An Indian man named Anke Gowda has a collection of about 1.5 million books. He was born into a poor family (his father was a farmer) and soon developed a love of reading. Fifty years ago he made a resolution that he would collect 1000 books per month, but he must have sometimes exceeded that number and bought even more. He has books in 22 Indian languages and 8 foreign ones, and his collection is wide-ranging – children’s books, literature, science, technology, travel and mythology. He also collects stamps, movie posters, coins and newspapers.
Unsurprisingly, with such a large number of books, the works are not catalogued. To begin with, they filled his house (he and his wife live in a small corner of it, and have a tiny kitchen), but when that got too cramped (and, one imagines, a fire hazard) he persuaded an industrialist to build a shelter of 24,000 square feet to house more books. This ‘book shelter’ is open to tourists, scholars and anyone interested. He has always managed the collection himself, but is now calling for volunteers who will help him create a catalogue.
Mr Gowda has never been a rich man. He worked as time-keeper at a sugar factory, but he is now in his 70s and on a pension.
The Guinness Book of Records lists John Q. Benham of Indiana, USA, as holding the largest private collection of books, but as nobody has ever made an accurate count of Mr Gowda’s store of books in Karnatake, he might well give Mr Benham a run for his money!
Mr Gowda’s books are available for all to read free of charge or membership fee. Share your thoughts on this collecction by leaving a comment.