Avid avocation? profession? passion? collecting is equated here with gambling and then demonstrated, as it was pursued, by eleven great collectors. Pierre Cabanne is a French art journalist and a rather workaday writer, but his material is exciting in itself. There's Catherine the Great who built the Hermitage, filled it with the help of Diderot; Lord Hartford and Sir Richard Wallace who achieved the finest collection of 18th century French art in England; Victor Choquet, a Customs clerk, a man of infallible instinct and taste, who is discovered the Impressionists and encouraged them-- while Durand-Ruel, dealt in them, ""began by being wrong... but ended by being right"". On with Buhrle, one of many Swiss industrialist-collectors; art and argyrol's self-made, self-taught Dr. Barnes; another Sunday collector- dentist Girardin; Wildenstein; and finally the muse of the moderns, Peggy Guggenheim and her ""Surrealist principality"" in Venice.... It is hard, in a book of this kind, to avoid the inevitable inventory of acquisitions-- the profit (the collector's) and loss (the painter's) statement; but M. Cabanne has himself acquired a good deal of material and there are interesting asides on peripheral figures- particularly the late 19th century painters.