by C.F. Russell

IT IS NOT LIKELY that you picked this up to read during a flood, whirlwind, volcanic eruption, or earthquake -that is, for the first time; after that -anything can happen! But, since exceptions are needed to prove a rule, should you at this moment be in imminent peril from a catastrophe, natural or otherwise -say, for example, that a hungry tiger is creeping up on you, then I will agree with you that the emergency is urgent enough to justify that you lay this book down at once -for the author not only wishes you well, but also prefers to have your attention undivided.

The practical value of this book is not best proved by the fact that it is suited to stop a bullet, or that it may work as a wedge to prevent your being crushed, or that it can serve to stuff up a hole so you will not be drowned. You can, if you must, use it to feed a fire to cook food to avert starvation, or provide heat against freezing. It may be used as a weapon to beat out some brute's brains. Prod your own imagination for further uses, but however helpful it might be in a pinch, yet its real objective is to give aid & comfort to the book-collector. It will affect your destiny a great deal, no doubt of that, but chiefly from that point of view & no other. Read it carefully & you may, indeed, learn how to avoid some terrible fate -or, if the inevitable cannot be escaped, still & all, you may educate yourself better to cope with it when it arrives, or at worst to make the best of it.

Whoever collects books, either as a whole or as a part-time job, soon assumes a peculiar form of personality easily recognized by the initiate as that of the book-collector. Primarily such is one who loves books, but this is to speak with utmost generality, for the motivation, mediate & immediate, wears a myriad masks, some fascinating & others horrifying. But the extremist is not the best example of any cult. It is not necessary for me to point out that the fetishes of bibliophilia are no more flagrant than those of any other sort of love, such as that for fishing or fox-hunting, for billiards or baseball; in fact, any good thing can be transformed into evil if stressed at the wrong time or place. What I wish to emphasize is that book-collecting can be an art & that there is a science of this art. In this book you will find the result of some practice of this art.

It is a fine art which periodically needs revival. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, D D, F S A, did a fine job in his time. John Hill Burton bore the banner nobly. A Edward Newton came to the aid of the party at a critical point. These are but instances, the true importance of their work is not here gauged, there are hosts of others who have done & will do their bits -even as you & I. Yes, we will stand up & cheer & we will fight, not for bibliomania but for bibliophilia. We belong to the very ancient & honorable fraternity of book-lovers. We will not succumb to any man's what or wherefore. Instead, we shall ever be alert to exhibit an how which we can always be proud.

The record & comment in the following chapters will be of great use to you as student, fellow collector & an intelligent bookman. May it serve to entertain, enlighten & inspire, directly through its own substance & indirectly through what it brings to you. But what I can wish for it is insignificant in face of that which it shall do of its own accord & purpose as an independent life with a will of its own -a legitimate offspring of bibliophily which can speak with its own voice & has no need for me to put words in its mouth. No mechanical toy, not an artificial birth, but a creation in conjunction with the gods. Welcome then this child, not of my brain, but sired by the universal intelligence. Into its body has been poured the life-blood of hundreds of great authors, who in turn have drawn their own vitality, each, from hundreds of mighty others. Finding a permanent home in your library this book will establish contact with your other books; together they will, assisted by unseen forces, attract not merely books but what will in many ways alter your life & future in the grand manner.

Books do have a large place in your affections, but they cannot hold the whole of it; yet theirs is a task which no other can accomplish, part of which is to preserve through the ages as ever-living that treasure of knowledge with its psychic concomitants which otherwise mankind would lack. Pause a moment; think how poor we should be without books! It is indeed well that there are guardians appointed to keep such treasures intact. But these same do more; they also see to it that the right book reaches the right person at the right time. They put that book in his hands; thenceforth it is up to him, as an entirely free agent, whether it shall be for good or for evil, for the book itself is completely unmoral. Be vigilant, therefore, quickly to grasp, whenever you meet any book, what it is meant to mean to you. Summon the whole affair up into the broad daylight of exact self-consciousness. Be not a puppet or a robot; let your whole soul be awake & active in the contact. Then the experience shall bear sane & healthy fruit to ripen perfectly & to provide for you spiritual nourishment of the most exalted grade.

Approach each new book positively, fortified with thought, feeling & volition of your own invention. Peer deeply into the roots of every phenomenon so that you may interpret it as a particular dealing of God with your soul. Seize the imponderable that has solidified. Seek that which can be found in all books because it was first conceived in the hearts of humanity & then by free expression given correct form by all eight & ninety rules of art. Thus speaks the humble author to the gentle reader, enigmatically, perhaps, but your own soul in a mysterious manner will make its own reply to mine, for we dwell under the same spell, our blood is signed with the same absolutely specific blazon. Join with me, then, if you please, in thanksgiving to all authors, makers & lovers-of-books, living or dead, human or not, who have contributed to the making of this particular book & every book, everywhere & for ever. Thanks to everything!

26 Dec 43