Publisher description for To have and to hold : an intimate history of collectors and collecting / Philipp Blom.


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The cabinets of obsessive Renaissance collectors were filled with rhinoceros horns encrusted with rubies and jaws of gigantic fish, stuffed birds in the most extraordinary colors, and glorious seashells of all descriptions. Today's collectors amass everything from Picassos to Pez dispensers. But why? In To Have and to Hold, Philipp Blom explores the history of the collecting passion from the Renaissance to the present.

Every collected object, be it a matchbook or a martyr's fingernail, carries a meaning that transcends the object itself; it is a totem. Single-minded pursuit turns the collector into cultural anthropologist. For Alex Shear, his collection from the post-war period-from vintage radios, fallout shelters, and Jell-O boxes to elaborate hair drying contraptions, bobby pins, and Barbie dolls-preserves an age of innocence in the form of the familiar household items that served as the set props for the 1950s American Dream. Alex's Renaissance counterpart is King Rudolph II, whose collection of the art and exotica of his day (housed in his ever-expanding castle in Prague) was breathtaking in its complexity and sophistication, representing the magnificent profusion of the treasures of a world newly explored.

Out of this glittering diversity of material Blom distills the themes underlying this seemingly elusive passion: conquest and possession, chaos and memory, a void to be filled, and the awareness of our own mortality. What emerges is the story of the collector as bridegroom, deliriously, obsessively happy, wed to his possessions, till death do us part.


Library of Congress subject headings for this publication:
Collectors and collecting -- History.
Collectors and collecting -- Philosophy.
Collectors and collecting -- Social aspects.