How many books are in your collection?
I need to be better about keeping track! About 70 actual books, but many pamphlets that I haven’t accounted for properly. The U.S. government printed out a mass of “social hygiene” literature in the 1940s and 1950s which is all highly relevant to what I study.
What was the first book you bought for your collection?
The slightly cheeky answer might be a book that I actually have had since I was a literal toddler--although I suppose I didn’t buy that one myself. But when I was a child I had the 1968 book How Babies Are Made, which I purchased sometime again in the past few years. I only recently was doing archival newspaper research for my book when I realized how controversial it was! The illustrations are paper cut-outs, which caused quite a stir in public schools. As to more intentional purchasing, it was probably 1904’s Social Diseases and Marriage by Prince Albert Morrow, who is the first character in my book, and who I wrote about for my MFA thesis, in 2018.
How about the most recent book?
The most recent book I purchased in a way most collectors know - almost reluctantly. I was in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, and stopped in at a beautiful store called Familiar Trees. They had one book about sex. The spine read The Technique of Love. The inside title read: The Technique of the Love-Act: A Medical Contribution for the Advancement of the Sexo-physiological Harmony in Marriage. The text itself actually isn’t that innovative but it contains images of various “techniques!” This is quite rare. Something about images tends to really scare people off. When I saw those I knew I had to buy it. I had no choice!
And your favorite book in your collection?
I don’t think I could pick a favorite, but I really love a book I have called Dr. Hollick’s Complete Works, which contains paper models of the female body. It’s from 1902 and so beautiful. He was tried for obscenity.
Best bargain you’ve found?
I spend a lot of time at thrift stores, and because my collection is so wide, I am often scooping up books for a quarter. It’s great.
How about The One that Got Away?
Hmm. That’s harder. I don’t think I have one!
What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?
I have a very zen approach to book collecting. There’s nothing I’m absolutely dying for, in part because so much content is available online. I often do prefer the physical copy, especially for certain things, but I can usually make do without. But I just tracked down a Seventeen Magazine “Report on Sex Education” from 1966 that I couldn’t find online anywhere, which is very exciting.
There are a few things I have my eye out for - Killers of Children by Melvin Anchell is proving very hard to track down, for one example. I have a personal pledge not to buy from amazon, even used, which narrows down my pool for some of these specific titles.
Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?
I always say that my favorite bookstore is a rural library or church book sale. Somehow they always have what I didn’t know I was looking for! But when that’s not available to me, Portland, Maine, has some great used book stores--I like The Green Hand, Yes Books, and Carlson & Turner. I also do a lot of online shopping.
What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?
I definitely have magpie-like tendencies. I would probably collect weird dolls or vintage dresses or something like that.