The Collector By Barbara Steinberg

The Collector By Barbara Steinberg

In the winds of the Central Asian steppes, in the heat of the Sahara, in the wild forests of Borneo, he picked up broken things — remnants of cultures disappeared. Then he took each piece and placed it in the puzzle of what happened to its people, whose lives had withered dismally into obscurity.

He bought a Fabergé comb that could have belonged to the Romanovs.

“It looks like one from a pair. Where would the other one be?” “I don’t know, the Hermitage?”

He opened up a world of time travel to a girl ensconced in Western Europe. I was transformed into a student of puzzle pieces by the collecting passion of my friend Kajetan.

Ancient Greece, Chimú culture in Peru, Tang Dynasty China, Qajar Persia, 18th Century Nepal: he could touch the world. Yet, the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune killed his dream of making his collection into a serious comb museum.

Undaunted, he now sits with fewer of his treasures — devotion and uncompromising quest for perfection in tact. “Never surrender!” he says.

I never will.

I bought a copper-alloy Byzantine comb from him that balances with equal weight when you place it on your finger exactly in the center. I can wear the mathematics that shaped the world in 400 AD.

How can you encase a lifetime of love into a small bowl of water?

Can’t be done, but these pictures tell the story of a courageous man who had the vision to aim his collecting-eye at antiquities. He reached the profound beauty he sought. “Combs are one of the most essential objects in human life. They are about the power of the human mind,” he says.

See the pictures in his Comb Research Project and make your own story.