Our Orphan Collection

At the end of an aisle in the DLWA Library

Go to many rare book, book collector, shops or web sites and you will see grading guides that will instruct the prospective collector in the fine art of judging a book by its cover. You are encouraged to look for books that are in immaculate condition and still in their original dust jacket. Beware of the book that looks like it has been read or opened. High premium prices are often asked for books still sealed in their original plastic wrapping (so much for reading the contents!). Collectors of this type remind me of the the description by Thomas Frognall Dibdin in his book Bibliomania or Book-madness : a bibliographical romance … as true bibliomaniacs. Dibdin quotes Peignot’s definition of Bibliomania as:

“a passion for possessing books; not so much to be instructed by them, as to gratify the eye by looking at them. He who is affected by this mania knows books only by their titles and dates, and is rather seduced by the exterior then interior.1

Both the symptoms and cure of this disease are succinctly described in Dibdin’s postscript, and, to my never ending amazement, I have seen all of these symptoms while building out our collection.

Dibdin’s Postscript2

Our library actively rejects traveling down the path of bibliomania and all the modern incarnations that describe this malady today. Rather we take the the perspective quoted by Nicholas A. Basbanes in A gentle madness : bibliophiles, bibliomanes, and the eternal passion for books:

Our Orphan Collection –

is composed entirely of perfectly wonderful books that have been discarded over the years by various libraries as either out of scope or out of fashion, and therefor have been deemed expendable. Because all are ex libris volumes, each one bears a bookplate indicating prior ownership at one institution or another [or some other owner], and all have the notation “withdrawn” or “discard” stamped or written inside. It is the library equivalent of going to the animal pound and giving a stray dog faced with an uncertain future a fresh lease on life.3

We are very pleased to provide a home for volumes that have been discarded by some of the worlds best libraries and collections.

DLWA Call Number: Z992 .D541 1876
Worldcat: Link

  • Title: A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books
  • Author: Thomas Frognall Dibdin
  • Language: English
  • Setting: book collecting

DLWA Call Number: Z992 .B34 1999
Amazon.com: Link

  • Title: A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books
  • Author: Nicholas A. Basbanes
  • ISBN: 0805036539 (ISBN13: 978-0805036534)
  • Language: English
  • Setting: book collecting
  • Literary awards: finalist for the 1995 National Book Critics Circle award


  1. Thomas Frognall Dibdin, 1876 Bibliomania or Book-madness : a bibliographical romance … supplement p. 43-44.
  2. ibid. p. 64
  3. Nicholas A. Basbanes, A Gentle Madness p. 11.