A Typophile’s Notes Books

Rare book collector V.R. Ferose: Fun and fearless

V.R. Ferose, the man from Bengaluru, who has turned book collecting into a warm and collaborative project

One day while I was at Bookworm, a secondhand bookshop in Bengaluru, Krishna, the owner, took out from a locked cupboard a copy of the Limited Editions Club’s Lysistrata with Picasso’s signature in pencil at the colophon. I had hardly expected to come across something as fine as this in an Indian bookshop, and congratulated him.

“Actually, it’s not for sale — this has been loaned to the bookshop by the collector V.R. Ferose,” he replied. “Really? But why?” I couldn’t help exclaiming. “Because he feels otherwise it will just sit on his shelf, while at least here browsers can enjoy looking at it. Not only this one, but Ferose sir has given us other rare books from his collection too, such as the recent limited edition signed by Harper Lee.”

Krishna and I were moved about how typical this was of Ferose: which collector would, after having spent a lakh or so on a single book, gladly place it in the custody of another? He is, as friends, family and colleagues will readily testify, a generous collector. Unforgettable to me was the time — I barely knew him then — when he parted with a rarity from his collection without thinking for a second about it.

Stepping up

I had given him something small, and he immediately plucked a highly desirable and valuable signed book from his shelf and thrust it at me, saying, “Well, then, you must have this.”

When I protested, he waved me off, saying he had two signed copies. Of course he did! But is that any reason to part with the second copy?

He is a fearless collector, and I’ve seen this for myself at every turn and phase of his collecting. I recall this one time, perhaps some three years ago, when a desirable and sumptuous collection of high-end books, made up mostly of limited signed editions, came up for sale rather unexpectedly in India for a handsome, though fitting, sum and no one wanted to take the plunge and buy it. Ferose stepped up. Quite a few collectors were interested in the collection, but were dithering. This is so typical of Indian book collectors — a lot of talk and no action. Boasting turns them on more than actually making significant acquisitions.

Always spirited

Ferose is a creative collector too, thinking up of new areas of collecting — zines, landmark graphic novels, collectible joke books, cartoon strips, movie posters, great speeches. He also invents sub-categories — best books on technology, on autism, or books that changed the world. Most collectors eventually settle into one or two areas of collecting, limiting themselves to a specialised focus; while this can be and often is a good thing, it holds no appeal for Ferose. The moment he learns of a new area of collecting — be it miniatures or examples of early printed books or his most recent enthusiasm, manuscripts — he researches to see what the most attractive or noted examples in each focus is, and chases after them.

Never have I heard him whine (or brag) about how much this is costing him; on the other hand, he is always spirited about the next collecting adventure, on his toes and ready to snap up new acquisitions. Most of all, what has deeply impressed me is how he has turned the activity of collecting into a collaborative project. He eagerly includes you — that is anyone interested and charmed enough to buy rare and beautiful books — to join him in the fellowship.

The writer is a bibliophile, columnist and critic.

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Printable version | Feb 27, 2020 1:46:41 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/books/fun-and-fearless-rare-book-collector-vr-ferose/article29108498.ece

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