"AS I SEE IT" 

Volume 6, Number 4, April 2003

 

 

“I too will have my say; I too will tell what I know.

For I am full of words, and the spirit within me compels me;

Inside I am like bottled-up wine, like new wineskins ready to burst.

I must speak and find relief; I must open my lips and reply.

I will show partiality to no one.  Nor will I flatter any man.”

Job 32:17-21

 

["As I See It" is a monthly electronic magazine compiled and edited by Doug Kutilek.  Its purpose is to address important issues of the day and to draw attention to worthwhile Christian and other literature in order to aid believers in Jesus Christ, especially pastors, missionaries and Bible college and seminary students to more effectively study and teach the Word of God.  The editor's perspective is that of an independent Baptist of fundamentalist theological persuasion.

 

AISI is sent free to all who request it by writing to the editor at: DKUTILEK@juno.com.  You can be removed from the mailing list at the same address.  Back issues sent on request.  Some may also be downloaded at http://www.tegart.com/brian/bible/kjvonly.  Articles on the King James Bible controversy and recent issues may be accessed at http://www.KJVOnly.org

 

All articles are by the editor (unless otherwise noted) and are copyrighted but may be reproduced for distribution, provided the following conditions are met: 1. articles must be reproduced in unedited, unabridged form; 2. the writer must be properly credited; and, 3. such reproduction must be for free distribution only.  Permission to distribute in any other form must be secured in writing beforehand.  Permission for reproduction in Christian print periodicals will generally be given.]

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The Pre-Eminent Fundamental Truth

 

“The truth is that our Lord would have us regard the crucifixion as the central truth of Christianity.  Right views of His vicarious death, and the benefits resulting from it, lie at the very foundation of Bible-religion.  Never let us forget this.  On matters of church government, and the form of worship, men may differ from us and yet reach heaven safely.  On the matter of Christ’s atoning death, as the way of peace, truth is only one.  If we are wrong here, we are ruined forever.  Error on many points is only skin disease; error about Christ’s death is a disease at the heart.  Here let us take our stand: let nothing move us from this ground.  The sum of our hopes must be that “Christ has died for us” (1 Thess. 5:10).  Give up that doctrine, and we have no solid hope at all.”

 

J. C. Ryle, commenting on Matthew 16:21-23

Expository Thoughts on the Gospel of St. Matthew

(London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1900)

pp. 200-1.

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SALVATION BY KNOWING THE TRUTH:

A Comment from Charles Haddon Spurgeon

 

“God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.”-1 Timothy 2:3, 4.

 

“It is quite certain that when we read that God will have all men to be saved it does not mean that he wills it with the force of a decree or a divine purpose, for, if he did, then all men would be saved. He willed to make the world, and the world was made: he does not so will the salvation of all men, for we know that all men will not be saved.  Terrible as the truth is, yet is it certain from holy writ that there are men who, in consequence of their sin and their rejection of the Savior, will go away into everlasting punishment, where shall be weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth.  There will at the last be goats upon the left hand as well as sheep on the right, tares to be burned as well as wheat to be garnered, chaff to be blown away as well as corn to be preserved.  There will be a dreadful hell as well as a glorious heaven, and there is no decree to the contrary.”

 

“What then? Shall we try to put another meaning into the text than that which it fairly bears? I trow [think] not. You must, most of you, be acquainted with the general method in which our older Calvinistic friends deal with this text.  “All men,” say they,- “that is, some men”: as if the Holy Ghost could not have said “some men” if he had meant some men.  “All men,” say they; “that is, some of all sorts of men”: as if the Lord could not have said “all sorts of men” if he had meant that.  The Holy Ghost by the apostle has written “all men,” and unquestionably he means all men.  I know how to get rid of the force of the “alls” according to that critical method which some time ago was very current, but I do not see how it can be applied here with due regard to truth.”

