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A Passion for Collecting: Decorating with your Favorite Objects    by Caroline Clifton-Mogg order for
Passion for Collecting
by Caroline Clifton-Mogg
Order:  USA  Can
Bulfinch, 2002 (2002)

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* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

'These are a few of my favorite things ...' But what do you do with them all once you identify and collect them? A Passion for Collecting is a gorgeous coffee table book full of examples and ideas that will encourage you to decorate with collectibles. The author discusses our collecting instincts, telling us that 'Collecting is about passion, about tracking down the perfect object to enhance your life ...', and even likening it to a contagious (and incurable) virus.

Are you a collector? This book identifies nine types, with a historical perspective on each (including some delightful eccentrics) and examples of displays of collections: Antiquarians, Explorers, Inheritors, Perfectionists, Naturalists, Utilitarians, Enthusiasts, Decorators and Miniaturists (I think I fall into the Explorers category myself, or perhaps I need to invent a new one called Eclectics!) We are told that 'Collections directly reveal the personalities behind them.'

There are some marvellous examples of collections, from the more obvious, like paintings, statuary, furniture and china, to the less, like weathervanes, coathangers, paint palettes, Samurai warriors, and even a large portion of a cowshed floor. Antiquarian collectors seem motivated by the 'romance of a lost, great civilization', Explorers by the pull of faraway places and Inheritors by a sense of tradition. The idea of a Utilitarian collection appeals to me but the size of objects (imagine a collection of bicycles) could be intimidating.

It is interesting to note that 'most of the great public collections across the world were originally formed through the drive and commitment of a single person or family', so that all of us who visit museums benefit from these past passions. Though I found the background on collections and collectors fascinating, I was most intrigued by the photographs (by Simon Upton) of how people display these objects. Vicente Wolf is quoted as saying that 'three is a collection - two is just stuff'. Groupings of items and themes are important, but combinations can work well also, like that of antique furniture with contemporary art.

Bibliomania is discussed, with a quote from Osbert Sitwell that 'no gentleman can be without three copies of a book, one for show, one for use, and one for borrowers' (apparently he filled eight houses with books). I find I am more in sympathy with the bibliophiles whose volumes end up stacked all over the house than with the collector who shelves them color coordinated, but chacun à son gout.

I could go on for much too long about this lovely book. If you're like me and have been wondering how to make attractive displays of a hodgepodge of collectibles, then this is the book for you, full of ideas on how to make your collections into 'design statements'. It also makes the perfect gift for any collector who wants to experiment with design or vice versa.

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