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A Collector's Portrait










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Le collectionneur.


3 1924 031 034 923

The original of tiiis book is in
tine Cornell University Library.

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A Collector's Portrait



A Collector's Portrait

Translated from the French of

Louis Judicis, by E. F. Kunz.

Mar^nal Illustrations by

Frank A. Nankivell.




copyrig-ht 1903
By The Literary Collector Press


To My Old Friend
Colonel V

Aegrotans aegrotanti,
caecus unoculo.

My dear Colonel :

Your sister, Madame M , who knows

your terrible temper, has challenged me to dedi-
cate this little book to you.

I risk it.

But do not bite off your beautiful moustache,
s bleu !


Antiquity of the Collecting Mania.

How One Becomes a Collector.


Physical and Moral Portrait of the



Varieties of the Genus Collector.

The Collector of Old Books.



'npHE first collector of whom his-
tory makes mention is Noah. I
mention this patriarch, however, only
as a suggestion; it has not been
proved, indeed, that in assembling in
the ark a pair of all known animals
he had as sole aim the creation of a
zoological museum. But no one will
dispute that the collecting mania was
the favorite passion, — if I may say so,
the hobby, — of the Egyptians. Were

they not given to the fad of ancestor
collecting? Not only ugly dolls of
wax, like those that were later to
be found piled up in the patrician
cabinets of Rome :

Huraeroque minorem

Corvinuni, et Galbam auriculis

nasoque carentem;

but real personages, human beings
who had lived, who had laughed, who
had w^ept, who had loved. And these
sacred relics, properly varnished,
swaddled and tied up, in their cases
of sycamore, passed on to the state
of household goods and figured
very properly in a legal stock-taking.
Herodotus affirms that in an urgent
case their proprietors did not hesitate
to take them to a pawnshop. Who
knows but that we may find in the

tomb of some usurer contemporary
with the Pharaohs a papyrus note-
book bearing an item of this kind :
"Lent to surveyor Metmoses one
thousand Theban shekels on the
body of his grandfather, somewhat

Another African people, the Car-
thaginians, also had the collecting
mania. It is certain that after the
battle of Cannee Hannibal gathered
the gold rings of Roman knights left
on the field and filled three Attic
medimns with them, — these w^ere the
dekalitres of the time. The glorious
trophies were buried afterward under
the ruins of Carthage. Now and
then the Arabs find some of them and
make ear-rings of them. One of my
friends, a Turkish cavalryman, clever

in argument, bought one of these
heroic relics from a Jew of Constan-
tine; he will die in the persuasion
that he possesses the signet-rings of
v^milius Paulus and Terentius Varro.
It w^as only a little later that the
love of collecting spread among the
Romans ; but from the very beginning
it manifested itself with remarkable
intensity. What a furious collector
was Verres! Pictures, statues,
chalices, tripods and candle-sticks, all
the gods and goddesses, all the heroes
and all the courtesans of Greece, all
the divine works of art in gold, silver
and ivory, which the soldiers of
Mummius crushed to make crests
for their helmets, these creations
of genius, these treasures, these
marvels, he piled up pell-mell in the

atrium of his palace, which resembled
the Museum of Cluny in the Quartier
des Carines.

This was the first and most
magnificent triumph of Roman bric-
a-brac. Even Augustus, emperor
though he was, would not have
dared to sweep the world as the
simple proconsul had done; and yet
he, too, had the love of curiosities.

He had collected, in his little house
on Mount Palatine, a splendid assort-
ment of Corinthian vases ; but he con-
fined himself to this specialty. The
Romans ridiculed him and perpetrated
many a joke on the subject. One day
a mischievous wag, attacking with
one blow the mania of Caesar and the
rather doubtful reputation his father
had left, ventured to scribble on the

pedestal of one of the imperial statues
this irreverent inscription :

Pater Argentarius ; ego Corintharius.

