From WikiLove - The Encyclopedia of Love

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Cluttered bookshelf, one symptom of bibliomania

Bibliomania can be a symptom of obsessive–compulsive disorder which involves the collecting or even hoarding of books to the point where social relations or health are damaged.



One of several unusual behaviors associated with books, bibliomania is characterized by the collecting of books which have no use to the collector nor any great intrinsic value to a genuine book collector. The purchase of multiple copies of the same book and edition and the accumulation of books beyond possible capacity of use or enjoyment are frequent symptoms of bibliomania. Bibliomania is not a psychological disorder recognized by the DSM-IV.

The term was coined by John Ferriar (1761-1815), a physician at the Manchester Royal Infirmary.[1] Ferriar coined the term in 1809 in a poem he dedicated to his bibliomanic friend, Richard Heber (1773-1833).[2] In the early nineteenth century, "bibliomania" was used in popular discourse (such as in periodical essays and poems) to describe obsessive book collectors. In 1809, the Reverend Thomas Frognall Dibdin published Bibliomania; or Book Madness, a work described by literary critic Philip Connell as "a series of bizarre rambling dialogues which together comprised a kind of dramatized mock pathology, lavishly illustrated and, in the second edition, embellished with extensive footnotes on bibliography and the history of book collecting".[3] The "symptoms" displayed by the biblomaniacs in Dibdin's work include "an obsession with uncut copies, fine paper or vellum pages, unique copies, first editions, blackletter books, illustrated copies, association copies, and condemned or suppressed works".[4]

Other book-related conditions

Bibliomania is not to be confused with bibliophilia, which is the usual love of books and is not considered a clinical psychological disorder.

Other abnormal behaviours involving books include book-eating (bibliophagy), compulsive book-stealing (bibliokleptomania), and book-burying (bibliotaphy).

People with bibliomania

  • Stephen Blumberg, who was convicted of stealing $5.3 million worth of books
  • Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1st Baronet[5] (1792–1872) suffered from severe bibliomania. His collection, which at his death contained over 160,000 books and manuscripts, was still being auctioned off over 100 years after his death.
  • Rev. W.F. Whitcher[6] was a 19th-century Methodist pastor who, after having stolen and rebound rare books, would assert they were rare "finds" from local booksellers.
  • Don Vincente, an Spanish monk who was suspected of stealing books from his monastary, and later murdered nine people so he could steal their books.

Depictions in fiction

  • Yomiko Readman, the protagonist in Read or Die, is an introverted bibliomaniac, often preferring the company of books over people.


  1. Kendall, Joshua. The man who made lists: love, death, madness, and the creation of Roget's Thesaurus, Penguin Group, USA, 2008, p. 154.
  2. Ferriar, John (1809). The Bibliomania, An Epistle to Richard Heber, Esq.. London: T. Cadell and W. Davies, in the Strand; J. Haddock, Warrington.
  3. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  4. {{#invoke:Citation/CS1|citation |CitationClass=journal }}
  5. Book Collecting: A.N.L. Munby: A Balanced View
  6. "A Book Thief.; A Providence Preacher's Strange Transactions In Rare Volumes". The New York Times. 1881-07-28. Retrieved 2010-04-26.

Further reading

  • Jackson, Holbrook (2001). The Anatomy of Bibliomania. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-07043-7.
  • Dibdin, Thomas Frognall (1811). Bibliomania: Or Book Madness. ( Dibdin's
  • Bibliomania at Project Gutenberg)
  • Basbanes, Nicholas A. (1995). A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books. Henry Holt and Company, Inc..
  • Bartlett, Allison Hoover (2009). The Man Who Loved Books Too Much: The True Story of a Thief, a Detective, and a World of Literary Obsession. New York: Riverhead Trade.
  • Richard de Bury (1902). The love of books: The Philobiblon translated by E. C. Thomas. London: Alexander Moring
  • Andrew Lang (1881). The Library.London, Macmillan & Co.

External links

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