A Collector’s Story – Breaking the condition rule.

Collecting Lord Nelson and Emma Hamilton

In the beginning, I was a collector.

My collection reflected my interest in military strategy as initially I collected Civil War books, notes, maps etc. About the same time Julia and I were working on rebranding McLaren Marketing and in doing so I came across the famous depiction of Napoleon on horseback ascending the alps. This fine piece of work was used in the rebranding and combined with my keen interest in the strategy of war and marketing led me to become fascinated with Napoleon.

Julia, who hails from the West Midlands of England pointed out that “there was another side in that war you know and they won, why don’t you collect Nelson?”

I really did not have an answer, in fact one might say I was ‘gobsmacked’. I then did some thinking, and did some research on Nelson. The result was and the more I read the more interested I became about the man and his accomplishments. Given his rather risqué relationship with Emma Hamilton the battles on his home front make for most interesting“ story.” Nelson’s military accomplishments overshadowed this relationship at the highest political and military levels. Is it possible that Nelson rationalized his ‘affair’ with Emma as his desire and motivation to further his military success? Thus Nelson and subsequently Emma were added to my “serious” collecting interest in 2000.

Ten years and well over seventy Nelson and Emma items later the collection was quite mature.

2766 LR7

When one reads most “collecting tips” one of the tips at the top of the list is buy at the best condition possible (within your budget).  Better to have a small collection of superior quality books than a large collection of poorer quality. This tip is of course correct.

Today when I am asked about this collecting tip I certainly agree however, I do share another option.

When I was acquiring items for the Nelson and Emma I purchased Nelson and Emma books not in the best condition and more reasonably priced. I wanted a lot of “period” books dated in the early 1800’s but I also flirted with newer books with 1900 as a cut off publishing date. I liked the idea of having a large quantity of these books in my library covering various authors. I wanted more Nelson and Emma books than a few “high spots” of the very best. It was my money and my “rules” and I got what I wanted. Was this “wrong” Well, yes and no.

0777 LR44361_06_LR

It was wrong from a financial investment viewpoint of course. It was wrong in terms of have all “nice books” in my library. It was wrong perhaps in how much money was spent in total with books in various condition .

It was right however, from the viewpoint that I really did enjoy these books and having them in my library. I knew where these books were physically shelved in my library. Seldom did I pass these tombs that a smile crossed my face. These books made me feel good. It was right that in terms of spending money on a “hobby” that was very satisfying and I could enjoy personally. At this point I should point out this perspective is usually not shared by a collector’s spouse. But that’s another story.

The point I am really making here is that in the end, collecting is a very personal hobby and the collector makes the rules. Tips are of course important and helpful but when the focus becomes more on financial currency than emotional currency there becomes much less enjoyment I think. I did not want to look at my library and think and feel what a great investment these books are. Not that this is wrong in itself but I simply wanted to be able to enjoy the books on their own merit as they satisfied my collecting interest, style and approach. A selfish hobby, yes, it was for me.

Once I decided I would like to become a seller or dealer in books, maps, prints etc. my Nelson and Emma collection was considered “for sale” along with other items in my collection.

Many times I have been asked how could I sell my collection as I was a very passionate collector and very much enjoyed my collection. In my mind my collector role was simply “changing” in becoming a seller. Every collector knows they are just “holding” their collection for a certain time period and then they move on to other collectors in the cycle of collecting. The period quite often is years or even a lifetime. The time period can also be much shorter for whatever reason but while the items are in the collectors possession they are enjoyed. I thought of my collection time period as being a custodian, keeper or even curator. Some books I have from when I first started collecting. I also obtain new books in weekly. I sell or transfer the collection. This in fairness however is not collecting as I had done before. The truth of the matter is more accurate in my response to the question “do you still collect”? I smile for a few seconds and say yes I do. I collect collectors now and continue to smile.

If you are a collector, and have any interest in Lord Nelson or Emma you may wish to have a quick look at what is available at Lord Durham Rare books. Yes I am smiling when I ask this question because a number of Lord Nelson collectors have been helped and now enjoy owning some nice Nelson material. Enjoy!

PS: A Collectors Story will be a monthly feature of the Lord Durham Report. We are looking for any collector (Institutional, Library or Private) to share a story about your collecting journey. Please contact Julia (905.932.6616) the LDRB Editor or myself,  Duncan (905.680.8115) to discuss and please don’t be shy! We will work with you and help anyway we can. Care and Share with other collectors and think of this as a “virtual venue” to do that!

Duncan McLaren

Julia McLaren

© text  Lord Durham Rare Books, all rights reserved.

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