Article Index

2) The List Collection

In this collection, you purchase every book, generally the first editions, on a well-recognized list. For example, you could purchase the first editions of every book that won an Edgar award, which remain relatively affordable. Or you could purchase every book on the Queen's Quorum or the Haycraft-Queen Cornerstones list. (While impressive, either of these would be a very expensive undertaking). One nice thing about the list collection is that it has a finite endpoint. Once you've purchased every book on the list, you've formed your collection. Straightforward and easily conceptualized. If you like a clearly defined structure, this is the collection for you.

3) The Genre Collection

In this collection you focus on a particular subgenre of the mystery field. The cozy mystery, for example, or science fiction mysteries. This can be a fun collection, particularly if you're an enthusiast of a mystery subgenre. It can lead to some intriguing discoveries for your reading pleasure in addition to building your collection. While the lines between subgenres can be quite fuzzy, that can also be part of the fun. You can take the collection as far, or keep it as strictly limited, as you prefer.

4) The Topical Collection

The topical collection offers the most potential for a stimulating, inexpensive book collection. Here you really are only limited by your imagination. You could collect based on a particular era (1950s pulp mysteries or mysteries of the Victorian era). You could collect based on cover art (covers depicting a masked villain, covers with a female in distress, etc). You could collect based on premise (books with a female detective, books where the victim was poisoned, etc.). You could collect based on a location, or a profession, or a hobby. The possibilities here really are endless.

pedersen_nate_bookfairRegardless of the topic you choose, remember to keep your collection focused. A common mistake made by beginning collectors is the accumulation of miscellaneous or unrelated volumes. When considering each purchase, think about how the material will specifically enhance your collection. This will save you time and money. A well-developed collection is a series of interconnecting pieces, each building upon the other to achieve a greater whole.

Now go out there and start brainstorming ideas for a collection. Get to know your local antiquarian bookseller, find a mystery specialist locally or online. Many booksellers will happily offer advice to beginning collectors. To find a rare book dealer, visit , which is the website of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. Its members are bound by rules of ethical conduct and professionalism and many of the best antiquarian booksellers are members.

Get creative, have some fun, and don't think you need to spend much money to form an interesting collection. Remember the book-collector's modification of E.M. Forster's famous line in Howard's End: Only collect.

Nate Pedersen is an American freelance writer and rare book enthusiast currently living in Edinburgh, Scotland. You can find more of his writing at