Bibliomania..are you obsessed with collecting books that you will never read?

“One day I will read all these books and then I will be great.. The problem is that this day has not come yet.”

(Dr. Ahmed Khaled Tawfik, burnable scraps)

Do you feel excited when you buy a new book? OK, but are you actually reading it or is it taking its place in a shelf full of books you felt attracted to but didn’t find time to read? If the matter is limited to a shelf of books or perhaps two, it is still normal, but there are those who have been so eager to collect books and different titles that the matter has turned into a kind of pathological obsession.

Obsession with collecting books or bibliumania

In the nineteenth century, the English priest Thomas Frognal Dibden wrote about a disorder from which he personally suffered. And large paper copies. According to Dibden, the “book plague” reached its climax in Paris and London after the French Revolution in 1789, and confirmed that it was a fatal disaster and a disease that afflicts writers, and attacks males in particular, from the upper and middle classes, leaving the lower classes in peace. (1)

The term was repeated about two centuries ago, then, to refer to the obsession with collecting books with a number that it is almost certain that its owner will not be able to read it. every other desire.

To date, this obsession with collecting books has not been classified as a mental disorder recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders issued by the American Psychiatric Association, although it is a symptom of some obsessive-compulsive disorders, and in some people it may lead to the breakdown of personal relationships or damage to their health. Dr. Norman Weiner wrote a paper on book collecting in the Psychoanalytic Quarterly in 1966, noting that it was ignored by psychoanalysts, and he cited a case indicating that it is a hobby of some people with obsession with collecting books to relieve anxiety (2).

A few decades later, Ruth Furmank, in his 1994 book Interpreting Objects and Collections, published an empirical survey of the motivations of different book collectors, surveying 167 people including students, university faculty, and art dealers. Feeling of excitement, and participants mentioned among the reasons the accumulation of knowledge, financial investment and a feeling of challenge, while some said reasons such as addiction, obsession and compulsion, and the author saw that it represents for some people compulsive behavior. (3)

History Obsession

book collection

Throughout history, many societies have linked the status of the individual with the knowledge he possesses, and it seems that the matter has gradually been linked to the books he owned by dependence. The great historian Ahmed Al-Maqri Al-Telmisani mentions in the book “Naffh Al-Tayyib from the Wet Branch of Andalusia” how the people of Andalusia were the Arabs who took the most care of books. The acquisition of books was a sign of pride for the Andalusians, and the owners of the bookshops had a prominent position that prompted some of those who did not read who wanted to gain power to set up libraries in their homes for no reason other than to become the talk of the people because they collected rare collections of books that no one else owns.

We are talking here about the era before the invention of printing, as copies were indeed rare, and obtaining them meant making great effort and money, of course. It was said about the people of Andalusia that one of them used to go out with money to buy food, so he encounters a book and forgets about food and buys the book and returns without food for his children, Forsaking or selling books was a disgrace like a knight giving up his sword. (4)

With the invention of printing in 1440, the possession of copies of books became somewhat easier, to show in Europe the hobby of collecting books and obsession with them in a more different way. Auctions were held to sell their property in the presence of the wealthy, and among those holdings were huge collections of rare books.

At auctions the prices of books soared imaginatively, and it seemed that this pursuit of collecting them was not motivated by reading them. English writer Thomas de Quincey describes in his memoirs “Confessions of an English Opium Eater” what happened in one of the auctions, and how exaggerated The rich in the price of books were driven by “whim” and “feelings” and not reason. (5)

An obsession that cost some people their lives


In Europe in the nineteenth century, turmoil was a dreadful disease, and most of those who suffered from it were upper-class men, and the fear of it was due to the belief that it could cause its victims to perish in their pursuit of unique copies of books, as well as that many of those who suffered from it They were spending exorbitant fortunes trying to get books. (6)

Once upon a time, hoarding a huge number of books was already dangerous for several reasons; Heaps of books mean that the daily routine of cleaning the house will be disrupted, and since they are not used, they attract mice and termites, and if we are talking about a person who is obsessed, he will not bother taking care of books, his only concern is their possession, and finally the danger of being burned is present, humans have lived Centuries before the invention of electricity, they suffered from this problem, and the habit of reading at night was really expensive, as it easily meant that someone could fall asleep and start a fire from the candle flame to devour the whole house, and the danger is greater if it is stacked with a lot of paper. (7)

And these were not the only dangers. In 1869, the Bavarian theologian Alois Bechler was appointed “librarian” in the Imperial Public Library in Saint Petersburg, Russia, a prestigious position with a large salary, and after a few months the library staff noticed the disappearance of a large number of books from Their collection, Pichler’s strange behavior also caught their attention, and in 1871 they found more than 4,500 titles missing from Pichler’s library.

