Bright Young Collectors: R. A. Priddle

Image courtesy of R. A. Priddle

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with R.A. Priddle in Ontario, Canada:

Where are you from / where do you live?

I live in the village of Williamstown which is situated in Eastern Ontario, Canada.  I was born in southern Ontario and I have German citizenship through my mother’s side.

What did you study at university? What do you do now for an occupation?

I intended to go to university to obtain a B.Mus.  but then decided I wanted to become a Classicist.  It was a toss up between Trent and the University of Ottawa. I enrolled at the University of Ottawa in Classics, but it was the Religious Studies program (specifically SRS1100 Witchcraft, Magic, And Occult Traditions) that drew me there.  Long story short I graduated in 2013 with two Master Degrees: A Master of Arts in Religious Studies from the University of Ottawa and a Master of Information from the University of Toronto.  It is in the latter my passion reignited for the book in its physical form, and I became a private and rare book librarian.

Please introduce us to your book collection.  What areas do you collect in? 

My collection is an extension of my academic background. So, in addition to having a well-rounded Classics and Religious Studies resources library I also have an extensive collection of books pertaining to magic, witchcraft, demonology and neopaganism.  A smattering of herbalism, and horticulture. And my reference collection for bibliography and bookbinding.

How many books are in your collection?

I think around 3000, which includes an archive of neopagan ephemera and articles pertaining to groups in my region.  Books that I consider unique or highly desirable have my book plate added to them with a valuation (in pencil) on the upper corner.  I printed about 500 of those and I have about 20 left before I am going to design a new plate for the next phase of my library. My goal is to have them all catalogued this summer.

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection
R.A. Priddle

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection
R.A. Priddle

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection
R.A. Priddle

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection
R.A. Priddle

Items from R.A. Priddle's collection

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

I have books from my childhood, a lot of Dragon Lance novels. And even from my father’s childhood, The First Book of Prehistoric Animals, by Alice Dickinson (Franklin Watts, 1954). The first book I acquired because “it was old’ was for $28.00 from eBay in 2006, The French Scholar's Guide: or an easy help for translating French into English (176x?).

How about the most recent book?

Most recent is Volume 4 of Lynn Thordyke’s The History of Magic and Experimental Science.  I aim to get all 8 in first editions, though it can be tricky, it is useful reference for me. 

And your favorite book in your collection?

My favourite book: that is a three-way tie between a signed first edition of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, a first edition of Foucault’s Pendulum, and any of the first editions of Terry Pratchett that I pick up.  The favourite of my antique books thought I think is The Compleat Gardner: or Directions for Cultivating and Right Ordering of Fruit Gardens and Kitchen-Gardens (1649) or this oddly shaped 12mo of Senica from 1666. I have other favourites, but they lose marks for loose boards or worse library binding.

Best bargain you’ve found?

I go to a lot of estate sales. I picked up Kinder- und Hausmärchen, gesammelt durch die Brüder Jacob und Wilhelm Grimm, 1884 for $10. Rare decks of Tarot cards for $5. I once bought an Ottoman Turkish Bible for $20 and sold it for 500 to a rare book dealer in Toronto. I still have that cheque as a memento of my first sale.

How about The One that Got Away?

They never get away. Though sometimes I have slept on my bidding at auction. I tell my clients this; books are like good friends that we become acquainted with in many forms. The content of a book can be found many places thanks to information professionals like me.  As for the physical form, the codex, it is a physical form that can last a lot longer than ours, so they get to live with a lot of people. But I also say this to my clients, a Robertson Davies quote; “to be a book collector is to combine the worst traits of a dope fiend with that of a miser.” HAPPY HUNTING!

What would be the ‘Holy Grail’ for your collection?

A First Edition of Francis Barrett’s The Magus 1801. This was the focus of my graduate work at the University of Ottawa, but it could not have been accomplished if not for the training I received at the University of Toronto. To which I owe the great Sandra Alston and the late Dr Greta Golick for their fantastic support in analytical bibliography.

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

Shoutout to Sellers and Newell in Toronto.  I have made many visits there looking for Occult books.  But I won’t say anymore, I guard my book hunting secrets close.

What would you collect if you didn’t collect books?

Since my collection is an extension of my work as an academic and private librarian, I don’t consider myself a collector but rather a reference and a curator. However, as an antiquarian I sort of collect everything. I try to narrow my scope to interesting card tables, and anything with a ‘witchy’ sort of a vibe to it; a small parliament of Owls, cauldrons (one that belonged to Martha Stewart), interesting walking sticks and wands, pottery, etc, bones.