When word came over the wires today that Don Hobbs's library would be making its way to the library at Southern Methodist University, it was one of those "end of an era" moments that become more frequent once you've lived long enough.
If you're unfamiliar with Don's library, it contained what is generally acknowledged to be the largest collection of different foreign language editions of Sherlock Holmes stories. No Sherlockian ever amassed such a globe-spanning collection of Sherlockiana as Don, and he made many a friend in many a foreign clime along the way. It was almost like the collection was just a side effect of Don Hobbs being Don Hobbs, and not really a project.
But nothing lasts forever, and it's good to see Don's massive amount of books moving to the next phase of it's book-life at Don's direction, freeing him from the responsibilities of caretaker for such a valuable resource as well, to move on to his own next phase.
I'm a big fan of healthy change, and even though I'm a bit sad to see this period end, it does seem like a healthy shift. I suspect the era of the big collector is leaving us. Oh, there will always be collectors, yes. Humans have certain native tendencies that aren't going away. But the time when collectors dominated the Sherlockian world is fading fast.
So much content is online, with more coming out every single day. Every one of us has a massive Sherlockian collection at our fingertips now. More to read of Sherlock Holmes than we could ever hope to read. More resources for research that we'll ever use. More video, more audio, more Sherlockians to connect with, in dribs and drabs or in fully-formed friendships.
But thinking of Don Hobbs and his marvelous collection takes me back to the days when John Bennett Shaw roamed the Earth, holding workshops, pointing out the one hundred key books we could all go searching for to sow the seeds of our own collections. Collections that most of us were growing similar versions of . . . except for that rare fellow like Don, who found a niche and went at it with the whole of his being.
Collections have always impressed us, and Don's work getting a new home will only let it continue impressing Sherlockians as time goes one. But it makes me smile to think that, while the books were nice, Don Hobbs was mostly memorable for just being out there and being Don Hobbs . . . and that era continues.
And yet, here we are at a turn in the road, with a big sign telling us, "You are now leaving This-moment-ville!" But more of the great Sherlockian road still lays before us.
Wave to Don when you get the chance. He'll be the one with the slightly lighter step now, I'm sure.