What do you think of Titanic book collectors who don't read any of their books

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Jan 7, 2002
Mabey im over reacting here..I have friend who collects anything Titanic related..books, postcards, sheetmusic, etc, etc...
He has a vast bookshelf filled with first editions of the rarest Titanic books (shipbuildrs,Gracie,Thayer,Beesley,Bullock,etc..)

What i find annoying is that he has not read any of his Titanic books, and told me he never will...
He just wanted a floor to ceiling bookshelf packed with the rarest Titanic books-which he has, but he hasnt read any of them, except for the Lord and Winnicour books.....

He buys all the new Titanic books too, but never reads them..he just adds them to the collection.

Titanic book collectors who dont read their books really annoy me....

Sure his reading the Winnicour book enables him to read the material without having to handle his first edition Lightoller,Beesly and Gracie, but there are many other Titanic books he owns for which there was no reprint, and he has not even opened them since the day they were purchased.

Hes not alone...i have met a number of Titanic book collectors who never read their books.
Im proud to say ive read every Titanic book ive owned, multiple times...

They seem as anal retentive as those toy collectors who must have their toys in immaculate packaging......

Toys are meant to be played with, just as books are meant to be read...

If you get a Lightoller or Thayer or Shipbuilders book, READ the books, thats why they were written...
What do you all think?

For those with their own library of rare Titanic books-do you read your books, or do you colect them 'just to have them'?


Tarn Stephanos

Tom Pappas

I think it's none of my business what anyone else does, as long as it doesn't affect me or my family.

Your friend is a collector, not a reader. So what?
Jan 7, 2002
Very true..a person can do what they want with what they have..i suppose im trying to understand why some people collect books but never read them.
Im still very good friends with my buddy that does this-its just me as strange, thats all, and its a common thing with book collectors....

Im also an avid comic book collector..I have the entire DC and Marvel Horror genre run from the 60s up to the 90s..My comics are boarded and bagged, and in great shape..but i read them...

I have comic book collecting friends who dont read their comics, not ever.....i dont get it....

Ah well, to each his own...

Tarn Stephanos

Tracy Smith

Nov 5, 2000
South Carolina USA
I don't get it, either.

I'm with Tarn, here. I'm most definitely a reader first, and a collector, second. In light of this, I'm happy with cheap reprints and I don't need the rare first edition.

I'm thinking that those who don't read the books they collect might be buying them with the thought of future resale in mind, and thus, are most interested in keeping them in pristine, sellable condition.
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina
For myself, I buy to read. Information and points of view interest me, collecting for it's own sake does not. Having said that much, for collectable items, value accrues or depriciates depending on the condition of the item. If it's in really good shape, then the value increases. If it isn't, it goes down. In light of that, I can understand why a collector wouldn't read a part of his/her collection.

Why risk soiling the thing?
Dec 7, 2000
I think it depends on why you buy the book. I buy to read and to look at pictures. I think the book and the buyer have done the deed when the book was bought and used for a particular purpose. For example, "Anatomy of the Titanic" is useless to read, but is full of some very good photos. I bought that book just for the pictures. Other books I bought for their written content, and have read them.


PS. I *tried* to read Anatomy and realised there was no point.
Oct 13, 2000
since I am both a collector and a used book dealer who sells to collectors, I may have some insights into this subject. book buyers acquire books for a vast range of reasons. there are many people, like Tarn's friend, where the excitement is in the hunt. their goal is acquisition, and once they have the book they put it on a shelf and pretty much ignore it ever more. the pleasure of book collecting for them is in filling the holes in their collection.

there are plenty of people who buy books for the purpose of the information they hold. these are the collectors that are just as happy with a delapidated, ex-library copy if they can get it for a good price. the quality of the book itself is irrelevant, just as long as the text is complete.

then there are the serious collectors, those who will buy a book, but buy another different copy if the new copy is in better condition than the one they currently own. I have friends who have bought an upgrade copy of Rostron's book, for example, because it had a dust jacket, where their original copy did not.

finally there are the rabid collectors. these are people who not only want a book, but each different edition of a book. for instance I have three different editions of Peter Padfield's book, the first British, the first American, and the Quality Book Club versions.

