Corner View: Collections

Jane at Spain Daily has a weekly theme upon which we all write from our corner of the world. It is called Corner View and this week’s theme is “Collections.” Please be sure to check out her entry and the links to all the others!

I am a failure at collecting things. I think it’s because I am ambivalent about the whole enterprise. I’ve tried my hand at several collections. Richard Brautigan books was a favorite collection-hunting item for a long while. His books are out of print and the older ones are truly rare finds. I haunted bookstores and spent hours browsing with an eye to getting that next one in the list. I found one in Confederate Books in Quito Ecuador of all places. Though not surprisingly because Quito is a good hippie hangout place and Brautigan is a great ex-hippie. I found a bunch more at Mandala Books in Daytona Beach, a super-duper old bookstore, which unfortunately closed two weeks ago after thirty years of happy dusty book stacks near the beach. Visiting City Lights Books in Brautigan’s old stomping grounds was a thrill, but being the epicenter for Beats and their first generation offspring such as Brautigan, all their books were of course scooped up, and I found nothing there except lost history.

I reached about 80% of all the Brautigan books I’d ever hoped to find, and I read them all. I re-read them and then I looked at them a lot. Then, just as suddenly, the urge was gone and I gave them all away to a very happy ex-hippie.

Next I tried my hand at rare books. I having attended the 1999 Paper and Book Intensive at Haystack Mountain in Maine, and I learned how to work with leather, gild edges, marble paper, and tree calf, I was all about the old book. At a rare and antique book show in Portland I found the famed naturalist and illustrator George Sowerby’s “Popular British Conchology” and Mary Roberts’ “The Mollusca.” I was collecting shells then and the books seemed like a natural fit overlapping several of my hobbies. I also found a wonderful example of a tree-calf covered book in Scott’s Poems and the best part was that I actually like the contents of the book as well as the exterior adornment, lol.

 Far above, two inside hand-marbled covers from Conchology and Mollusca. Above, Scott’s Poems with tree calf cover. But alas, collecting those three rare books was the extent of my foray into the rare books world. It’s a very expensive hobby. As for the shells, I had assiduously collected them from every sea I visited, and for a while, there were a lot of oceans to dip my toe into. I lived on a sailboat and when I wasn’t on the boat I was traveling by any other means to every ocean I could find. I’ve collected from the North Sea above Scotland, Red Bay near Labrador, Adriatic, Mediterranean, Atlantic, Pacific, Gulf of Mexico, River Thames, Bahamian Sea…shells were a great way to remember where I’d been, were small enough to tuck in a pocket and not have to declare duty on, and were worthy of study later. I cataloged them examined them, learned about them, and admired them. Then I gave them all away to kids who were interested.

As a kid, I loved to eat pastina with broth my Nonnie gave me from a pink, cunningly designed bowl that was as pleasing to my eye as the food was to my tummy. When I grew up I determined to find those same bowls and get me a few. Turns out, they were original Fiestaware, and were not only hard to find, but expensive. Why do I have to go for the expensive collections? Anyway, I did search for a few years and occasionally I bought one or two dishes and bowls when they crossed my path. In the end I had quite a nice collection of saucers, mugs, bowls and plates, all in those vibrant colors Fiesta was so famous for. Then just as abruptly, I gave them all away, except for the mugs, which I had forgotten about and had left in the cupboard.

 

 I guess the upshot is, if you want to have a real nice collection, follow me around. As I throw off ballast you might get lucky.

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