Category Archives: antiquarian books

Dalrymple’s Disease

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The disease, also known as Dalrymple Syndrome, is included in the manual

This crushing book-buying illness

Dalrymple has long been a victim of a malady that few observers have spoken of (possibly out of embarrassment, though the patient himself is often unaware of, or indifferent to, the condition), one that is far less common than it was but which is still occasionally diagnosed in not wholly statistically insignificant numbers, namely book-purchasing disorder.

The layman is all too apt to dismiss the illness as merely nauseating and hateful to the onlooker, but it is important to recognise that members of the book-buying disorder community are suffering from a severe, apparently intractable, condition or affliction that requires to be understood and treated non-judgmentally.

Sadly exhibiting one of the characteristic symptoms, Dalrymple openly tells an interviewer that he

cannot walk by a bookstore without buying a book.

Bibliopsychosis

Dalrymple's bedroom

Dalrymple’s bedroom

Dalrymple Disorder is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, with the hoarding of second-hand or antiquarian books being recognised as a psychosis for which therapy is urgently needed. (Penetration disorder, impulse-control disorder, gambling disorder, racism, caffeine-induced sleep disorder, homophobia, occupational defiant disorder, mother-in-law relational disorder, hypoactive sexual desire disorder, Islamophobia, hyperactive sexual desire disorder, sexism, and alternating hypoactive-hyperactive sexual desire disorder, are also set out in the manual.)

Dalrymple is required to undergo lengthy treatment for his book-buying disorder and

must stay in therapy, so that the doctor keeps getting paid.

What is book-hoarding disorder? US medical authorities have described it as follows.

Dalrymple's garage

Dalrymple’s garage

Book-hoarding disorder is characterized by the persistent difficulty in discarding or parting with books, regardless of the value others, such as spouses or other family members, may attribute to them.

The book-hoarding behaviours (focal sepsis may be present), collectively known loosely as Dalrymple’s Disease,

usually have harmful effects—emotional, neurophysiological, social, political, gastrointestinal, ethical, dental (halitosis is often severe), environmental, financial, theological, paranormal and legal—for the person suffering from the disorder and their spouse (or spouses, up to four, if the sufferer is a male Muslim) or other family members.

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Dalrymple’s WC

For people who hoard books,

the quantity of their collected volumes (the quality will not be discussed here) sets them apart from people with normal book-collecting behaviors.

They obsessively accumulate a large number of books

that often fill up or clutter active living areas of the home or workplace to the extent that the active living areas’ intended use (dining, laundry, defæcation, gardening, table-tennis, bathing, baseball, DIY, micturition, off-road parking, television viewing, copulation, social gatherings, food preparation, etc.) becomes supererogatory and is severely constrained or precluded, with adverse effects for spouses, other family members, friends, work colleagues, visiting representatives of city and federal authorities, etc.

Dalrymple's dining-room

Corner of Dalrymple’s dining-room

Distressing

Symptoms of the bibliomanic frenzy

cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, technological, eschatological, educational, sexual, vocational, ecclesiastical, uro-genital, occupational, horticultural, supernatural, teleological or other important areas of functioning including maintaining a minimally adequate living environment for self, spouse and/or others.

While some people who hoard books, such as Dalrymple, may not appear particularly distressed by their behaviours,

their behaviors can be deeply distressing to large numbers of other people, such as spouses, other family members, mailmen, district attorneys, electricians, infantrymen, landlords, Black Panthers, fire-fighters, mom-and-pop store owners, Klansmen, bellhops, veterinary surgeons, burglars, used-automobile salespersons, leaders of the LGBT community, lumberjacks, Vietnam vets, railroad employees, ISIS soldiers, narcotics officers, plumbers, persons of color, Jehovah’s Witnesses, cleaners, sheriffs or their deputies, satanists, electrical contractors, professional gamblers, gardeners, racists, neighbors, intimate-apparel vendors, double-glazing salespersons, and city and federal authorities.

Book-hoarding compulsion

A section of Dalrymple's kitchen

Section of Dalrymple’s kitchen

can often be quite severe and even threatening.