very, very few collectors are buying for investment purposes. not that books don't increase in value, but the vagaries of what increases, and by how much is very difficult to judge. for the most part, unless you are willing to hold onto your books for quite a while (we're talking several decades), it is usually difficult to see any kind of serious return on your investment.

as for myself, I read all my books, but if I can get a cheap paperback version, I will read that one and leave the scarce first edition on the shelf. many titles are not available in modern reprints, however, and I read those too, but I am very gentle with them. I don't acquire books for investment purposes, but to own them. at the same time I am aware of the investment potential in keeping my books in the best condition that I can.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T
Jan 7, 2002
Very true Michael.
I too love the thrill of the hunt, but the true excitement for me is going home and reading the book, then adding it to my private library

I too was a a collector who had to have every variation of a Titanic book-

I had to have every edition of each book with its original dust jacket.

I wonder if your friend aquired my dust jacketed Rostron that I let go a few months ago?

I once had the red/purple British Beesley book, the American blue one and the 1929 reprint,
plus the maroon and rarer green colored Gracie, and at least 5 different color variations of the Alma White book etc..

And like you, i had the British,American and bookclub variations of the Padfield book...
Then i decided id weed down my collection, so i rid myself of all my Titanic fiction.

Then i decided to collect only first editions, so I did away with my reprints and duplicates.....

Then I decided id collect only pre 1970 Titanic books, so did away with most of my modern books....

Alas, i pruned too much, and need to regrow my collection.....

Well, alas my Titanic book collection is a shadow of its former self,but I will rebuild, and read each book before giving its resting place on my bookshelf.

I still have my Lightoller,Thayer,Young,Beesley,Gracie,etc, so i have a good start...

Michael, do you sell 1912 Titanic books as they pop up as well as contemporary ones?, if so, i may seek your services down the road as i try to rebuild my collection....

By the way, its always good to have duplicates of rare Titanic books to use to trade with other Titanic book collectors...but dig this, i know one Titanic collector with 12 original Olympic/Titanic Shipbuilders books...Thats just not right!!!


Tarn Stephanos
Oct 13, 2000
Tarn wrote: but dig this, i know one Titanic collector with 12 original Olympic/Titanic Shipbuilders books...Thats just not right!!!

gee, I would'a thunk 10 would be more than sufficient. ;-). seriously though, that seems a bit much, but to each their own I guess.

to answer your other question, I don't come across too many early books nowadays, but if I do get anything out of the ordinary, I will contact you privately about it and see if you are interested. if there are titles you are particularly wanting to reacquire, contact me privately about your wants and I will be glad to keep an eye out for them.

all the best, Michael (TheManInBlack) T

Scott R. Andrews

Hi Tarn,

"...Titanic book collectors who dont read their books really annoy me...."

Honestly, Titanic book collectors who don't read the book in their collections don't bother me very much. It's authors and researchers that don't read the books in their collections that really bug the heck out of me! ;-)

Seriously, I can understand both sides of the issue where old and rare books are concerned. I have a growing collection of books dealing with period marine engineering, naval architecture, practical shipbuilding and ship operation which I refer to regularly. Even though I bought them to enjoy reading them to and learn from them, there are times when I find myself feeling guilty for using them as "real" books. I probably shouldn't handle them nearly as much as I do, and I'm sure this would aggravate some serious collectors of technical books to no end.


Scott Andrews
Jun 4, 2000
Ditto on both points, Scott.

FWIW, count me as another of those who collects to read, rather than collects for the book in itself. While any copy will do me I have been known to 'upgrade' editions where the fancy (and current cash flow) takes me. I also have multiple copies of particular texts in different editions: the 1912 instant books and Alma White's charming little work (different colour covers, as mentioned by Tarn) are but two examples. However, this collecting has been more to chance than by plan, as I'd rather have a variety of different texts in my library.

I know people who collect books particularly based on edition and condition. I understand their requirements that the work collected be in pristine condition and their subsequent reluctance to lend out the works for reading - as they keep telling me, that's what cheap paperbacks are for.
While these people aren't Titaniacs, it's certainly allowed me to engage in the thrill of the hunt when I haven't been able to afford to do so on my own account. Likewise, they've done me favours too.

I think there's room enough in the world for all sorts of book collectors - but do agree with Mike T that 10 copies of The Shipbuilder would suffice for most... To each, their own, eh.
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