 

“I was reading just now the exposition of a very able doctor [Spurgeon unquestionably is referring to his predecessor John Gill--editor] who explains the text so as to explain it away; he applies grammatical gunpowder to it, and explodes it by way of expounding it.  I thought when I read his exposition that it would have been a very capital comment upon the text if it had read, “Who will not have all men to be saved, nor come to a knowledge of the truth.”  Had such been the inspired language every remark of the learned doctor would have been exactly in keeping, but as it happens to say, “Who will have all men to be saved,” his observations are more than a little out of place.”

 

“My love of consistency with my own doctrinal views is not great enough to allow me knowingly to alter a single text of Scripture.  I have great respect for orthodoxy, but my reverence for inspiration is far greater.  I would sooner a hundred times over appear to be inconsistent with myself than be inconsistent with the word of God.  I never thought it to be any very great crime to seem to be inconsistent with myself; for who am I that I should everlastingly be consistent?  But I do think it a great crime to be so inconsistent with the word of God that I should want to lop away a bough or even a twig from so much as a single tree of the forest of Scripture.  God forbid that I should cut or shape, even in the least degree, any divine expression.  So runs the text, and so we must read it, “God our Savior; who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.” “

 

“Does not the text mean that it is the wish of God that men should be saved?  The word “wish” gives as much force to the original as it really requires, and the passage should run thus- “whose wish it is that all men should be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth.”  As it is my wish that it should be so, as it is your wish that it might be so, so it is God’s wish that all men should be saved; for, assuredly, he is not less benevolent than we are.”

Charles H. Spurgeon

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit

vol. 26, 1880, pp. 49, 50

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Sorrowless Repentance Incompatible with Saving Faith

 

“There must be repentance of sin and acknowledgement of it before God if faith is to give proof of its truth.  A faith that never had a tear in its eye, or a blush on its cheek, is not the faith of God’s elect.  He who never felt the burden of sin, never felt the sweetness of being delivered from it.”

 

Charles H. Spurgeon,

Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit,

Vol. 59, 1913, p. 343

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BAPTIST HISTORIAN THOMAS ARMITAGE ON CLAIMS OF

BAPTIST “APOSTOLIC SUCCESSION”

 

“Is an unbroken, visible, and historical succession of independent Gospel Churches down from the apostles essential to the valid existence of Baptist Churches today, as apostolic in every sense of the word?  This question suggests another, namely, Of what value could any lineal succession be, as compared with present adherence to apostolic truth?  From these two questions a third arises: Whether true lineage from the Apostolic Churches does not rest in present conformity to the apostolic pattern, even though the local church be self-organized, from material that never came out of any church, provided that it stands on the apostolicity of the New Testament.”

 

“The simple truth is, that the unity of Christ’s kingdom on earth is not found in its visibility, . . . . [T]he unity of Christianity is not found in any visible tracing through one set of people.  It has been enwrapped in all who have followed purely apostolic principles through the ages; and thus the purity of Baptist life is found in the essence of their doctrines and practices by whomsoever enforced.” 

 

“Little perception is required to discover the fallacy of a visible apostolic succession in the ministry, but visible Church succession is precisely as fallacious, and for exactly the same reasons.  The Catholic is right in his perception that these two must stand or fall together; hence he assumes, ipso facto, that all who are not in this double succession are excluded from the true apostolic line.  And many who are not Catholics think that if they fail to unroll a continuous succession of regularly organized churches, they lose their genealogy by a break in the chain, and so fail to prove that they are legitimate Apostolic Churches.  Such evidence cannot be traced by any Church, and would be utterly worthless if it could, because the real legitimacy of Christianity must be found in the New Testament and nowhere else.”

 

“The very attempt to trace an unbroken line of persons duly baptized upon their personal trust in Christ, or of ministers ordained by lineal descent from the apostles, or of churches organized upon these principles, and adhering to the New Testament in all things, is in itself an attempt to erect a bulwark of error.  Only God can make a new creature; and the effort to trace Christian history from regenerate man to regenerate man implies that man can impart some power to keep up a succession of individual Christians.  Apply the same thought to groups of churches running down through sixty generations, and we have precisely the same result.  The idea is the very life of Catholicism.”

