Gustave Flaubert’s ‘Bibliomania’

One never knows what he’ll find when haunting the shelves of a used bookshop. This volume jumped off the shelf at me, and for good reason. It had found an appropriate owner (think Gollum happening upon the ring).

Flaubert later in life enjoyed a healthy bow tie.

A fourteen year old Gustave Flaubert read of Spanish monk Don Vincente who burned down a rival bibliophile’s home, killing the rival, in order to secure the only known copy of a valued volume. His lawyer found a second copy, previously unknown, as evidence to exonerate his client. Vincente, who cared only for the book, not his acquittal, cried out in court, “Alas, alas! My copy is not unique!.” His exclamation amounted to an in-court spontaneous confession. He was executed for his crime of bibliomania forthwith.

The young Flaubert based this short story on the true crime case. It’s a fun story for the very premise of it, as well as for passages like the one captured in picture below. Bibliomaniacs will appreciate it.

This volume was published by Rodale in 1954, printed and bound for them in England by Mackays of Chatham. Its former owner was not worthy of the book as he surrendered it. It shall not leave my grasp.

Cover, decorative paper over boards

Endpapers with facsimile of Flaubert’s original manuscript

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