Go to the Globe and Mail homepage

Jump to main navigationJump to main content

Facts & Arguments

I'm a royal bibliomaniac Add to ...

I stood before the bookshelves in my den, pushing and squeezing to no avail. The book simply wasn't going to fit.

I searched elsewhere, trying to see if there were other spaces. But books stood tightly wedged in those potential spots. I looked at one of them, a biography of Queen Victoria from 1901, and weighed it against the value of the glossy one about royal transportation in my hand. I'd never actually read the Queen Victoria book but its age gave me pseudo bragging rights whenever anyone questioned the value of my collection. No, I couldn't part with it. Royal Transport would have to find a home somewhere else.

I never thought I had a problem. I didn't know bibliomania existed. I just thought collecting books was normal. Who doesn't like to read? It's not like I collect potato chips shaped like Elvis, or Victorian funeral burial slippers.

According to my Internet self-diagnosis, bibliomania is the obsessive purchasing or collecting of books that have no great value to a genuine book collector. Scanning my bookshelves it's as if the term was invented just for me.

It all started when Prince William was born in 1982. I bought my first royal book and it ignited an obsession. I couldn't get enough of the subject. I would scour used bookstores, enjoying the thrill of the chase, delighting at the treasures that lay unappreciated in dusty corners.

But it didn't last long. After a while, I could look at the shelves and say to myself, own it, have it, own it, have it. I'm sure I have cleared certain stores out of their stock, and nowadays I often walk out empty handed. Now that I can shop online, many hours of footwork have been saved with the click of a button.

With Diana, Princess of Wales, my collection increased. There are dozens on my shelves about her alone. Books on her royal wedding, fashions, ancestry, travels, life as a mother, tell-alls by former staff and glowing posthumous tribute books.

Follow Facts & Arguments on Twitter



I can't help that she was the most fascinating and photogenic person in the family. And the royals are a handsome lot, so this was significant. She smiled and physically touched people without wearing gloves, no minor point either.

She made duty look glamorous and royalty look human. People loved it and this inspired many books of varying degrees of accuracy. If there is a book about her I probably own it. Filed away in my mental Rolodex I now know more about her than is normal; if you're ever on a game show and need to know Diana's favourite perfume and nail-polish colour, I'm the woman you need as your lifeline.

Although I've never counted them all, I estimate there are about 400 books in my collection. I have more than one copy of the same book, but that's only because I don't remember all of the ones I own.

Join the Facts & Arguments Facebook group

My collection is diverse. A book about the history of royal confinements is jammed next to a biography of the late Queen Mother. Princess Anne's book about equestrianism squishes a book on the royal tour of 1959. A fawning book about Charles and Diana's marriage snuggles ironically beside Diana: Her True Story . The Idiot's and Dummies guides to British royalty stand together for comparison purposes.

What began with books about Prince William grew to include an interest in objets d'art from the royal collection and the royal houses of Sweden, Denmark, Norway and the Netherlands. I love reading about the provenance of jewels, observing the fine details of a royal wedding dress or looking at photographs of the family during Queen Victoria's reign.

As my collection has grown I've started to run out of space. I've had to become more discerning in my purchases. I'm no longer swayed by Prince Charles having written the foreword to a book I have no interest in reading.

But there are always temptations. Royal weddings, deaths, coronations and anniversaries all inspire new books. In stores I grit my teeth when I see volumes I paid full price for significantly discounted. I steel myself to new releases, especially if they're similar to books I already own. It's only a matter of time before they wind up on the bargain table.

Subscribe to the Facts & Arguments podcast on iTunes

My husband tried to make a deal with me: For every new book I buy I need to get rid of one. I never agreed to that. Even if I had I just don't have the heart. If I can fit the book I don't have to get rid of another one.

So my eye travelled along the shelf. I stopped at a book by Prince Charles on sustainable agricultural farming. Had my hobby gotten that far out of hand? Still, it hurt to pull the book off the shelf; it was like admitting defeat. What if I want to know his views on couch grass?

I decided to deal with that when the moment arrived and slid Royal Transport into its place. I stood back, satisfied for the moment. Then I turned and looked at the pile on the floor. I needed to find a home for the other 10 books I had recently bought online.

Marilyn Braun lives in Ontario and blogs at www.marilynsroyalblog.blogspot.com.

Illustration by Peter Mitchell.

 

In the know

Most popular video »

Highlights

More from The Globe and Mail

Most Popular Stories