Starting a Dog Book Collection

I'm often asked for advice on how to start a dog book collection. Most people will begin by talking about rarity and condition, etc., but I think you have to begin with a more basic set of questions. What kind of collection do you want? Do you want to specialize or generalize?

In a specialized collection, you acquire books only on your breed. You may confine yourself to only breed books. That can consist of lots of titles if you're a Collie person, but the pickings can be slim if you are a Chinese Crested fan. You may decide that you'll include everything on your breed, including any fiction titles that feature the breed or any illustrated books where the dogs are pictured.

You may opt for a generalized collection. With this approach you collect everything on dogs. You might decide to restrict yourself to non-fiction books only or include fiction titles, too. Your focus should be on the older volumes...the real classics of dog literature. You will also want to include older volumes of breed books. Even if you are not collecting fiction books, I think you should definitely include at least a few of the best illustrated dog books.
Mr. Jorrock's Thoughts on Hunting-------------------Dogs of Great Britain, America...
---------by Surtees, 1925---------------------------------- -------by Stonehenge (Walsh) 1888
Perhaps what you want is a really elite collection. You might want to set a date of 1920 or so and seek out books published before this date. If this is your choice, than only first editions in very good or better condition will be your goal. And, if you can snag signed and numbered copies so much the better. Acquiring rare and scarce volumes will be of paramount importance to you.
If you are a fan of great dog art, then your collection may be centered on this theme. Start with some of the general books which feature collections of dog art and then decide whether you would like to collect all books with large numbers of illustrations (we're talking artwork here, not just your regular dog books which include photos and perhaps drawings) or if you want to specialize in a few artists. You might want to restrict your collection to books featuring the works of Megargee, Kirmse, Dennis, Thorne or a whole host of others. Remember to keep on top of new artists, too. There are some very talented people out there. And, if you're really serious, prepare to fork over some money for some of the older, really rare dog items. Hutchinson's Dog Encyclopedia contains some incredible artwork. The plates in some of the old breed books like Stonehenge's The Greyhound are incredible. You might also want to include the wonderful auction catalogs from Sotheby's, Christie's and Bonhams.
There are endless permutations on the specialist vs. generalist collections. You may decide to collect books on all the breeds in your group (sporting, hounds, herding, terrier, etc.) or you could choose to structure your collection around a certain country of origin (all Tibetan dogs, breeds hailing from China, Irish breeds, etc.). You could organize your collection according to your breed's purpose. In this approach you might collect all breed books on Border Collies, for instance, in addition to volumes on herding. Of course, if you are a fan of pointing dogs, retrievers or scent or sight hounds, make sure you have plenty of shelf space because your collection is sure to grow and grow.

Happy collecting,

Cathy, Harvey & Cocoa