February 13, 2012

Hollywood’s rare book collectors


One would think that Hollywood bibliophiles would be flashy collectors, using the purchase receipts of valuable books to demonstrate some intellectual inner life that the tabloids usually strip them of. Indeed for some stars it might well be, but it seems that for many of Hollywood’s biggest movers and shakers book collecting is a far more sincere pastime …

The following is from a Hollywood Reporter article about the Hollywood antique book fair, and its famous patrons:

Johnny Depp collects first-edition works by Jack Kerouac, Arthur Rimbaud, Dylan Thomas and Edgar Allan Poe. Other industry figures have assembled museum-quality collections devoted to everything from exploration (producer Kathleen Kennedy) and aviation (director Tony Bill) to novelizations of silent-era films (business manager Bill Tanner) and the poetry of William Butler Yeats (screenwriter Jeffrey Fiskin). CAA is a particular fan of vintage volumes as gifts. And bibliophiles including Brad Pitt and Steve Martin have been spotted at the California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which this year takes place at the Pasadena Convention Center. “People think I’m a high-end hoarder,” says Brett Ratner, who has amassed thousands of photography books including three first editions of Robert Frank‘s The Americans.

While Depp’s collection is certainly part of his persona, it is interesting to read about some of the more specific collections maintained on subjects as minute as exploration or aviation. These collections are obviously less recognizable than a run of Kerouac first printings, but often far more intricate and costly in construction — that is to say, the domain of the real collector.

The article goes on to highlight certain star-related treasures, including a pair of books involving Woody Allen, Frank Sinatra and Mia Farrow, which of course carried a large ticket. In a story of curiosities, one in particular stuck out.

John Larroquette, known within the scene for his Samuel Beckett cache, can relate. “I’m an addictive personality, and I love books,” he says. “Once I had disposable income, I began to buy more. My wife would get angry, finding me asleep with a $20,000 book on my chest, gingerly having to lift it away.”

This makes sense. Wasn’t Night Court, in some small way, just an adaptation of Waiting for Godot?


Paul Oliver is the marketing manager of Melville House. Previously he was co-owner of Wolfgang Books in Philadelphia.