All tastes, it is said, are to be
found in nature. Augustus was
partial to Corinthian vases, LucuUus
preferred old toggery. He possessed
five thousand cloaks. What a custom-
er for the Prince Eugene of that epoch !
Such a cloak-room one would expect to
find in Bajazet's harem, which, they
say, -was peopled by three thousand
houris. Cloak-room and harem no
doubt contained more than one useless
treasure. LucuUus, however, more
generous in these things than the sul-
tan, willingly lent to his neighbor
what he did not use for himself. Man-
agers of pageants often borrowed his
finery. That was how they managed

to fit up those "wonderful scenes which
alternated, alas, on the theatre of Mar-
cellus with bear and panther shows
and occupied three or four hours in the
entr'actes of a comedy of Rubrenus
Lappa, or a tearful drama of Pupius.
But do not be too hard on Lucullus
with his trumpery. There was a phil-
osopher, the Stoic Seneca, w^ho made
himself a present of five hundred
tables. Five hundred tables ! Neither
more nor less ; Xiphilin says so. And
w^hat tables! All of thuja wood!
Perhaps you will ask, what is thuja
w^ood ? I do not know and it is prob-
able that I never will know ; all that
I do know is that thuja-wood grew in
the gorges of the Atlas and that it
cost the very eyes of your head. These
tables sold by weight. You put the

table in one pan of the balance, silver
by the bushel in the other side : -when
the scales balanced, the dealer took
the money and the buyer the goods.
Cicero one day indulged his fancy to
the tune of one million sesterces ! But
what, in heaven's name, did these peo-
ple eat on their wonderful tables ?
Parrots' brains, I fancy, and nightin-
gales' tongues, like the Emperor Helio-

I will cite one more example of the
collecting mania among the Romans.
It is proved by the testimony of Dion
Cassius and Suetonius that Domitian
collected flies.

-^ s



A LL the modes which characterize

and differentiate the human self

(pardon, O reader) have their simi-

laires, as M. Baudrillart -would say, in

other species of the animal kingdom.

Thus, as there are animals,

Of the ravenous type, — as the shark;

Hysterical ones, — as the jack-ass;

Plagiarists, — as the monkey ;

Thinkers, — as the trout ;

Mathematicians, — as the crane ;

So there are animal collectors :

The ant collects seeds ;

The field-mouse, filberts ;

The dog, fleas ;

The magpie, table silver.

But the ant, the fieldmouse, the dog,
and the magpie are beasts devoid of
fi"ee will, and forced to obey their in-
stinct, as a cuckoo, once wound, is
forced to mark the hour.

Quite different is the condition of

God has made him free. He thinks,
he deliberates, he w^ills, he cannot exe-
cute any action, even the most insig-
nificant, without being driven to it by
some determining motive. Only, for
the superficial observer, this motive is
not always easy to discover.

When you see one of your fellow-

beings munching shrimps or spitting
in a hole, you never think of asking
him the reason of so simpk an action.
These are manifestations proper to
the sensual stomach and the melan-
choly brain. But if you should sur-
prise one in the perpetration of some
act which cannot be explained by any
physical or mental necessity — like
thrumming a guitar before the knave
of diamonds — youw^ould torture your
soul to divine the cause of what would
seem to you a mental aberration.
Well, this musical pastime to which a
Spaniard of my acquaintance devoted
himself (whose lamentable history I
w^ill some day recount) is not more ex-
traordinary in my opinion than the
sight of a man, well organized, sound
in body and mmd, w^eaned at the

right time and properly vaccinated,
abandoning himself with all gaiety of
heart, wthout being condemned to
it, to this singular passion, the collect-
ing mania.

A wag one day asked by what series
of metamorphoses a human being
could transform himself into a grocer.
It would be more rational to ask what
physical or moral catastrophes could
lead a man, a creature of a loving
God, to transform himself into a col-

This problem has occupied me for a
long time, and after a laborious and
conscientious investigation, I have
discovered some of the causes which
may produce this curious incarnation.

My inquiry -was based on ten collec-
tors. I have discovered that they

contracted the infirmity in the follow-
ing ways :

Four — from despairing love ;

Two — from political exasperation ;

One — fr om chagrin at becoming bald ;

One — in consequence of a disagree-
ment with his curd.

One — ^from having frozen his nose in
Kabylie ;

One — from having missed the train
at Brussels.

You see from these cases that the
primary cause, the determining reason
of the collecting mania is always some
deception or some misfortune.

As I expected.



IV TONTAIGNE, following Valerius
Maximus, reports that a Roman
magistrate, a praetor named Cippus,
having gone to bed with the impres-
sion left on him by the stirring spec-
tacle of a bull-fight, w^as much sur-
prised on awaking, to discover on his
brow a triumphant pair of horns.

