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9780691033617

Collecting An Unruly Passion * Psychological Perspectives (Princeton Legacy Library)

Muensterberger, Werner

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From rare books, valuable sculpture and paintings, the relics of saints, and porcelain and other precious items, through stamps, textiles, military ribbons, and shells, to baseball cards, teddy bears, and mugs, an amazing variety of objects have engaged and even obsessed collectors through the ages. With this captivating book the psychoanalyst Werner Muensterberger provides the first extensive psychological examination of the emotional sources of the never-ending longing for yet another collectible. Muensterberger's roster of driven acquisition-hunters includes the dedicated, the serious, and the infatuated, whose chronic restlessness can be curbed--and then merely temporarily--only by purchasing, discovering, receiving, or even stealing a new "find." In an easy, conversational style, the author discusses the eccentricities of heads of state, literary figures, artists, and psychoanalytic patients, all possessed by a need for magic relief from despair and helplessness--and for the self-healing implied in the phrase "I can't live without it!" The sketches here are diverse indeed: Walter Benjamin, Mario Praz, Catherine the Great, Poggio Bracciolini, Brunelleschi, and Jean de Berry, among others.


The central part of the work explores in detail the personal circumstances and life history of three individuals: a contemporary collector, Martin G; the celebrated British book and manuscript collector Sir Thomas Phillipps, who wanted one copy of every book in the world; and the great French novelist Honoré de Balzac, a compulsive collector of bric-a-brac who expressed his empathy for the acquisitive passions of his collector protagonist in Cousin Pons. In addition, Muensterberger takes the reader on a charming tour of collecting in the Renaissance and looks at collecting during the Golden Age of Holland, in the seventeenth century. Throughout, we enjoy the author's elegant variations on a complicated theme, stated, much too simply, by John Steinbeck: "I guess the truth is that I simply like junk."


Originally published in 1993.


The Princeton Legacy Library uses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.


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Product Description:

From rare books, valuable sculpture and paintings, the relics of saints, porcelain and other objets d'art, to stamps, textiles, military ribbons and shells, an amazing variety of objects have engaged and even obsessed collectors through the ages. This is a psychological examination of the emotional sources of the never-ending longing for yet another collectible. The author discusses the eccentricities of heads of state, literary figures, artists and psychoanalytic patients, all possessed by a need for relief from despair and helplessness. The central part of the work explores in detail the personal circumstances and life history of three individuals: a contemporary collector, Martin G., the celebrated British book and manuscript collector Sir Thomas Phillipps, who wanted one copy of every book in the world, and the great French novelist Honore de Balzac, a compulsive collector of bric-a-brac.

About the Author:

Dr. Werner Muensterberger (born 1913 in Germany), is a collector of African art, a psychoanalyst and an ethnopsychiatrist. As a youngster, certain collectors, including his kinsman, Eduard von der Heydt, introduced him to ethnographic art. After immigrating to the United States in 1947, with $100 and two African sculptures, one a Guru mask, Muensterberger continued to collect African art, practice psychoanalysis and taught ethnopsychiatry. Returning to the U.S. in 1985, from London where he had "retired" in 1974, Muensterberger reopened his private practice. Muensterberger has written books and articles on ethnographic art, including Collecting: An Unruly Passion (1994). This article contains photographs of certain African sculptures in Muensterberger's collection, most notably the Guru mask, and is followed by some Thoughts on Collecting, a dialogue between the article's author and Muensterberger.

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