Possession

Obsessive collecting takes many forms. There are those tragic types who collect the titles of books they fondly imagine they will read some day. Some of those types even have lists of more than 200 books.

Cover: CollectomaniaThen there are the people who just can’t bring themselves to throw anything away. Chastened by too many viewings of Hoarders, they claim that they have ‘collections’ because somehow that seems more connoisseur and less crazy cat lady. Purists say you need to have three of something before you can call it a collection, but, even if it’s one random item picked up at the last car boot sale, finding another one is a great excuse to peruse every publicly available pile of tat possible.

These people look for reassurance that they are not going to end up crushed under a pile of ‘vintage’ (sounds so much better than second hand) Christmas decorations that include cardboard balls that were once strung across the streets of Geraldine. They hope that when they are found the small piece in the newspaper will not say things like ‘Librarian’s Body Lay Under Old Christmas Decorations Until February’.

They revere Andy Warhol; admittedly before his death he was unable to get into most of the rooms of his house because they were full of his ‘collections’, but when his belongings were auctioned in 1988 they fetched $5.3 million dollars. Warhol’s example is the perfect answer to the threat of the skip parked up the driveway.

Reassurance that things aren’t really out of hand can also be gained from reading about other collectors. Collectomania presents collections from Bakelite radios to classic cars in a chapter by chapter format, with lots of photographs. A Collector’s Year takes the reader through 12 months of one man’s trawls through car boot sales, auctions and odd shops in search of the next great addition to his stuff.

One Coin is Never Enough addresses the psychological aspects of collecting coins in a nicely upbeat way with the emphasis on how the choice the collector makes when he or she adds an object to their collection transforms that item. Satisfyingly intellectual.

Cover: Proust's OvercoatProust’s Overcoat is the story of an even more rarefied obsession – the work and belongings of Marcel Proust. I came across it when I was reading books about Proust rather than actually reading books by him (could be why completing his magnum opus is once again on my 2013 resolutions list).  It’s about a man who started out collecting Proust’s books and letters. When the opportunity presented itself  he branched out into material items like furniture and then the ultimate prize – Proust’s overcoat.

On the “if only” front, Herb and Dorothy is a delightful DVD about a postal clerk and a librarian (!) who spent every spare penny from their modest incomes on collecting modern art, ending up with a museum quality collection worth a very large amount of money. But, true to their principles, they have donated it all to the National Gallery of Art.

Do you have a picturesque collecting obsession?

1899 Picnic at Governor’s Bay: Picturing Canterbury

Picnic at Governor’s Bay
The Treleaven family picnics at Governor’s Bay in 1899.