This astonishment on the part of the
prEetor Cippus was no doubt very
natural; what is less so is to find a

skeptical philosopher like Montaigne
attributing so strange a fact to the
power of the imagination. It is not
to be denied, however, that an intense,
incessant thought can, in time, pro-
foundty modify our faculties, and, in
consequence, the material envelope
w^hich serves them as cage.

And please note that it is here not a
question of the face, that mirror of
the soul, as it was called even before the
deluge. No, I am speaking of the gen-
eral economy of the body and of all
the physical organs which are the in-
struments and servitors, but also, —
note this point, — the interpreters of
our passions.

Everybody know^s that certain pro-
fessions imprint very distinctive marks
on our bodies. It does not take a very

skillful observer to recognize at a
glance :

A tailor, by the convexity of his
tibias ;

A sailor, by the roll of his shoulders
and the balancing svv^ing of his arras ;

A danseuse, by the exaggeration of
her soleus muscle;

A fire captain by the Olympic pose
of his head.

These marks are only the visible ex-
pression of purely physical causes;
they are creases which the body ac-
quires by the permanence or the very
frequent repetition of certain atti-

But the attitudes of the soul, who
has ever seen them? And_ hoAV can
habits peculiar to it model our body
in hollows or in relief, when their im-

material essence admits of neither
depression nor protrusion? How,
further, can the human soul, — whether
you assign it a residence in the brain,
as Euler has done, or in the spleen, as
William Flugge, or in the tip of the
nose, as I know not who, — how can
it modify in any way the form of a
tibia or of an elbow? Grave prob-
lem which I do not attempt to solve.
And yet it is not to be denied that for
him who has learned to read it, the
human body, — I mean the entire body,
from the left shoulder to the right
shoulder, and from the heels to the
head, — is a book very legible and
sometimes very indiscreet.

I know^ a man, not a physician or a
philosopher, as you might think, but
an optician, a modest manufacturer

pince-nez and barometers, -who in his
leisure moments has made a profound
study of these obscure matters.
This man, this savant, is able to
diagnose with absolute certainty the
disposition, the tastes, the aptitudes
of the first comer, seen from the back.
Show him any passer-by, — this mon-
sieur, for example, who has just
elbowed by you and is now jogging
along twenty steps ahead, with nose
in air and umbrella under his arm, —
my optician will tell you whether the
individual in question is a drunkard
or a gambler, and in the latter case
whether he has a preference for bac-
carat or bezique. Ask him by what
index he forms his opinion and he will
say, How^ do I know ? an impercep-
tible swelling of the shoulder-blade, a

microscopic deviation of the inner
ankle. Starting from this, he will
readily explain to you his whole
system and in ten minutes you will be
convinced, as he is, that the knee of
a stingy man is very different from
that of an ambitious one, and that
betw^een the calf of an entomologist
and that of a melomaniac there is a
veritable gulf.

These abstruse considerations may
seem rather irrelevant, but they are
not really foreign to mj'- subject. I
consider them indispensable to make
you accept without opposition the
physical portrait of the collector, such
as I shall present to you. The
original of my portrait was commu-
nicated to me by my barometer-
maker, whose judgment in such mat-

ters cannot be questioned any more
than axioms.

So I begin :

The collecting-mania is not a bed of
Procrustus. The collector is then in-
differently tall, medium, or small of

The upper part of his body, the
bust, stands forth audaciously and
forms with the bones of the pelvis an
angle of about thirty-five to forty

A well-rounded collector would be a

He has a large, flat foot, slightly
turned outward, — an honest, con-
templative foot.

His hands are long, knotty, hairy,
and of doubtful neatness.

His neck is like his hands.

His brow is bald, smooth and

His eyes large, round, protruding.

His eyebrows constantly raised.

His ears are spreading and mobile.

His nose is prominent ; an embar-
rassing, noisy, ambitious nose.