 

“Our only reliable ground in opposition to this system is: If no trace of conformity to the New Testament could be found in any Church since the end of the first century, a Church established today upon the New Testament life and order, would be as truly a historical Church from Christ, as that planted by Paul at Ephesus.”

 

“Robert Robinson [1735-1790] has well said: ‘Uninterrupted succession is a specious lure, a snare set by sophistry, into which all parties have fallen.  And it has happened to spiritual genealogists as it has to others who have traced natural descents, both have woven together twigs of every kind to full up remote chasms.  The doctrine is necessary only to such Churches as regulate their faith and practice by tradition, and for their use it was first invented . . . . Protestants, by the most substantial arguments, have blasted the doctrine of papal succession, and yet these very Protestants have undertaken to make proof of an unbroken series of persons, of their own sentiments, following one another in due order from the apostles to themselves.’ “

 

“. . . . But this matter of Church succession is organically connected with the idea of Church infallibility, rather than of likeness to Christ.  The twin doctrines were born of the same parentage, and the one implies the other, for a visible succession must be pure in all its parts, that is, infallible; if it is corrupt in some things, no logical showing can make it perfect.  Truth calls us back to the radical view that any Church which bears the real apostolic stamp is in direct historical descent from the apostles, without relation to any other Church past or present. . . .”

 

“. . . . Christ never established a law of Christian primogeniture by which he endowed local churches with the exclusive power of moral regeneration, making it necessary for one church to be the mother of another, in regular succession, and without which they could not be legitimate churches.  Those who organized the churches in apostolic times went forth simply with the lines of doctrine and order in their hands, and formed new churches without the authority or even the knowledge of other churches.  Some of these men were neither apostles nor pastors, but private Christians.  Men are born of God in regeneration and not of the Church.  They have no ancestry in regeneration, much less are they the offspring of an organic ancestry.  The men who composed the true Churches of Antioch and Rome were ‘born from above,’ making the Gospel and not the Church the agency by which men were ‘begotten of God.’  This Church succession figment shifts the primary question of Christian life from the apostolic ground of truth, faith and obedience, to the Romanistic doctrine of persons, and renders a historic series of such persons necessary to administer the ordinances and impart valid Church life.”

 

“How does inspiration govern the matter?  ‘Whoso abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God; he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.  If any man cometh to you and bringeth not this teaching receive him not.’  Pure doctrine, as it is found uncorrupted in the word of God, is the only unbroken line of succession which can be traced in Christianity.  God never confided his truth to the personal succession of any body of men. . . .”

 

“A human figment may serve the ends of Catholicism, but as Baptists are not Romanists, only Christ and Apostolicity as they are found in the Divine Writings can suffice for them.  The spirit and outcome of these in their normal form afford the staple for genuine Baptist History.”

 

--Thomas Armitage, A HISTORY OF THE BAPTISTS,

Traced By Their Vital Principles And Practices

(New York: Bryan, Taylor, & Co., 1887), pp. 1-2, 3, 12.

 All italics in original.

 

[The quote from Robert Robinson is from ECCLESIASTICAL RESEARCHES (Cambridge, England: Francis Hodson, 1792),  pp. 475, 476.]

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FIVE NOTABLE BOOKS ON THE LIFE AND PERSON OF JESUS CHRIST

 

Though it should go without saying, it bears repetition: there is no more important subject in the Scriptures--and there should be no more prominent subject in our preaching--than the life and person of Jesus Christ, who is, as Spurgeon remarked, “the sum and substance of the gospel; who is in himself all theology, the incarnation of every precious truth, the all-glorious personal embodiment of the way, the truth and the life.” (Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, vol. 7, 1861, p. 169; the sermon from which this quote is taken, the first preached at the newly-dedicated tabernacle and based on Acts 5:42, is the finest by Spurgeon I have ever read.  I have read it at least 4 times, and will again).