Bechler committed the largest recorded theft of books from a European library, and after his arrest and during the trial, the defense tried to assert that he was suffering from a strange mental condition, a type of mania not in a legal or medical sense as the defense stated, Bechler was a victim of obsession with collecting books, and he was punished with exile to Siberia. (8)

New Nerds

In more recent times, and among the most famous writers, the specter of the obsession with collecting books appeared in the libraries of the most famous authors; The British writer Virginia Woolf had in her personal library about 4,000 titles, and the American writer Ernest Hemingway bought about 200 books a year, and so after his death he found in his library in Cuba nearly 9,000 volumes, as well as what was contained in the library of his other home in Key West, USA. United.(9)

The American writer Ernest Hemingway used to buy two hundred books a month
The American writer Ernest Hemingway used to buy two hundred books a month

The phenomenon of theft and crime among people with this disorder did not disappear either. In 1991, an American man from Iowa, Stephen Bloomberg, was standing in the courtroom, convicted of stealing more than 23,600 books worth more than five million US dollars. The books weighed 19 tons, and it took Bloomberg more than 20 years to steal from different states.

Bloomberg became the most famous thief of the century, and in his defense psychiatrist Dr. William S. Logan that Bloomberg suffered from compulsive behavior and delusions of schizophrenia, and that this was the reason for the book obsession, Bloomberg believed that he was saving books from destruction by stealing them, and he believed that the government would not make books available to the public, so he sought to take over and collect copies himself, however, he lost Sentenced to 71 months in prison and a $200,000 fine, he was released in December 1995, but he did not stop stealing to return to courtrooms again in 1997, not the last time. (10) – (11)

Tosundoku or Blomania… Are you obsessed with collecting books?

As for the eastern side of the world, a culture appeared that has a degree of resemblance to Peloponnesia. In 1879 the word “tsundoku” appeared for the first time in Japan, and it came from two parts: “doku” means “to read” and “tsun” means “reading.” “Stacked”, and “Tsundoku” means accumulating a huge number of books to read later, and it differs in its meaning from bibliomania in that Tsundoku geeks actually have the intention of reading books, but they do not read them, perhaps due to lack of time or any other reason, and therefore it is possible to imagine a topic that collects titles The book piled up and betrayed the desire of its owner. (12)

Tsundoku means collecting books that you are really interested in reading but do not have time for, so you are satisfied with the ecstasy of owning books.
Tsundoku means collecting books that you are really interested in reading but do not have time for, so you are satisfied with the ecstasy of owning books.

Bibliomania, on the contrary, refers to an overwhelming desire to collect books by themselves, and therefore the reader of their titles can be surprised because there is nothing in common between them, and what is more strange is that he may find two copies of one title, and people with bibliumania collect books that do not represent them of value, They let it pile up more than it could hold, some of the sufferers were living in the kitchen after the whole house was filled with books.

Therefore, advanced levels of bibliomania need treatment, and specialists prescribe similar drugs recommended for compulsive disorders in general, along with cognitive behavioral therapy, which is more beneficial, and generally includes psychological therapies designed for book obsessives to practice goal setting and achieving them over time and with slow exercise.

As for “Tsundoku”, it refers to a desire for knowledge, and buying more books relieves the owner’s guilt, considering that you are taking a step on the road, and that you are preparing it to be waiting for you when you decide to start, which makes you feel ecstatic when buying every new book, and it does not It bears any stigma and does not require treatment.(13) On the other hand, with the accumulation of important and unread books in their library, a person may feel pressure, perhaps depressing, because there are so many unfinished tasks.

To organize a tsundoku, start by setting a limit on the purchase of books, for example, three books per month, especially that people who are interested in tsundoku love new books and pay attention to them very much, so determining the monthly number can be useful, as well as monitor your accumulation of books, and if a book remains in your library for a period Long, for example 3-6 months, this means that there is an opportunity to donate it or maybe resell it again.



  1. Bookshelf avalanche? Confessions of a bibliomaniac
  2. On the psychodynamics of collecting
  3. Hooked and Booked
  4. Bibliomania: the madness of books in Andalusia
  5. Bibliomania: the strange history of compulsive book buying
  6. Bibliomanía, la oscura “enfermedad del libro” que surgió en la Europa del siglo XIX
  7. 10 Things You May Not Know About Bibliomania
  8. Bibliomanía, la oscura “enfermedad del libro” que surgió en la Europa del siglo XIX
  9. ¿Eres un maestro del tsundoku sin saberlo? (estás en buena compañía)
  10. In the pantheon of book thieves
  11. Bibliomania Day
  12. Bibliomanía, la oscura “enfermedad del libro” que surgió en la Europa del siglo XIX
  13. Hooked and Booked