Walter Benjamin on collecting

This blog isn’t so much about specific collections as it is about collectors and collecting. The single most famous text on collecting ever written is perhaps Walter Benjamin‘s only 10 pages long essay “Unpacking my library”, published in “Illuminations” — in which Benjamin talks about collecting books and what it means to be a collector.

“Every passion,” Benjamin says, “borders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion borders on the chaos of memories.” He describes collectors as “physiognomists of the world of objects” that by acquiring objects locks them within a magic circle, the private collection, and as “interpreters of fate” — because the true collector not only sees a plain material object, be it a book or otherwise. He or she sees an object with a past. He or she sees a history. This book or this painting has had previous owners, it has traveled through time and space — and it has now been renewed by becoming part of the collection.

Within the collector’s magic circle an old and for most people worthless postcard stops being just and old and worthless postcard. For instance. Or an old doll. Or a stone, or a movie poster. It is infused with new life — being a cherished possession.

In this blog I hope to be able to interview collectors from all around, and I hope to be able to bring essays on different aspects of collecting. If you are a collector yourself, and if you would like to contribute, please do not hesitate to contact me.

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