Ray Russell, founder of the superb independent British publisher Tartarus Press, has shared the story of his “Mild Case of Bibliomania” on YouTube. And, ironically for a publisher who produces some marvelously high-quality and reasonably-priced ebooks of dark fiction and horror, he is a complete devotee of the printed word, with a book collection that needs to be seen to be believed. And for Americans, he has one of the best British reading voices going since the demise of Vivian Stanshall.

He started modestly. “I wasn’t collecting books; I was keeping them,” he says. By age 13, he was already an avid bibliophile. “I became a literary snob and unbelievably pretentious,” he admits. He also became an accumulator of complete works, although he admits that “some of the fun went out of it when the Internet came along,” and it was no longer such a challenge to fill the gaps in the collection.

But Russell’s passion for completion was finally what led him to become a publisher, as he worked through the entire oeuvre of Arthur Machen. “There’s not a lot you can do when you discover there’s unpublished material apart from setting yourself up as a publisher,” he explains. “Our first published book was the unpublished Chapters Five and Six to Arthur Machen’s The Secret Glory. And then we collected his fugitive fiction.”

“The first proper Tartarus Press books were styled on some of the specialist press editions published in the 1920s,” he continues. “Ideally, we would like them all to look like they were published in the 1920s.” And that’s a legacy that, courtesy of Tartarus, has now found its way very visibly onto ereaders as well.

His guide to his book collection is now busily collecting YouTube views – 20,000 so far, and counting.

Watch for yourself


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