Whenever a high degree of civilization has been attained book-lovers have multiplied, and to the student with his modest desire to read his favourite author in a well-written or well-printed copy there has been added a class of owners suspected of caring more for the externals of books than for the enjoyment to be obtained by reading them. But although adumbrations of it existed under the Roman empire and towards the end of the middle ages, book-collecting, as it is now understood, is essentially of modern growth. A glance through what must be regarded as the medieval text-book on the love of books, the Philobiblon, attributed to Richard de Bury (written in 1345), shows that it deals almost exclusively with the delights of literature, and Sebastian Brant’s attack on the book-fool, written a century and a half later, demonstrates nothing more than that the possession of books is a poor substitute for learning. This is so obviously true that before book-collecting in the modern sense can begin it is essential that there should be no lack of books to read, just as until cups and saucers became plentiful there was no room for the collector of old china. Even when the invention of printing had reduced the cost of books by some 80%, book-collectors did not immediately appear. There is a natural temptation to imagine that the early book-owners, whose libraries have enriched modern collectors with some of their best-known treasures, must necessarily have been collectors themselves. This is far from being the case. Hardly a book of all that Jean Grolier (1479-1565) caused to be bound so tastefully for himself and his friends reveals any antiquarian instincts in its liberal owner, who bought partly to encourage the best printers of his day, partly to provide his friends with the most recent fruits of Renaissance scholarship. In England Archbishop Cranmer, Lords Arundel and Lumley, and Henry, prince of Wales (1594-1612), in France the famous historian Jacques Auguste de Thou (1553-1617), brought together the best books of their day in all departments of learned literature, put them into handsome leather jackets, and enriched them with their coats of arms, heraldic badges or other marks of possession. But they brought their books together for use and study, to be read by themselves and by the scholars who frequented their houses, and no evidence has been produced that they appreciated what a collector might now call the points of a book other than its fine condition and literary or informational merits.
(A.W. Pollard, “Book-collecting.” In: Encyclopædia Britannica, Vol. 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1910, p. 222).