Tuesday, April 03, 2007

This Book Collector Refuses to Search on the Internet

When it comes to filling in the blanks of her collection of Samuel Beckett books, Alexa Garvoille is most certainly one of those book purists who enjoy the hunt as much as they enjoy actually possessing those missing volumes. Her refusal to use the internet in her book search has been recognized by the judges of the Adrian Van Sinderen Book Collecting Prizes as an admirable trait.

In 1957, banker and bibliophile Adrian Van Sinderen established two prizes to encourage undergraduates to collect books, build up their personal libraries and read for both pleasure and education. Every year, about 30 seniors and sophomores whose own collections pertain to specific authors or interests; are based on specific features such as editions, illustrations and bindings; or represent the beginning of a well-rounded library compete to win $1,000 or $700, respectively, in the hopes the money will be used to add to their portfolios. The 2007 winners will be honored at a private dinner tonight.
This year, the Van Sinderen prize pool teemed with literary sleuths (all women) and the judges decided to split the senior prize between Garvoille, whose bilingual Beckett array focuses on prose, poetry and plays in French and English, and Temidayo Olopade, for her works of contemporary writing of the "Black Atlantic" literary movement.
I have to applaud Garvoille's patience and effort because, as an amateur book hound of many years experience, I have seen first hand how it has become more and more difficult every year to make those unexpected little discoveries on the dusty shelves of used book stores that reward those of us who are still addicted as much to the chase as we are to the discovery. Here's hoping that she uses the prize money to add a few more treasures to her bookshelves.


  1. I guess I consider myself a reader, not a collecting reader, so I don't really understand this. To me, awarding someone prize money for book collecting without using the internet is akin to giving someone a prize for building a house without a hammer. Sure, there's something intriguing about accomplishing a task without using all the tools at your disposable, but I'd hardly go as far as saying it's admirable.

  2. I don't think she really got the prize for her search methods, John. The judges were more impressed with her collection than how she got it.

    But on that topic, I've found that the "thrill of the search" is still very important to me as a collector. The internet has taken some of the fun away from searching and I found it much more exciting when I used to walk into a used books store, familiar or unfamiliar to me, never knowing what to expect or what might turn up strictly by chance. I made some great finds in those days because booksellers were not always so aware of what they had as they are today. It was much easier to find real bargains before everything hit the net.

    That said, I do use the net to find books, but that's about as thrilling as shopping at my local Barnes & Noble.