For the love of books

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Southland book collector Terry Toner among some of his vast collection of books.

SOUTHLAND book collector Terry Toner is a self-proclaimed “bibliomaniac”.

“Books are my passion. I live, eat and drink books,” he said.

The avid book lover has amassed a collection so extensive it cannot easily be quantified, but rather can only be estimated at between 30,000 to 50,000 titles.

Mr Toner said he had not read all the books in his collection, but that was not unusual for a collector.

“Does a stamp collector lick all his stamps? Does a coin collector spend them all?”

His collection began with a children’s book he was given for his first birthday and some six decades later has grown so large a dedicated shed is needed to house them all.

He also collects CDs, DVDs, magazines and comics.

Mr Toner said he found comfort in books, and during his younger years had preferred his books to dating.

“I was a sensitive fellow and didn’t like the pain of break ups, so I spent my time with books.

“Books never let me down, but ladies could and would.”

Although the collection included a variety of genres, he had a particular interest in books about New Zealand, Roman and British history, military titles, biographies and The Beatles, he said.

His most valuable item is a signed copy of Linda McCartney’s Sixties – Portraits of an Era, which he estimated to be worth about £450.

The former travelling book sales rep did not know how much he had invested in his collection over the years and was reluctant to work it out.

“I wouldn’t want to say how much I have spent because I would embarrass myself.”

His wife of 32 years, Barbara, said although many of the books were purchased from second-hand book stores, she estimated her husband would have spent more than $500,000.

“A lot of it is long-suffering wife, as I am not a reader at all. [However] I do appreciate the quality of books and it is part of him.

“If you take his books away, you take half of him away,” she said.

Originally from Christchurch, the Toners moved to Southland in 2013.

Two large removal vans had been required for the move, one for their possessions and the other solely dedicated to transporting Mr Toner’s book collection.

When he died, his collection would be passed on to his only child, Samantha Chandler, a professional hand bookbinder and artist, who shared his passion for books, he said.

Mr Toner is the host of The Book Show on Radio Southland.

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