 

Though I possess a strong general familiarity with the Gospels by repeated reading and study, my understanding of particular aspects of the records of the life of Jesus has been notably expanded by reading certain books that have focused on special themes.  Five of these that are worthy of recommendation will be noted here.

 

The first of these is The Person of Christ: His Perfect Humanity a Proof of His Divinity by famous church historian Philip Schaff (New York: American Tract Society, 1880.  285 pp. and often reprinted).  Schaff notes Biblical affirmations of the absolute sinless perfection of Christ (and there are at least a dozen such direct statements, besides indirect evidences), and then examines possible implications of the fact of Christ’s unique sinlessness, amidst an ocean of universally corrupt and sinful humanity.  The only explanation: Christ is much more than just a man; He is in fact Deity clothed in humanity.  The original edition (but not all reprints) has a compilation of testimonies from historically prominent individuals not known to be Christians regarding the uniqueness of the person of Christ, including Spinoza, Rousseau, Napoleon, John Stuart Mill, and many others from the 1st to the 19th centuries.  To my knowledge no reprint of this work has appeared in the past half-century and more, but it certainly merits such a reprint.

 

Wilbur M. Smith (d. 1978), consummate Christian bibliophile, authored the valuable apologetic, The Supernaturalness of Christ: Can We Still Believe in It? (Boston: W. A. Wilde, 1940), one of his lesser-known books.  Smith examines the strange irrational, judgment-blinding hostility of modern secular scholarship to even the possibility of the supernatural in the past or present.  By examining the Biblical record of Christ’s miracles, and especially His resurrection, Smith establishes the full credibility of the Bible presentation of Christ’s essential supernaturalness.

 

Expertise in both Jewish and Roman law--something most assuredly not possessed by most Bible students--is indispensable to a full comprehension of what did and did not happen during the appearances of Jesus the prisoner before the Jewish Sanhedrin and Roman governor in the hours following His arrest in the Gethsemane.  Two small volumes written by authors with the requisite legal expertise are The Trial of Jesus Christ by Alexander Taylor Innes (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1899.  123 pp.) and The Trial of Christ by Frank John Powell (London: Paternoster Press, 1948.  160 pp.).  Both authors, practicing attorneys of long experience, investigated Roman and Jewish legal practices and procedures of the first century and applied this knowledge to the understanding of the Gospel narratives of the trials of Jesus.  They cast the whole process in new light, exposing its wholly illegal and unjust nature, as the specific legal strictures of both the Jewish people and the Roman Empire were violated wholesale, as a consequence of blind hatred for Jesus on the one hand and political expediency on the other.  These two volumes were reprinted in one volume by Klock & Klock (Minneapolis) in 1982.

 

Finally, the single volume of which I have given away more copies than any other is Who Moved the Stone? (first published in 1930 and often reprinted) by Frank Morison, a pseudonym for Albert Henry Ross.  Morison/Ross was an unbelieving attorney who dismissed the resurrection of Christ as a mere myth--until he set out to prove that that resurrection did not occur.  His investigation led him to the life-transforming conclusion that Jesus did indeed “rise again the third day,” just as the Scriptures affirm.

 

I am certain that other gems on the life and person Christ await my discovery, but these were so distinctly valuable that they demand strong recommendation and careful study.

                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek

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BOOK REVIEWS

 

Douglas Southall Freeman by David E. Johnson.  Greta, Louisiana: Pelican Publications, 2002.  476 pp., hardback.  $25.

 

Few men have the self-discipline and focus to spend years engaged in one great mental task.  Douglas Southall Freeman (1886-1953) of Virginia was one of the few.  The youngest son of a Confederate veteran of the American Civil War, Freeman while still in his teens resolved at a re-enactment of a famous Civil War incident (“the crater” at Petersburg) to record for all posterity the history of the Southern veterans in that great war.

