Eugene Field Sr. (1850-1895) was born on September 2, 1850, in St. Louis, Missouri; American writer, best known for his poems for children, and humorous essays. In 1875, he started his career as a reporter for the St. Joseph Gazette, and rose to be the newspaper’s city editor. The Gazette was the first paper to print his humorous articles. He moved on to work for the Morning Journal in St. Louis, the Kansas City Times, and the Denver Tribune. He started publishing poems in 1879, eventually producing over a dozen volumes of poetry, mainly for children. In 1883, he began writing a column called Sharps and Flats for the Chicago Daily News. He died of a heart attack at the age of 45.
Are you a book collector, an obsessive reader, or a combination of both?
A book collector is someone who loves the container as much as the contents – they search for first editions, and are the proud possessors of libraries filled with beautiful leather-bound volumes.
An obsessive reader is someone who cares more about what’s inside, who is happy with a stack of second-hand paperbacks to read. They automatically read any print that’s in front of them – cereal box nutritional information, street signs, advertisements – if it’s printed in their native tongue, they’ll read it – and if it isn’t, they’ll try to figure it out anyway. But their first loves are a good story, and a poem that resounds.
As you’ve probably guessed, I’m an obsessive reader. I do appreciate the feel in my hands of a beautifully made book, and the delightful smell of quality leather – but if it’s a choice between buying one gorgeous, expensive volume, or dozens of paperbacks, I’ll buy the paperbacks.
“The Bibilomaniac’s Prayer,” by Eugene Field, pokes some gentle fun at the type of book collector who has become completely obsessed, not just with owning the books, but with beating out his competition for all those rare and elusive volumes.
To read “The Bibilomaniac’s Prayer,” click:
The Bibilomaniac’s Prayer
by Eugene Field
Keep me, I pray, in wisdom’s way
That I may truths eternal seek;
I need protecting care to-day,—
My purse is light, my flesh is weak.
So banish from my erring heart
All baleful appetites and hints
Of Satan’s fascinating art,
Of first editions, and of prints.
Direct me in some godly walk
Which leads away from bookish strife,
That I with pious deed and talk
May extra-illustrate my life.
But if, O Lord, it pleaseth Thee
To keep me in temptation’s way,
I humbly ask that I may be
Most notably beset to-day;
Let my temptation be a book,
Which I shall purchase, hold, and keep,
Whereon when other men shall look,
They’ll wail to know I got it cheap.
Oh, let it such a volume be
As in rare copperplates abounds,
Large paper, clean, and fair to see,
Uncut, unique, unknown to Lowndes.
“The Bibilomaniac’s Prayer” is in the public domain.
- Photograph of Eugene Field Sr
- Leather-bound, 1907 editions of the works of Eugene Field