Book Collector Sara Mohr on Iraq, Assyriology, and Agatha Christie

Sara Mohr

Sara Mohr

Our Bright Young Collectors series continues today with Sara Mohr, one of the honorable mentions in the 2023 Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize for women aged 30 or under.

Where are you from / where do you live?

I’m originally from Malibu, CA, and I currently live in Utica, NY. 

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

I studied anthropology at the University of Chicago before going on to get my PhD in Assyriology from Brown University. Last year I started as the digital scholarship librarian at Hamilton College. 

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

What originally started as a research library for my Assyriology degree expanded into a broader collection of American and European books and ephemera about Iraq and its ancient past. My collection includes some of the earliest publications of Near East scholarship, travel memoirs, military guides to the region, recollections from archaeologists who have worked in the area, and modern interpretations of ancient texts by modern Iraqi authors. My collection spans a wide time period, with the earliest publication dating to 1855 and the most recent to 2022. I look for as many different perspectives on the modern Middle East as I can in building my collection. 

How many books are in your collection?

I’m now up to 29.

What was the first book you bought for your collection?

Social Life Among The Assyrians and Babylonians by A.H. Sayce (1893). I was drawn to the beautiful cloth cover stamped with a black and gold design.

Items from Sara Mohr's collection
Sara Mohr

Items from Sara Mohr's collection

Items from Sara Mohr's collection
Sara Mohr

Items from Sara Mohr's collection

Items from Sara Mohr's collection
Sara Mohr

Items from Sara Mohr's collection

How about the most recent book?

Historical and Descriptive Account of Persia, from the Earliest Ages to the Present Time by James B. Fraser (1860). It’s a small book that came to my collection with some damage to the spine but a great foldout map in the front cover. 

And your favorite book in your collection?

Come, Tell Me How You Live by Agatha Christie (1946), one of her autobiographical works. In it, she writes of her time accompanying her husband and eminent archaeologist, Max Mallowan, on a series of excavations in Iraq. Christie’s time in Iraq would also influence her mystery novels, Murder on the Orient Express and Murder in Mesopotamia

Best bargain you’ve found?

When cleaning out the shelves and shelves of books from my grandmother’s house, I came across 6 books that fit my collection, including A History of Egypt by James Henry Breasted. Going through her books was like being in a used bookstore.

How about The One that Got Away?

I had an opportunity to purchase a first edition of The Rise and Progress of Assyriology by E.A. Wallis Budge. I was standing right in front of it but walked away. I came back the next day and it was already gone. 

What would be the Holy Grail for your collection?

I’ve heard rumors of a set of Heritage Resource Preservation playing cards focused on Egyptian antiquities that would complete the set I have of decks focused on Iraq and Afghanistan. I have yet to be able to track one down or find significant writing on them, but I’m always on the lookout. 

Who is your favorite bookseller / bookstore?

I can always count on finding something interesting and cool at Paper Nautilus in Providence, RI. Even though they closed earlier this year, I have to shout out Cellar Stories, also in Providence, their absolutely packed shelves that I used to spend quite a bit of time exploring. 

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

Probably analog or film-style cameras, or records. I guess I have a thing for older technologies.