 

From a devout Baptist family, Freeman professed faith at age ten and was immersed in a Baptist church.  His connection with the Southern Baptists was life long.  At one time he seriously contemplated entering the ministry (his mother’s great desire for his life), even surrendering himself to it while in graduate school, but on further reflection he concluded that it was not God’s will for his life. 

 

Freeman’s prep school training included heavy doses of classical Latin and Greek among other subjects, and he had a decided interested in drama during that time and on into his college years, even for a time considering becoming a stage actor.  He continued classical studies on into college (years later, Freeman and the co-owner of the Richmond News-Leader, J. S. Bryant, would sometimes converse in Latin, to the amusement of all present).

 

After graduating from the University of Richmond (though born in Lynchburg, Freeman had moved with his family to Richmond when he was still a boy), Freeman graduated from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore with a Ph.D. in history.  Providentially, circumstances led him to edit some documents for a civil war museum in Virginia, which led to the publication of his first book.  In turn he became an occasional editorial writer for a Richmond paper, which in turn led in short order to his becoming editor of that paper, the Richmond News-Leader, an afternoon daily.

 

He edited the News-Leader from 1915 to 1949, amid a flurry of other activities, including two live daily radio news broadcasts (which were surely Paul Harvey’s inspiration), a weekly evening course on “current events” involving leading men of Richmond, regular teaching or sometimes preaching in Baptist churches, teaching one day per week for a period of seven years at Columbia University in New York City (which required back-to-back overnight train commutes, 376 roundtrips in all, covering 225,000 miles!), and numerous other activities civic, social and religious. 

 

As noted, in the midst of these activities, Freeman spent 19 years researching and writing the definitive biography of General Robert E. Lee in 4 volumes (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1934)--he spent six months researching and writing about the battle of Gettysburg alone!--for which he received the Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1935.  He sought to locate every available source of information published and unpublished, public and private, direct and indirect regarding Lee.  He even interviewed numerous surviving veterans of Lee’s army.  Freeman estimated that of the information in the first volume of the biography, 80% was new, never before published.  He spent something on the order of 6,100 hours writing the 2,000-page work.

 

When Lee was finished, Freeman plunged into researching and writing Lee’s Lieutenants in 3 volumes (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1942), and finally, in part after retiring from the editorship and many of his other labors, he completed volumes 1-6 of the ultimately 7-volume biography of George Washington, for which he was posthumously awarded another Pulitzer Prize for biography in 1958.  And he wrote several other published books besides these multi-volume sets. 

 

Freeman disdained the “psycho-analytical biography” that was all the rage in the 20th century, denying that it was possible for even the most thorough biographer to enter into his subject’s unspoken thoughts or motivations.  In this he was surely right, and a great deal of literary trash could have been avoided had other biographers shared his perspective.

 

Freeman was a rigid adherent to a closely planned personal daily schedule, with every activity and action timed to the very minute.  Always an early riser (4:30 in his younger years, progressively earlier in his later years until his regular hour of rising was 2:30 a.m.!)  Only by this strict conformity to a self-imposed schedule could he accomplish such a large volume of high-quality work.

 

The biography under discussion here fills a need that has existed since Freeman’s death half a century ago; that none of his subordinate reporters or editors at the News-Leader undertook the task was always a surprise to me (all those still living were extensively interviewed for this book).  David E. Johnson’s biography of Freeman leaves very little to be desired; it is thoroughly researched, fully documented and annotated, adequately illustrated, well organized and well written.  Dr. Freeman, I suspect, would be pleased.

