Bibliomania (Gr. βιβλίov, book, and uavia, madness), a term first introduced by Dr. Dib-din to denote a rage for possessing rare and curious books. The bibliomaniac proceeds according to certain principles, but, being a lover of books rather than of knowledge, attaches himself to accidental rather than essential qualities, and spends a fortune for works the contents of which he might obtain for a few dollars. The specialty which gives value to a book may be its age or rarity, the vicissitudes through which it has passed, or the fact of its having issued from a particular publishing house. It may be a handsome and peculiar binding, fanciful typography, the circumstance that it has belonged to some eminent personage, possessing perhaps an autograph or marginal notes, or that the purchaser desires it to swell a collection in some particular department of literature. Bibliomania originated in Holland near the close of the 17th century, and passed thence into England, where it has held its principal scat, though it has more recently become to some extent a passion in France and in the United States. Numerous collections have been made of the editions of the Bible, of which the most complete is in the British museum, though rivalled by that of Mr. James Lenox of New York; of editions of the classics in usum Delphini and cum nolia variorum; of first editions of the classics (editiones principes), and of many books which appeared in the infancy of typography (incunabula); of Bipont editions, and those cited by the academy della Crusca; of the "Republics" of the Elzevirs; and works printed by Aldus, Comino of Padua, Bodoni, Mutt,lire, Foulis, Barbou, and Baskerville. In France the jest books, burlesque treatises, and macaronic poems of the 10th century, which proceeded from the school of Merlin Coccaie and Rabelais, have been much sought after by bibliomaniacs.
The bindings on which the highest prices are set in France are those of Derosne, Padeloup, Simier, and Thouvenin; and in England, those of Charles Lewis and Roger Payne. The most extraordinary prices are paid for splendid old editions, copies with a likeness of the author and painted initial letters, impressions upon parchment, morocco, paper furnished with a broad margin, or upon asbestus, printed with letters of gold or silver, or having all the text set in an impression of copper. The material is more highly esteemed if tinted rose color, blue, yellow, or green. The library of Lord Spencer, in England, contained an .AEschylus of the Glasgow edition of 1795, the binding of which alone cost £16 7*. sterling. The binding of Macklin's Bible, in four volumes, cost 75 guineas; and that of Boydell's large edition of Shakespeare, in nine volumes, cost £132 sterling. The London bookseller Jeffrey had a volume of the "History of James II," by Fox, bound in fox skin, in allusion to the name of the author; and the capricious bibliomaniac Askew is said to have pushed his madness even to having a book bound in human skin, that he might possess an entirely unique volume.
The edges of books have sometimes been adorned with beautiful.pictures. Books formerly were often bound in copper, silver, or gold leaf, and embellished with precious stones. It is not unfrequently a passion of men to obtain an extensive library in some particular department, or a complete set of the editions of some favorite author. Thus, Boulard spent a fortune in pursuit of the editions of Racine; a professor in a university is mentioned who passed his lite in collecting obscene books; and So-leinnea made a library of all the dramatic pieces that have ever appeared on any stage. He searched tor new pieces with painful anxiety, purchasing a mass of books in languages which he could not read. A certain Frenchman purchased at exorbitant prices all astronomical books that he could find, though he did not understand a word of that science. Bibliomaniacs are the principal purchasers in the great antiquarian book auctions which are occasionally held in London and Paris. The Mazarin Bible, supposed to have been printed in 1455, was sold in 1827 for £504. A gentleman of New York has obtained a copy of this work at an expense of $2,500. Alcuin's MS. Bible, which was made for Charlemagne, was purchased by the British museum for £750. At the sale of Cardinal Lomenie's library in Paris 3,300 livres were given for a copy of the Grammatica Rhyihmica, in folio, printed in 1466 by Faust and Schofter. A copy of Virgil, printed by Sweynheym and Pannartz in 1469, brought 4,101 livres.
Dr. Dibdin mentions that 500 guineas were offered for a Livy printed by Vin-delin de Spira in 1470, "a most extraordinary copy, bound in three volumes, in foreign coarse vellum." One of the most memorable competitions for bibliographic treasures occurred at the sale of the duke of Roxburgh's library, in London, in 1812. A copy of the first edition of the "Decameron," published by Valdarfer at Venice in 1471, was sold for the immense price of £2,260. An illuminated missal, executed for the duke of Bedford in the reign of Henry VI., was sold in 1786 for £203, in 1815 for £637, and in 1833 for £1,100. Eliot's Indian Bible sold in New York in 1857 for $200, and 18 numbers of Franklin's "Poor Richard's Almanack" for $12 per number. The most expensive single work in the United States is a copy of De Bry's "Voyages." The bibliomaniac forms the subject of the 13th chapter of the Caracteres of La Bruvere, and Dr. Dibdin has published a volume entitled "Bibliomania, or Book-Madness."