The Joys of Collecting Rare Science Books

Some scientists are born collectors, others achieve their ambitions and create great collections, and some have great collections thrust on them. It all depends on what they collect. There is a great variety of what scientists can collect—for example, stars for a new catalog, insects or plants, exotic chemicals, reprints, interesting medical cases, statistics or old scientific books. I have collected old scientific books for most of my life, so I shall write about the why, how and what of

Anthony Michaelis
May 3, 1987
Some scientists are born collectors, others achieve their ambitions and create great collections, and some have great collections thrust on them. It all depends on what they collect. There is a great variety of what scientists can collect—for example, stars for a new catalog, insects or plants, exotic chemicals, reprints, interesting medical cases, statistics or old scientific books. I have collected old scientific books for most of my life, so I shall write about the why, how and what of collecting these, how to look after a collection, and how to dispose of it.

De Beaumarchais compared the writing of a book with the creation of a child: "Concus avec volupté, mènes a terme avec fatigue, enfants avec douleur" ("Voluptuously conceived, wearily brought to term, and painfully delivered"). Anyone who has spent nine months or more to produce a book will readily agree that such a work is an extremely...