                                                                        ---Doug Kutilek

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Some quotes from DOUGLAS SOUTHALL FREEMAN by David E. Johnson--

 

“Having chosen to write history, he set out to obtain the knowledge necessary to ‘do’ this work.” (p. 57)

 

“The vision born at the Battle of the Crater reenactment--to write the history of Lee’s army--drove him to master the historian’s art.  At Johns Hopkins, historical technique and method, reflecting the influence of German scholarship, was taught as a science.  The scientific approach rested on three principles: critical examination of sources, the preference of

primary to secondary sources, and impartiality.” (p. 65)

 

“Freeman spent the summer of 1907 working on the calendar [i.e., a catalogue of Confederate papers] while sitting in the dining room of Jefferson Davis’ Confederate White House.” (p. 76)

 

Sculptor Edward V. Valentine “asked Freeman to don [General Lee’s] uniform while he made some sketches for his statue.” (p. 76)

 

“ ‘If anybody tells you that writing a University dissertation is an easy job,’ he wrote his mother, ‘make no bones of it, but call him a liar outright.’” (p. 77)

 

“ ‘Lee the soldier was great but Lee the man and Christian was greater by far.’ “ (p. 103)

 

“Opportunity had begotten further opportunity.” (p. 105)

 

“[America] has never lost a war in which the hearts of the people were involved.” (p. 131)

 

Upon receiving the Pulitzer Prize for Lee, Freeman told his current events class, “I shall be very happy if in this day of false fear, doubtful counsel, and whining attempts to escape the consequences of our own acts, this award brings again to public emulation a man who embodied courage, decision, and a willingness to pay the price of loyalty to his convictions.” (p. 170; the description of his day sounds almost exactly like our day)

 

“ ‘In deciding what you’re going to do,’ Douglas Freeman commented about his active life, ‘your first decision must be what you’re not going to do.  To do, you must leave undone.’  As he approached his fiftieth year, his activities were so vast and varied that it is difficult to ascertain exactly what he was leaving ‘undone.’ “ (p. 206)

 

“ ‘I never make a speech but that I sit down [afterward] in humiliation and distress, feeling that I never approximate the standard of performance that public presentation really requires.’ “ (p. 212)

 

“ ‘It sounds like a rigid, stern sort of life, I suppose,’ [Freeman] admitted.  ‘As a matter of fact, I have the best time of anyone you know and I’m one of the few you know that’s doing absolutely what he wants to do.’ “ (p. 214)

 

“He expected of others the same that he asked of himself--which often set an unreasonably high standard.” (p. 223)

 

“When Life magazine assigned two reporters to follow Freeman through his day, they were exhausted by lunch . . . . ‘The schedule’ may have achieved legendary status, but it is far from legend.  It is fact.” (p. 223)

 

“Scraps of time, he said, ‘may seem so trivial they are not worth saving but the wise use of them may make all the difference between drudgery and happiness, between existence and a career.’ “ (p. 225)

 

“ ‘I have promised my God and my conscience that I never shall think that I am entitled to take my ease because of what I have won but that, on the contrary, I shall exert myself the more to be faithful to my trust.’ “ (p. 228)

 

“ ‘The preparation of a full-length biography of any of the great men of America,’ he said, ‘involves the close examination of at least 100,000 folios of manuscript, scattered as widely as the wind blows, and the detailed study of a minimum of one thousand printed books.’ “ (p. 232; which explains why it is rarely done, and even more rarely done well)

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A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes, and the Eternal Passion for Books by Nicholas A. Basbanes.  New York: Henry Holt, 1995.  638 pp., hardback.

 

Books, their possession and use are matters of the smallest import to the greater mass of humanity.  On the other hand, there are those who prize books above most earthly things, and some who go beyond this to the realms of actual mental disease in an obsession with books.  Nicholas A. Basbanes, a nationally-syndicated columnist has investigated the past and present world of book collecting, book hoarding and massive book theft.

 

The man who values books is a bibliophile--literally, a book lover; a bibliomane is a person pre-occupied with books and their mere possession, to the extent of mental imbalance, loss of perspective, and obsession, in short, a dementia.  I am, of course, one of the former, in spite of my wife’s suspicions that I am one of the latter.

