsession with uncut copies, fine paper or vellum pages, unique copies, first editions, blackletter books, illustrated copies, association copies, and condemned or suppressed works".

In the late nineteenth century, book collections and collectors of note were given regular coverage as curiosities.

Holbrook Jackson was to follow the work of Ferriar and Dibdin later in the work The Anatomy of Bibliomania

People with bibliomania

  • Stephen Blumberg, who was convicted of stealing $5.3 million worth of books.
  • Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1st Baronet (1792–1872) suffered from severe bibliomania. His collection, which at his death contained over 160,000 books and manuscripts, was still being auctioned off over 100 years after his death.
  • Rev. W.F. Whitcher was a 19th-century Methodist pastor who, after having stolen and rebound rare books, would assert they were rare "finds" from local booksellers.

Depictions in fiction

  • Peter Kien, the protagonist in Auto-da-Fé by Elias Canetti. Kien's obsession with his personal library leads to the destruction of his marriage, his happiness, and ultimately the library itself.
  • Yomiko Readman, the protagonist in Read or Die, is an introverted bibliomaniac, often preferring the company of books over people.
  • Don Vincente, a fictional Spanish monk who was suspected of stealing books from his monastery, and later murdered nine people so he could steal their books.

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bibliomania" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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