My Collecting Story… Simon Marshall-Jones…

September 17, 2009 by  
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headtats_simon_marshall-jonBeing an artist and writer, I possess a fascination with the world and the universe that isn’t limited by borders. Ever since I was a young boy, living in a small Welsh town, I have always wanted to know about the wonders out there, and before I had reached the end of my first decade I had an avid interest in both archaeology and astronomy, as well as other sciences. I have carried that abiding sense of wonder into my adult life and it continues to inform my everyday existence.

Collecting is as much part of my genes and psyche as my diabetes is part of my genetic make-up and creativity is a part of my psychology. Over the last four decades or so, I have collected everything from pop cultural artefacts (obscure vinyl records from seriously underground outfits, for instance) to high-brow books on unusual subjects (eg, the sociology and politics of death, and the history of Freemasonry). However, the one collecting habit that has given me the greatest pleasure is the one that harks back to those childhood interests – working towards amassing a complete run of Scientific American, from its foundation in 1845 until the present day.

I fell into collecting the magazine quite by accident. In each and every current issue is a column that looks back at articles and items of news from previous issues in its long history – 50, 100 & 150 years ago. It occurred to me that they were only the highlights, mere gilded snippets of a broader tapestry, inevitably giving only a minute glimpse of the fuller picture. I felt that, rather than wonder what else there was in each of these vintage issues, I would chase them down and read them for myself. Not only is this venerable magazine an almost complete history of science, it is also a wonderful tracker of social history as well. The progress of scientific discovery was much slower the, or so it appears, but no less momentous for all that. Scientific American spans steam, automobiles, airplanes, the American Civil War, both World Wars, the discovery of penicillin, insulin, computers, man’s first exploratory ventures into space and into the depths of the oceans – and it’s all been reported in the pages of Scientific American over the past nigh-on 165 years. That in itself persuades me that collecting the magazine is an exceptionally worthwhile enterprise, and often sends a frisson of delight down my spine.

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