Reprint of the first edition. The history of private libraries is hard to write. With the books themselves today almost invariably dispersed or absorbed into large institutional collections, they only occasionally achieve coherent visibility. The libraries must be reconstructed using a variety of means, with lists, bookplates, shelf marks, binders' records, owner's markings and contemporary correspondence all playing a part. More often than not the only access we have is through an auction catalogue, appearing like a meteor at the moment of a collection's dissolution; but such catalogues, the by-product of a commercial process rather than a careful record, are often tantalizing and enigmatic in the evidence they offer. This collection of essays by leading specialists in the field, some with extensive auction-house experience, draws aside the curtain to reveal how a variety of collectors at different periods set about amassing their libraries, what they acquired, how they organized, catalogued and displayed them, and the means by which their books came to be dispersed. Illustrated.