The Eye, the Mind, and the Imagination: The Collectors of the Lilly Library
A special collections library such as Indiana University’s Lilly Library is a collection of collections. Our newly-renovated walls contain within them the legacy of generations of book collectors who came before us.
In his entry on book collecting in the 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, A. W. Pollard wrote that to attract a collector, a book must appeal to the eye, the mind, or the imagination. Collecting often begins with the eye—drawn to a beautiful gilt-stamped binding, an exquisitely engraved illustration, or elegant typography and page design. Looking with the eye activates the mind, and collectors often go to great lengths to research the books that interest them and become experts in the areas of history, literature, and science that they collect, as well as learning about the techniques that went into printing, binding, buying, and selling the books themselves. Finally, books appeal to the imagination—they take us places we can never go and show us things we can never see.
In this exhibition you will find books that can take you on a journey back to the middle ages, into the gaslit streets of Victorian London, or on an adventure with Agent 007. Book collecting activates our curiosity and our sense of wonder with the books that delighted us as children, recipes from centuries past, documents that altered history, and even books so tiny they take our breath away.