Unpacking my Library – relationship with information

In “Unpacking my Library” by Walter Benjamin, he talks about his relationship, as a collector, to his collection of old books. He links his collecting of books to his relationship with information contained within his book collection. In regards to whether collectors, such as himself, actually read the contents within every item that is added to the collection, he quotes from Anatole Francis when answering a question from a philistine who was “admiring his library” and asks, “And have you read all of these books Monsieur Francis?’ ‘ Not one-tenth of them. I don’t suppose you use your Sevres China every day?”(62). This analogy parallels to the point that Benjamin is trying to convey to the readers on his relationship with information. He asserts that the act of collecting books is not solely to gain knowledge, but to admire and obtain something that has a set of intrinsic value to the collector who is able to appreciate it for it’s history, content, and at times, its rarity. Furthermore, it seems almost counter-intuitive at first glance, that a collector has a vast collection of books, not for informational purposes but for its meaning to the collector when first sought out. However, as Benjamin delves into the reason why he has a vast collection of book, its for the memories that are brought about when first acquiring the item and the history and sense of nostalgia that was never lived by the collector but is well appreciated for.


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