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 sea shells 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.
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Blom's gripping narration and bizarre cast of eccentrics, visionaries, and fanatics provide a fascinating glimpse into how a pastime becomes an all-consuming passion.From amassing sacred relics to collecting celebrity memorabilia, the impulse to hoard has gripped humankind throughout the centuries. But what is it that drives people to possess objects that have no conceivable use? To Have and To Hold is a captivating tour of collectors and their treasures from medieval times to the present, from a cabinet containing unicorn horns and a Tsar's collection of teeth to the macabre art of embalmer Dr. Frederick Ruysch, the fabled castle of William Randolph Hearst, and the truly preoccupied men who stockpile food wrappers and plastic cups. An engrossing story of the collector as bridegroom, deliriously, obsessively happy, wed to his possessions, till death do us part. About the Author:
Philipp Blom was born in Hamburg in 1970. After studying in Vienna and Oxford, he worked in publishing as a journalist and translator in London and Paris, where he now lives.
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