 

Basbanes gives accounts peppered with a plethora of interesting and entertaining anecdotes of major book collections and collectors, extending back to pre-printing days and continuing to the present.  He notes the vast resources that were expended (and are being expended) by the super-rich to obtain rare and highly valuable manuscripts and printed books over past centuries (the highest price ever: Bill Gates spent $30.8 million for a 72-page manuscript notebook, complete with drawings, by Leonardo da Vinci).  Such bibliophiles and their libraries as Samuel Pepys, Thomas Jefferson, J. P. Morgan, and others of lesser general fame but greater notoriety as book collectors (Sir Robert Cotton, James Logan, James Lenox, John Carter Brown, Robert Hoe III, Henry Huntington, et al.) are described (one collector had 8 houses in four countries filled with books!).    So, too, are some of the truly great book collections in public institutions--public libraries, universities, and colleges (the largest such is Harvard’s nearly 13 million books)

 

And then there are the thieves--men unhinged with an obsession for books who stole and assembled vast and valuable collections of books from various libraries.  The palm for such mania goes to one Stephen C. Blumberg of Minneapolis who managed to steal from universities and public libraries coast to coast some $20 million worth of manuscripts and books, all of which he carefully arranged and shelved in a small house in Ottumwa, Iowa.  Of bizarre appearance and demeanor, Blumberg often posed as a visiting university professor, complete with photo I.D.--and no one suspected a thing! 

 

For the book-hater, or those indifferent to books, this is decidedly ho-hum reading.  But for the book-lover, this is a most instructive and entertaining work.  I shall be consulting it often.

                                    ---Doug Kutilek

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Some quotes from A Gentle Madness by Nicholas A. Basbanes--

 

“With thought, patience, and discrimination, book passion becomes the signature of a person’s character.  When out of control and indulged to excess, it lets loose a fury of bizarre behavior.  ‘The bibliophile is the master of his books, the bibliomaniac their slave,’ the German bibliographer Hanns Bohatta steadfastly maintained, though the dividing line can be too blurry to discern.” (p. 9)

 

Silvestre de Sacy (1758-1838), keeper of Oriental manuscripts in the National Library in Paris mused about the fate of his personal library--“Oh my darling books!  A day will come when you will be laid out on the salesroom table, and others will buy and possess you--persons, perhaps, less worthy of you than your old master.  Yet how dear to me are they all!  For have I not chosen them one by one, gathered them in with the sweat of my brow?  I do love you all!  It seems as if, by long and sweet companionship, you have become part of myself.” (p. 10)

 

Dr. A. W. S. Rosenbach, stated categorically that book collectors--and he was including himself--“are buzzards who stretch their wings in anticipation as they wait patiently for a colleague’s demise; then they swoop down and ghoulishly grab some long-coveted treasure from their dear departed’s trove.” (p. 18)

 

“Born to wealth and social station in 1908, Ralph Ellis, Jr., began collecting birds’ eggs and nests at the age of twelve and ornithological books at fifteen.  He continued with a dedication so furious that in 1940 his mother had him committed to a California sanitarium out of fear that his activity would totally deplete the family fortune.” (p. 21)

 

T. J. Fitzpatrick, bibliomane and assistant professor of botany at the University of Nebraska died in 1952.  His “house was full of books, packed with books, all thirteen rooms.  Books were stacked under tables, piled up in beds, heaped in bundles on both sides of the stairways, pressed three and four deep in bookcases and onto ceiling height shelving that lined every room and all hallways.  Every room was awash with teetering piles of books, tied bundles of pamphlets, and stacks of magazines, so that we had to inch our way along trails hacked into a bookman’s jungle” (p. 22; I can’t help laughing as I type, in my own narrow-pathed “jungle”!)

 

Quoting Eugene Fields--“It has never been explained to my satisfaction why women as a class are the enemies of books and are particularly hostile to bibliomania” (p. 28; cf. Margaret Mitchell’s description in Gone With the Wind [Macmillan, 1936; p. 114] of Scarlett O’Hara, as she meets with Ashley Wilkes in the library at Twelve Oaks--“Large numbers of books always depressed her, as did people who liked to read large numbers of books.   That is--all except Ashley.”)

