On owning multiple copies

I’m sure I’m not the only person who owns more than one copy of my favourite books. Sometimes it’s because I find a more attractive copy than the one I already own. Sometimes it’s because I buy an omnibus (which can be awkward to read because of the size but it was the only way to get hold of the books at the time. My Barbara Pym omnibus is a case in point). Sometimes it’s because I buy a beautiful Folio Society or Persephone or Virago edition of something I already own just because the newer book is beautiful to look at & hold (Folio editions of my favourite historical biographies, Nancy Mitford, A S Byatt’s Possession). Sometimes it’s because I’m collecting a series like the Persephone Classics even though I already have the original grey Persephones. Sometimes it’s to replace an ancient, well-loved copy that’s falling apart but I can’t part with it because of the associations of where or when I first read it (Jane Eyre & Wuthering Heights, The Daughter of Time, Testament of Youth, The Return of the Soldier). Sometimes it’s because I want to read the introduction or new notes (pretty much any classic novel). At the moment I’m loving the new OUP World’s Classics & have quite unnecessarily bought extra copies of some Austen & Bronte novels. Sometimes it’s because I forgot I owned the book in the first place (Frances Partridge’s Memories). Do you have the same habit? What’s your excuse?

11 thoughts on “On owning multiple copies

  1. i have the habit too – I wouldn't generally be able to justify another book just because it looked nice, but I might if it had a new introduction as well. I have a few duplicates for sentimental reasons too.


  2. You are not alone. I succumbed to both Persephone versions of MARIANA. (I told myself I would give the other one away as a present but I didn't.) I have 3 different editions of Dorothy Dunnett's Lymond Chronicles plus a few additional hb copies of the same books. (They had dust jackets! You think I was going to leave them on the secondhand bookshop's shelves?…)

    I've made peace with myself and no longer make excuses for my bookbuying. Why did I buy it? Because it was there. 😉


  3. I have two copies of Excellent Women too, and I don't want to part with either. I have a number of duos, a few where I've seen secondhand copies that i know won't be picked up and have to bring home, some when there are two lovely editions and I can't chose just one to keep and some books where I just have to have insurance against loss or damage. Some call it madness, but I call it sense!


  4. I have the occassional duplicate, usually purchased when I have a second-hand copy and I find a cleaner/newer/nicer one. Some I buy because I like the new imprint's cover. Other times… well… I was lucky enough to find 'Miss Pettigrew' (Persephone grey cover) in a charity shop for something ridiculous like £1.50 and in good condition. A few months later, I spied the classic version in the same shop for £1.99. HAD to have it at such a price! Like you, I'm also (kind of) collecting the classics.
    Generally though, it depends on the cost of the duplicate. At the moment there are a couple of duplicate sins that I am planning on committing: one is to buy a copy of E. F. Benson's' 'Mrs Ames' from the Bloomsbury Group (I cannot say no to a newly-printed Benson!) and the other is an expensive one… the Folio edition of 'Mapp and Lucia'. I have coveted this for a year and am waiting for the price to be right 🙂
    And like you, I'm also in love with the OUP covers… Sigh!


  5. Probably my most extravagant multiple is Atwood's Oryx and Crake. I have four copies of it. One each of the British, Canadian, and American first editions with a duplicate of the Canadian because I found a signed copy.

    I have no excuse. Just love that's all.


  6. Sometimes it kills me not to get a nicer newer edition of something when I see it fresh minted on the shelves of a shop, or to resist second hand bargains – but generally I'm very carefull not to get duplicates – I want the space to much for new books. I'm currently really tempted by the new penguin editions of Nancy Mitford…


  7. I find that this is something which people will never understand, or accept unquestioningly – my brother can't comprehend why I buy multiple copies of the same book, but of course I do. Usually because they're Persephone and non-Persephone editions, or VMC/non-VMC, or simply because I'd like a spare to give to someone someday.


  8. Yes, I do this too. I try to conviince myself that the old copy is a “reading” copy, and the new one will be reserved for perusal at a later date. And I didn't know there was a Folio “Possession” – time to rejoin, methinks!


  9. Rob, I'm always joining & leaving the Folio Society! They usually tempt me back with a spectacularly good deal on a box set – Dorothy L Sayers one year. Although, come to think of it, they're all duplicates too. But they're such lovely hardbacks with lovely line drawings…


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