THE LAST WORD
A LABOUR OF LOVE
This issue of the magazine is something of a collector’s edition. It’s not rare or valuable in any way, it’s just that this month we feature collectors. The first is Bernard Mahé, whose comic book collection is on display at CaixaForum. You can read about the exhibition on pages 26 and 27. The second is Lluís Benejam, who talks about his vast collection of film-related material, such as posters and programmes, in an interview on pages 30 and 31. Then, as every month, on page 46, we are fortunate to have another front page from history from Josep Bosch’s impressive newspaper collection.
Although different, all three collections have some common features. They are all the result of a lifelong labour of love, and as they have grown over decades, they not only trace the history of comics, films, newspapers, but are actually a part of that history. As Benejam says in the interview: “I have the history of cinema in print”.
Yet they are also collections of objects made of paper, not the most durable material, as well as being huge in size. In fact, the whole question of what to do with the collections, how and where to store them, how to display them or make them available, and ultimately what to do with them in the future are the sort of headaches that many collectors probably don’t give much thought to when they first begin.
The more I think about these types of collections – which over the years have expanded into veritable archives so that whatever monetary value they may have, their historical value alone gives them a great importance that demands they be protected – the more I’m taken aback by the level of dedication demanded of these collectors. No doubt the act of collecting is itself a reward, but along with that comes a whole series of unlooked for challenges and responsibilities.
Mahé’s collection is the focus of a touring exhibition by a major cultural institution, and since last year Bosch’s collection has resided in a new home in the Fondation Martin Bodmer in Geneva. However, as Benejam mentions in his interview, what will become of his collection is something that worries him and other collectors he knows. Finding an institution willing to acquire the collection is no easy matter. Even putting the collection online requires a huge effort and, given the size of these archives, is also expensive. Even donating the collection to the public is a risk, as there’s no saying that the collection will remain in one piece.
I’ve only ever had one collection in my life, the British sci-fi comic 2000AD, of Judge Dredd fame. I was on the spot when the comic came out in 1977 and while I missed out on the much-sought after first issue, from issue two onwards I never missed one for the next five years. By then, the collection, which I stored in cardboard boxes, was becoming a problem in my small bedroom, and some of the older issues were starting to yellow with age, forcing me to dip into my very limited funds to buy plastic sleeves. At 300 issues I stopped getting the comic but couldn’t bring myself to get rid of what had turned into a collection by accident. We then moved house and the collection was lost forever. I regretted the loss, of course, but I have to admit that it was a regret tinged with relief, as I no longer had to worry about it.
While not on the same scale of the collections in this month’s issue, it gives me some insight into what major collectors go through. I’m not sure why they do it, but for the sake of our history and culture, I think we should be grateful they do.