Collecting book editions

Collecting book editions

Collecting book editions

Confession: I have not one, or two, or even three copies of Jane Eyre. I have nine. Why collect different editions of the same book? For several reasons...

I am very fortunate to divide my time between my homes in Ireland, Kent and the South of France. It’s lovely to get a change of scene regularly, and to enjoy the best of the cultures and climates of these places. The difficult part about moving from place to place, however, is books – how can my entire library travel with me? The answer, of course, is that it can’t. So in each home I have a core library of my favourite reads, those faithful friends I cannot be without, the books that comfort and inspire me.

The need to keep a copy of a book I love in each home is one reason I may buy multiple copies of a book. But there are others besides…

To own different formats

Usually, this entails buying a print version of an ebook I have enjoyed, or a hardback edition of a paperback. I love hardbacks best of all; they really make a library.

To collect different editions

‘Collect’ is the operative word. When you really love a book, it is difficult to resist a new version with an appealing cover and beautiful typography and that heady new-book smell. ‘It’s the aesthetic pleasure of handling different editions of a book you adore, like seeing your beloved in different clothes,’ writes author Rajesh Parameswaran (source: Lithub).

Publishers know this, and exploit it! Just think how much profit has been generated by republishing Harry Potter in editions that fans just have to buy for their collection. Personally, I find it difficult to pass by a new edition of Jane Eyre, because it has been one of my favourite works of literature since my teens. It seems that just about every month a new edition is published. Here are just a few in my collection:

(For more on Jane Eyre editions, take a look at my article ‘Does a book cover colour your reading of a book?’.)

To loan or gift

‘Neither a borrower nor a lender be,’ Polonius advises his son Laerte in Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Wise counsel, perhaps, when it comes to books from one’s personal library, simply because lending may lead to losing, and it is upsetting to lose a beloved book. For this reason I don’t loan out books I love – I buy a new copy and gift it.

To be a rescuer of abandoned books

My favourite of all the reasons to buy another copy of a book. In an article on Lithub entitled ‘Why do writers keep multiple copies of books around’ (http://lithub.com/why-do-writers-keep-multiple-copies-of-books-around/), author Francine Prose explains why she keeps buying books she already owns in library sales: ‘I’ll see a favorite book and feel the need to rescue it from the table on which no one seems to be giving it sufficient love and attention. How could someone just leave my old friend there?’

I too have a strong emotional reaction to seeing a great book lying abandoned someplace, forgotten, unloved. I invariably stumble across such books when I visit a brocante (the vintage second-hand goods market that you find in every town in France). Books are so beautiful, they are objects d’art. ‘A room without books is like a body without a soul,’ said the Roman Cicero, and so it follows that each book I ‘rescue’ is a tiny part of that soul.


Do you own multiple copies of the same book? Are there any books in particular that you collect or would like to collect? I would love to hear your thoughts.

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