Book People | February 2010 | Brian Cassidy

Chasing Tiger Woods and Rare Books: Hemingway Collection of Barry Levine

New York Times today has a nice profile of National Enquirer editor Barry Levin and his exceptional Ernest Hemingway collection:
Mr. Levine's collection includes bullfighting programs Hemingway used for his research, check stubs for routine things like car repairs, and letters by Mary Hemingway, the author's widow. Among those: a carbon copy of a typed note to the sheriff in Ketchum, Idaho, where Hemingway committed suicide in 1961, asking that the shotgun he used be returned.
It's a nice look at the creative approach smart book buyers use to assemble their collections. My one quibble is this line:
Glenn Horowitz, a rare-book dealer and friend of Mr. Levine's, said that while Mr. Levine lacks the 'deep Champagne pockets' of some collectors, his reportorial skills have helped him identify interesting items to put together an 'imaginative, elastic collection,' one in which each piece offers a little anecdote -- and some work together to tell a story.
The article bears out the second half of that statement very well. But the first -- that Levine lacks "deep Champagne pockets" -- may be tough for collectors on more modest budgets to swallow, especially when the article describes how Levine once "spent several thousand dollars at a Christie's auction on another first edition of 'For Whom the Bell Tolls' -- this one a brilliant copy that Hemingway signed and that includes the author's calling card." 

While it's true that such judgements are relative, in a small way the piece perpetuates the sometimes popular myth that book collecting is an activity only for the wealthy. I would love to see the Times profile a collection that was truly put together without the help of "deep Champagne pockets." There are plenty out there.