Nicholas A. Basbanes is an author and former book review editor for The Sunday Telegram in Worcester,
Massachusetts. He spoke with Brian Lamb in a 1995 interview on Booknotes about his book, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books. The following quote comes from Booknotes: America's Finest Authors on Reading, Writing, and the Power of Ideas and explains the books title:
I coined the title myself, actually. It was a description made of Isaiah Thomas, a great nineteenth-century American bibliophile and collector. When he died, his grandson Benjamin Franklin Thomas, said, "Grandfather was afflicted from the earliest age with the gentlest of infirmities: He was a bibliomaniac." And when I saw that description of him, I said, "There's my title."
On the cover of the book, it is, in fact, a woodcut - a very famous one. It's 500 years old. It was executed by Albrecht Dürer. It's called The Book Fool and it was in Das Narrenschiff, the original Ship of Fools. And the first fool of the whole story, the fool at the helm, was the bibliomane, the book fool. And I've always loved that particular engraving, and I chose it for the dust jacket.
His title, A Gentle Madness, could be used to describe a condition that afflicts many of us. I have not read any of Mr. Basbanes' nine books that cover authors, libraries, and book-collectors. His latest is On Paper: The Everything of Its Two Thousand Year History, by a Self-Confirmed Bibliophiliac.
I best be updating my To Be Read list!
Are you acquainted with Mr. Basbanes and his bibliomania?