Feng Shui by Clear Englebert

Feng Shui & Collecting: The Yin & Yang of Acquisition

Feng Shui & Collecting: The Yin & Yang of Acquisition

Photo of the book "Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love 1850s-1950s"

Adding to a collection by happenstance is the yin way to do it and targeting specific acquisitions is the yang way—yang being specific and yin being less so. Do remember that a yin/yang symbol does not have a direct straight line bisecting it—it has a wavy, S-shaped line. That means that nothing is completely yin or completely yang.

This article is also an excuse to review to very different books. The yin way to collect is well demonstrated by Loving: A Photographic History of Men in Love, 1850s-1950s which contains the highlights of the Hugh Nini and Neal Treadwell photo collection. This magnificent collection of antique and vintage photos began by accident over twenty years ago. The photos were found here and there, and the result is a gift to humanity. You certainly don’t have to be gay to be swept away by the warmth and happiness expressed in these pictures. It’s the ultimate feel-good book! I recommended it to a dear old friend who has come out as gay while in his 50’s. He said it’s perfect for a person who’s just coming out. I had made a list of my very favorite pictures and when he and I last talked on the phone, I read them out and he turned to those pages, and we talked about the pictures. It made for an excellent and very meaningful phone conversation. My list is on my Amazon review of the book.

Photo of the author's copy of "Taste & Technique in Book-Collecting" with pages flagged
I have marked more pages in this book than I ever have before!

The yang way of collecting is discussed (at length) in Taste & Technique in Book-Collecting by John Carter. Look at the photo of my copy of this book. I’ve never before come close to putting this many sticky notes in one book (some pages having three). Carter makes clear his idea of the difference between people who acquire and people who collect (and I have a feeling that he may have his nose up in the air when he makes that distinction). Collecting books being the higher calling in his opinion, and for feng shui purposes, the more yang of the two. With that many sticky notes, I can’t resist sharing a few of my favorite quotes (note that the book was written in 1949 and all people are referred to as men—sigh):

“No self-respecting collector of books needs a reason for collecting. He collects because he likes books.”

“It is the collector’s business to illustrate his central idea by his choice of examples, by the care with which he describes them and the skill with which they are arranged. In all these matters many amateurs rival, if they do not outstrip, the professional curators and librarians.”

“There is no conceivable subject upon which a truly enlightening collection cannot be made.”

“Mere purchasing does not constitute collecting.”

“The collector learns about collecting by collecting.”

“…when collectors are exchanging reminiscences, you will notice that for every book that someone regrets buying, he will recall a dozen that he regrets not buying.”

I love this last one…

“Out-bidding is the very essence of collecting. The most sacred duty of every collector is to overpay. To outbid and overpay is not a calamity, but an absolute necessity.”

Whether your collecting method is yin or yang or (more likely) a combination of the two, do keep it organized and displayed well. If you have a large collection, not every piece has to be out at once. Rotating what’s on view is a great way of renewing your appreciation of the items.

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