 

“With the development of bibliomania, ‘the friendly, warming flame of a hobby becomes a devastating, raging wildfire, a tempest of loosened and vehement passions,’ the writer Max Sander wrote in a 1943 essay for professional criminologists.  He characterized bibliomaniacs as people who suffer from a ‘pathological, irresistible mental compulsion,’ an inexplicable urging, ‘which has produced more than one crime interesting enough to be remembered.’ “ (p. 33)

 

Quoting the Roman philosopher Seneca: “ Of what use are books without number and complete collections, if their owner barely finds time in the course of his life even to read their titles?  Devote yourself to a few books, and do not wander here and there amongst a multitude of them.” (p. 61)

 

Samuel Pepys “wrote that a private library should comprehend, ‘in fewest books in least room,’ the greatest diversity of subjects, styles and languages that ‘its owner’s reading will bear.’ “ (p. 101; In his case, this totaled exactly 3,000 volumes, not one more, nor one less).

 

James Logan (1674-17-51): “Books are my disease.” (p. 129).

 

Ibid., “I value a book for what I can most easily learn by it.” (p. 131)

 

“An inventory made after [Benjamin Franklin’s] death in 1790 listed 4,276 volumes” in his personal library. (p. 136)

 

“A.N.L. Munby . . . wrote how two of his friends routinely bought books they ‘dared not bring home’ for fear of angering their spouses, and opted instead to leave their acquisitions in the shops where they bought them.  ‘Such a compromise between retaining one’s books or one’s wife seems to me a dubious solution, but I have the problem continually in mind,’ Munby added.” (p. 333; some of us certainly understand this scenario!)

 

Quoting 20th century Chicago chef and book-collector Louis Szathmary (Ph.D., psychology, University of Budapest)--“My family in Hungary were book collectors for many generations; we had a standing account with one dealer going back to the 1790s.”  (p. 360; for such a legacy!  Alas, I am a first-generation book freak).

 

“[Carl] Sandburg told how [Oliver] Barrett had filled his house in the suburbs with so many items that he began sneaking new acquisitions inside through a cellar window so as not to aggravate his wife.” (p. 428)

 

“Exactly when a person becomes a book collector has been debated often through the decades, usually without any consensus being reached.  One theory holds that the defining moment occurs when a person buys a book with the prior certainty that he will never read it, though other views are less cynical.” (p. 444)

 

“. . . the Sir Thomas More Medal for book collecting, the only award of its kind given in the United States.” (p. 452; yes, it really does exist!)

 

Quoting a Miss Schaeffer regarding a Mr. Strouse: “He was the ultimate browser in bookshops, he could tell you every book he ever had.  He could tell you where he bought it, what he paid for it.” (p. 456; can’t everyone do this?)

 

“Blumberg [the paradigmatic book thief, fl. 1980s] had taken 23,600 books from 268 libraries in forty-five states, two Canadian provinces, and the District of Columbia.” (p. 467)

 

“Every witness testified to the disarray in Blumberg’s personal hygiene.  He rarely bathed or changed his clothes, a pattern he followed for at least twenty years.” (p. 484)

 

Of Blumberg, “No fewer than twelve psychiatrists have examined him over twenty-six years, and only Dr. Taylor found him sane.” (p. 517)

 

“. . .an Atlanta rare-book dealer with the unlikely name of Gary Zippidy Duda;” (p. 489)

 

Quoting Raymond Epstein on the day his book collection was being auctioned off--“The books you see here used to be stacked all over my house, but it was never enough.  I used to read catalogues in bed at night, and I would say to my wife, ‘Look at this, there’s a book I paid fifty dollars for, a dealer wants thirty-five hundred for it.’  And my wife would say, ‘So sell it.’  Well today she finally got her wish.” (p. 533; personal note to NRK: please wait until I die)

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