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...

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