As to moral qualities, if one excludes
the passion of which he is the slave,
the collector distinguishes himself
especially by negative qualities. To
speak frankly, he has neither vices
nor virtues, but simply properties,
like inanimate objects. I heard of one
whose mucous membrane secreted a
calcareous deposit, — a function of the

Yet this dull, sluggish, flabby brain
has an irritable fibre running through
it. Irritate that and it will start up

with such hissing, shoot forth such
shrill, piercing sounds that you will
think you have set foot in a nest of
marmots. This fibre is the jealous,
absolute, ungovernable passion, the
hobby of Uncle Toby; it is the fairy
Turlutaine, the fixed idea, the idea
tyrant, tinder the influence of his
monomania the collector becomes
transformed. Instead of the apathe-
tic creature of a moment ago, you see
a fanatic, an enthusiast, a visionary,
a demoniac. Let his passion rise to a
paroxysm, — as it has been known to —
and the collector becomes capable of
all heroisms as well as all crimes.

Levaillant bivouacked in the midst
of lions and faced death a hundred
times in the hope of obtaining a spar-
row lacking in his collection.

Rene Cardillac assassinated cus-
tomers to keep his collection of jewels

Give Levaillant the passion for
trinkets and Rene Cardillac the hobby
of humming-birds and each would no
doubt do what the other did.

Conclusion: Do not cast stones at
the collector of jewels, but be careful
not to trust him w^ith your w^atch.


/COLLECTORS may be divided into
^^ two classes:

Pacotilleurs, or trash-collectors.

Specialists. .

Pacotilleurs recognize as founder of
their sect the pro-consul Verres, before
mentioned. The philosopher Dama-
sippus also was a pacotilleur; he
turned his house into a store-room
for bric-a-brac and bartered his last
gold-piece for the foot-bath of the

robber Sisyphus. The type of Yerres
and Damasippus we now know by
the hundred. They collect, they pile
up w^ithout choice, without prefer-
ence, without system, everything that
arouses their cupidity, whether by its
antiquity, its rarity or the oddness
of its form.

They are gourmands also for souve-
nirs. By this sentimental term they
designate all sorts of gew-gaws which
have at some time belonged to some
historic personage or have figured as
accessories in some romantic adven-

Collectors of this class are known
by the general name of curiosity-col-

There is nothing so freakish, so
crazy, so extravagant, so anarchical.

as the museum of a pacotilleur. It is
a pandemonium where, stuffed with
hair, carved in wood, chiseled in iron,
cast in bronze, all the inventions,
dreams, nightmares, of all societies,
all reigns, all times, all zones, meet,
jostle, elbow, irritate and smother
each other. Have you ever read Bal-
zac's "Peau de Chagrin?'' Have you
ever penetrated with Raphael into
the gloomy shop of Job ? Well, in the
cabinet of the pacotilleur, as in the den
of the old antiquary, you will find,
side by side, the charming and the
horrible, the serious and the ridiculous,
the beautiful and the misshapen;
crocodiles of the Nile, faiences of
Palissy, tankards, ostrich eggs, fossil
bones, laces, bludgeons, moccasins,
reliquaries, and frigates in ivory. If

your friend — I suppose a pacotilleur
might have a friend — makes pretences
in historical science, he is capable of
showing you the pole-ax of Charles
Martel, the tooth-pick of the Abbe
Sugar, and the gorget of Corbulon.

The class of pacotilleurs is relatively
small in number. The reason for this
is simple: as their collections include
all objects known and unknown and
recommend themselves only by the
quantity and variety of specimens,
they are veritable gulfs which all the
gold of California could not fill.

The class of specialists includes all
collectors w^ho, either by taste or by
necessity, are interested in a single
category of objects.

It may be subdivided into two
groups :

The routiniers, or imitators.

The fantaisistes, or vagarians.

Routiniers are not corrupt by na-
ture ; it is the contagion of example,
the spirit of imitation that has un-
done them. One might say of most
of these unfortunates what Horace
said of his contemporary Iccius, a
mad lover of Chinese curios and old
books :

Pollicitus meliora !

The routinier always trudges along
in the path beaten by his predecessors,
and his ambition is satisfied in collect-
ing those things that have been col-
lected before by others. There is a
series of collectible objects famed in
tradition, such as: Pictures, medals,
faiences, books, shells.

You need not fear that a routinier

will ever venture beyond these oft-
explored regions. Nay, have I not
seen them condemn themselves to
nosing about one little comer, an
acre, a perch, even a fathom, forever
turning about in this narrow circle
like a squirrel in his wheel ?

I knew one collector who, in the
matter of pictures, valued only the
canvases of painters born at Magny-

Another, a conchologist, has a pas-
sion only for the edible snail.

