What drives someone to collect something? An attempt to revive a faded memory? The pride that comes from finding a rare piece no one else has? A penchant for the history behind a set of stamps? Or maybe the peculiar sound of engines from certain brands of cars? The reasons why someone pursues a collection of things are many.
When it comes to the realm of books, the reasons for collecting a set can be just as varied. Some book collectors may want to acquire the writings of a certain group or movement. Others might desire all of the first editions of a specific author.
I recently had the pleasure to re-assemble the books that the collector William Stewart amassed over the course of many years. When it comes to the Stewart Collection at the Avery Research Center, it was difficult for me to instantly find the bond that unites the various books that comprise it. With some books dating to years as early as 1838 (Recollections of a Southern Matron by Carolina H. Gilman) and spanning nearly the entire 20th century (Gullah Night Before Christmas by Virginia M. Geraty), the time frame is as broad as the subjects covered. I later learned of William Stewart’s professional life as a linguist and his specialization in Gullah, which explains many of the regional works. But one aspect that literally draws ones eye to the collection, however, is the simple visual appeal.