by Allison Hoover Bartlett
After many hours of interviews and research, Ms. Bartlett narrates the stories of book thief, John Charles Gilkey, and rare book seller, Ken Sanders, whose perseverance tracked Gilkey down. Throughout, this tale is a celebration of books and book lovers. Ms. Bartlett describes various kinds of book aficionados and seeks to discover what makes someone who loves books and collecting them, cross the line into thievery.
A reader will learn about the history of collecting books, some of the premier venues for finding rare books, and a little of the terminology of the hobby. It's a great read for anyone who loves books, rare or common.
I could just about smell and feel the books Ms Barlett describes. I'd love to see, for instance, an example of fore-edge painting, in which the gilt edge, when fanned just slightly opened, shows a painting of a scene from the book. Occasionally, this process is done twice, so that when fanned the other way, an alternate scene is portrayed.
I could picture easily the wooden fronts and backs and the various leather and linen covers. I could imagine the aisles of such books in the shops Ms Bartlett highlighted. Mmmm.
The book is filled with the personal stories of books sellers and books. The author draws the reader along on the main two courses, that of Gilkey's world of book theft and Sander's drive to discover the thief.
But Ms Bartlett also meanders into frequent anecdotes showing how both a love of books and the stories within books themselves have effected people throughout time. The book pleases on many levels.