Possession ObsessionSometimes decadent, often secret, but never just one: the compulsion to collect.

Possession ObsessionSometimes decadent, often secret, but never just one: the compulsion to collect.

Issue 26

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Arts & Culture

The Pre-Raphaelite painter and poet Dante Gabriel Rossetti was an obsessive collector of exotic animals and birds. He filled his London home with owls, armadillos, peacocks, parakeets, kangaroos, wallabies, a Japanese salamander and a wombat named Top, whom he described as “a joy, a triumph, a delight, a madness.” The actor Tom Hanks collects vintage typewriters and was famously bribed to appear on a podcast by means of a crimson 1934 Smith Corona portable.

The urge to collect is deeply embedded within the human psyche. By the age of two, most children grasp the idea of ownership and will go on to acquire one or more “attachment objects,” whose perceived specialness depends largely on the fact that the objects are theirs, or were theirs first. A study by Bruce Hood and Paul Blo...

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