Thomas Frognall Dibdin (1776 – 1847)

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Thomas Frognall Dibdin was an English bibliographer who is credited with stimulating interest in bibliography, and founding the first English private publishing society.

Dibdin was born in India, and orphaned at a young age. He was educated at St. John's College, Oxford and started a legal career, but instead became an ordained clergyman in 1804. His first book, Introduction to the Knowledge of rare and valuable editions of the Greek and Latin Classics (1804) attracted the notice of Lord Spencer who opened up his private library at Althrop, which by the 1830s was one of the largest in Europe with over 100,000 books. In 1814-1815 Dibdin published 'Bibliotheca Spenceriana; or, a Descriptive Catalogue of the Books Printed in the Fifteenth Century, and of Many Valuable First Editions in the Library of George John Earl Spencer K.G.' which was found very useful to the general public as the library was private, but the book is known to have many errors. Dibdin published a playful work, Bibliomania (1809) subtitled 'or, book-madness; containing some account of the history, symptoms, and cure of this fatal disease'. The book "is an anthem to the printed book, a warning to the unwary about the perils of obsessive book-collecting, and the confessions of a rabid book-collector" (Danckwerts, p. vii). The popularity of Dibdin's book also helped promote and popularize book-collecting at a time before commercialized printing of books, and contributed to the public's interest in old and rare books. Dibdin went on to write multiple other books about books during his lifetime, including the 1924 'Library Companion, or the Young Man's Guide and Old Man's Comfort in the Choice of a Library' - intended to point out all the best works in all departments of literature, although he was severely criticized for falling short. In 1836 he published a two-volume 'Reminiscences of a Literary Life.'

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Books by Thomas Frognall Dibdin