As for the faintaisistes, they are the
lost children, the rogues, the zephyrs
of curio-hunting.

It is almost unbelievable what
extravagances of the imagination a
monomaniac can indulge in when his
mania has no other guide than caprice.

There has probably never been a
single product of nature or of humap
industry that has not been the object
of a fantaisiste's search.

I have a relative — a grave professor
in one of our leading colleges — who
has passed twenty years of his life
collecting umbrellas.

It is not unusual to find persons
collecting pipes, musical snuff-boxes,
nut-crackers, almanacs, carp-fins.

I have heard of one w^ho made a
museum of mustard pots.

And you, Catherine, my pearl of
cooks, was it the master you served
before me, the Dutch numismatist,
who inspired you with this inordinate
fondness for uniform buttons ? Flat
buttons and round buttons, buttons
of tin and buttons of brass, buttons

stamped with a simple number, with
two cannon crossed, with an anchor,
with a hunting horn, with a star or a
grenade, what have I not found in
that little chamois bag, which passed,
I don't know how, from my loto box
to the bottom of your trunk! And
each one of these treasures calls up
some memory for you, I suppose,
Catherine ?

Despite of, or, if you choose, by very
reason of their excesses, specialists,
that is fantaisistes and routiniers,
are the only collectors worthy of the
name. Pacotilleurs have really not
the true manners and habits of the
class. Because their mania is directed
toward everything it is in reality
directed toward nothing. No object
is ever lacking in their collection

because their collection can never be
complete. So they know nothing of
the violent desire, the anguish, the
itching of the specialist, who is
always in expectation, always in
search of some tantalizing specimen,
some image of Brutus or Cassius
w^hich shines only by its absence from
his cabinet or his shelf.

But this endless search for the un-
found object, this constant strain,
this moral tetanus of the fixed idea,
is in fact the necessary stimulus, the
indispensable motive, the raison
d'etre, in short, of the collector.

It is said that Pope Clement VI.,
touched by the despair of Petrarch,
offered to release him from his vows
so that he might marry Laura, but
the poet refused because he still had a

great many sonnets to write.

The collector belongs to the school
of Petrarch.

For one, love was only a pretext
for sonnets ; for the other, the beset-
ting passion is a pretext for explora-
tions. When the collector has no-
thing more to seek, nothing more to
discover, he will be like the insect that
has spun its cocoon, growing dull
and stupid in idleness and ennui.

Only, in this particular case, the in-
sect has better sense than the man ; it
changes to a butterfly, the man to a


TDERMIT me now to leave gen-
eralities and to complete this
monograph by sketching, in broad
lines, an individual of the genus.

I shall select my individual among
the class of specialists. He shall be a
bibliomaniac, if you please, and fur-
thermore, a particular kind of a
bibliomaniac, — a lover of old books,
a bouquineur.

The bouquineur is distinquished

from others of his genus by pecuHar

Thus, while other bibUomaniacs
will hunt their game almost any-
where, in book-shops, at public sales,
sometimes in the libraries of their
friends, you w^ill never find a bouqui-
neur rummaging anywhere except in
some little comer display, in the dusty
boxes that encumber wharfs and
bridges, in the heaps of scrap-iron
sold by the Auvergnats, in the w^aste
paper under some butcher's or tobac-
conist's counter.

You might think then that the bou-
quineur's finest treasures are more
often found in the second-hand shop
than at the regular dealer's ?

Quite the contrary.

Is it economy, then, or lack of

money that forces the old book lovers
to exert themselves thus ?

Not in the least ; I know one who is
a lavish millionaire.

You do not understand? Listen,
then, for now w^e come to the point of
the matter.

The bouquineur has a peculiarity in
common w^ith the w^oman enceinte.
Both have strange cravings, and in
both cases these cravings can be sat-
isfied only under certain conditions.

Thus, the w^oman has an intense
desire for a bite of rabbit, but this
rabbit must be one with a white foot ;
it must have been killed in this certain
field and not in another ; in the morn-
ing and not in the evening; in fair
w^eather and not in fog.

The bouquineur is equally definite

and exacting in his desires. He longs
for a certain old book, but it must be
hedged about by restrictions. First
of all, it must be a renard. f

Thus you see that the important


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