Culture Culture

11/10/2018 - 07:50

Hue people “play” books

There have been a lot of bibliophiles in Hue city for years. Collecting books is a kind of entertainment, both similar and different to the pleasure of reading book, and the establishment of a family bookcase or a private library.

Collecting books by favorite authors, as Dan Brown and Haruki Murakami, as in this photo, is one of the ways that Hue people collect books. Photo: Tran Duc Anh Son

By ‘similar’ we mean bibliophiles have to spend money to purchase books, read them, and also arrange space to preserve and display books as anyone who wants to establish a family bookcase or private library. By ‘different’ we mean they are book collectors. They consider books as artifacts in their collections that are collected in accordance with a certain theme. They spend time, effort and money to hunt for a book that they love, with endless passion and unforeseen price. They are willing to exchange with their counterparts a valuable book they own, to get a less valuable one that is still missing in their collection.

Book reader usually buy one copy of a book to read and store. Yet, bibliophiles often collect all editions of a book that might be printed several times. They are also willing to “turn up” all bookstores, sidewalk old book stalls, family bookcases... to buy, sell, exchange a book of an author, on a theme, or of a genre that they are missing. That is a real bibliophile.

From the 1930s, there were famous printing cum publishing companies in Hue city, such as: Đắc Lập, Anh Minh, Viễn Đệ, Phúc Sinh, Phúc Long, Tiếng Dân... Depending on their own principles and business purposes, they published specific book genres, including textbooks, literature, science, music, press... Later, their printing products became objects of hunting by bibliophiles in Hue city.

Bibliophiles, apart from spending their money, time and effort, also have to look for chance to “purchase” precious books. Many of them have put a lot of effort to pursue a missing book by hunting it at bookstores, contacting other bibliophiles to purchase, exchange, even traveled to Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi cities, which are famous centers for old books purchase in Vietnam today to look for the book they need, but failed.

Yet, on a beautiful day, as accidentally passing through old bookstalls on the sidewalk of Nguyen Thai Hoc street or Hai Ba Trung street, they caught the book they were looking for and bought it at an affordable price. That is the predetermination and joy of a bibliophile.

There are many schools of book collecting in Hue city. Some people collect books by themes of literature, history, culture, science, music...; by authors, publishers, or by such genres as detective, science fiction, adventure, love story...; or by publishing time, such as books published before 1975 in both North and South parts of Vietnam. Some only collect Hue books on history, culture, architecture, customs and people of Hue. Some set their own criteria for books that must be beautiful, extraordinary, and perfect, without any loss of cover, letters, and that are not fake.

Some only look for books with author's autograph or signature, author's or buyer's book dedication to readers and friends. These books are usually old books and for some reasons appear in old bookstore or in scrap collectors' shops, then become an inspiration for bibliophiles.

Collecting old books about Hue is a hobby of many people. Photo: Tran Nguyen Khanh Phong

Previously in Hue city, Cảo Thơm bookstore had two shops on Ly Thuong Kiet street and Le Duan street, and specialized in purchasing old valuable books. Later, Hoàng Thổ bookstore on Hung Vuong street became a visiting address of book collectors not only from Hue, but also from the North or South of Vietnam.

However, sidewalk old book stalls on Nguyen Thai hoc, Hai Ba Trung, Nguyen Truong To streets and those behind Dong Ba market are regular places for collectors. Because among many of the books purchased in kilogram, there may be rare and extremely valuable books that they have a great chance to own.

There are four book supply sources in Hue city: new books from contemporary bookstores; old books from old books stores and sidewalk stalls; direct exchange among collectors; and internet-based book exchange or purchase through online forums or social networks. These book sources and exchange methods have made book collecting in Hue city more vibrant and attractive.

Hue bibliophiles used to be old-aged intellectuals. They also loved reading books and were vast understanding and well-informed. Demands of book reading and purchasing led to book playing and collecting.  For instance, Mr. N. H. N., residing on Dang Thai Than street, is diligent to buy and collect books from before 1975 to present. He buys books without any limit to themes or genres. Especially, he always buys two copies of a book, with a reason “one to read, one to file”. His bookcase is one of the famous private bookcases in Hue city today.

In recent years, there have been many young members among Hue bibliophiles with remarkable collections, such as D.M.D with a book collection of about 14,000 books of all genres...

They are outstanding successors of this intellectual entertainment from forebears, to nurture a passion for books, and more importantly to keep Hue voluminous, enriched and valuable bookcases to transmit to future generations.

By Tran Huyen