Beyond the highly negative mental impact of BPD,

the accumulation of old, flaking, dirty, dusty, greasy, moldy and often frankly disgusting volumes creates a public safety and health issue by overwhelming people’s homes and giving rise to serious and potentially deadly fall and fire hazards, especially in the fall or winter, when the compulsion is at its most acute.

Treatment

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-14-12-45Indicated treatment modalities where mild to moderate Dalrymple’s Disease is diagnosed include:

  • frontal leucotomy: nerve pathways in bibliobrain lobes are severed — with dispatch and some force — from those in other regions
  • Metrazol-induced convulsion therapy: sharp anti-bibliomanic shocks are administered, giving rise to uncontrollable convulsions
  • insulin coma therapy (Insulinschockbehandlung): the patient is turned hypoglycemic with repeated injected insulin, causing repeated vomiting and loss of control of the bowels, also unbearable cramps, so that book-hoarding becomes not just unpleasant but painful in the extreme

    Staircase in the Dalrymple house

    Staircase in the Dalrymple house

Dalrymple's drawing-room

Part of Dalrymple’s drawing-room

Conservator of civilisation

Zweig in 1900

Zweig in 1900

The secondhand book dealer’s vital contribution

Dalrymple writes that in Buchmendel (1929), Stefan Zweig

indicates symbolically, and with great force, the destruction of cosmopolitan tolerance by the nationalist madness of the First World War in the fate of a single person.

Buchmendel

is a Jewish peddler of antiquarian books in Vienna. For many years before the outbreak of the war, he carried out his business in a Viennese café. Buchmendel lives for books; he has no other life. He is astonishingly learned, in the offbeat way of secondhand book dealers; every scholar in Vienna (the Vienna, recall, of Brahms, Freud, and Breuer, of Mahler and Klimt, of Schnitzler, Rilke, and Hofmannsthal) consults him on bibliographical matters.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.23Buchmendel is otherworldly.

His wants are few, his interest in money minimal. The café owner is happy to have as a customer a man consulted by so many eminent men, even though he consumes little and occupies a table all day. The café owner understands, as does everyone else, that Buchmendel is a contributor to, because he is a conservator of, civilisation, and being a civilised man himself, he is honored to welcome him.

But the war supervenes.

Buchmendel is arrested, because he has written to both London and Paris, asking why he has not received copies of bibliographical reviews. The military censors assume that this correspondence is a code for espionage: they can’t conceive that a man could concern himself with bibliography at such a time. The  authorities discover that Buchmendel, born in Russian Galicia, is not even an Austrian citizen. Interned in a camp for enemy aliens, he waits two years before the authorities realise that he is only what he seems, a book peddler.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.04On his release, Vienna has changed.

No longer the centre of an empire, it has become the impoverished capital of a monoglot rump state. Buchmendel’s café has changed hands; the new owner does not understand or welcome Buchmendel and ejects him. Buchmendel’s life has fallen apart, as has the civilisation to which he was a valuable contributor; now homeless, he soon dies of pneumonia.

Zweig makes it clear

that though Buchmendel was eccentric and his life one-dimensional, even stunted, he could offer his unique contribution to Viennese civilisation because no one cared about his nationality. His work and knowledge were vastly more important to his cosmopolitan customers than his membership in a collectivity.

Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 22.13.54No man was more sensitive than Zweig

to the destructive effects upon individual liberty of the demands of large or strident collectivities. He would have viewed with horror the cacophony of monomanias — sexual, racial, social, egalitarian — that marks the intellectual life of our societies, each monomaniac demanding legislative restriction on the freedom of others in the name of a supposed greater, collective good. His work was a prolonged (though muted and polite) protest at the balkanisation of our minds and sympathies.

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Teddy Dalrymple’s financial affairs

Screen Shot 2014-07-22 at 13.09.42Although he subscribes to investment — speculation — newsletters, which of course contradict themselves regularly, Teddy’s financial affairs have never really captured his imagination.

He does, however, invest in ‘antiquarian books on arcane subjects’.