What to See at the CA International Antiquarian Book Fair

Courtesy of Shapero Rare Books

As mentioned last week, the antiquarian book world’s first major gathering of 2020, which entails three book fairs, one auction, and several related exhibitions, is almost upon us. The biggest of the three book fairs, the CA International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena, is pulling out all the stops to celebrate the centennial of women’s suffrage in its social media campaign, its special exhibition, Votes for Women, and in the range of related materials that booksellers will be offering, such as the ca. 1922 edition of poems pictured above. Written by noted British suffragette Sylvia Pankhurst during one of her terms in prison, it is a scarce volume, with no other copies shown in auction records in the past forty years according to Shapero Rare Books of London, which will be showcasing it in booth 503, priced at £3,750.

Courtesy of Whitmore Rare Books

Beyond suffrage, another highlight of women’s writing will be on view in the booth of Pasadena’s own Whitmore Rare Books, which is offering a first edition of Aphra Behn’s The Feign'd Curtizans (1679), a feminist comedy by England’s first professional female playwright. It is, says the bookseller, the only one on the market, and it is priced at $12,500.

Keeping the fair’s location in mind, there are also quite a few special California-themed offerings. David Spilman Fine Books of Sebastopol, CA, will bring the 1855 book, Mountains & Molehills, by Frank Marryat, which contains, in his words, the “best descriptions and illustrations of the gold mines and life in California during the Gold Rush era.” The price is $2,250.

Courtesy of Booktryst

Loved by some, derided by others, Henry Miller spent his final years on the California coast. An intensely cool, extra-illustrated bound photocopy of the original manuscript of his Tropic of Cancer is being offered by Oregon-based Booktryst for $10,000. Says proprietor Stephen J. Gertz, it is “one of fewer than 10 copies produced by Miller scholar-collector Dr. Daniel Bloxam of Los Angeles and bound and sold to members of the underground Miller collecting community upon request. This is the first copy to emerge into the public marketplace; no copies have appeared at auction or within the trade; OCLC/KVK record no copies in institutional holdings.”

Being Out West, we must also have a little Ansel Adams — in the form of his first book, a collaboration with Mary Austin called Taos Pueblo from 1930. From an edition of 108 numbered copies signed by both Adams and Austin, New York’s Donald A. Heald Rare Books will offer if for $80,000.

Courtesy of Rootenberg Rare Books

And then there will be an array of attention-grabbing rare books and manuscripts that aren’t necessarily “on theme” but will be exciting to bibliophiles nonetheless, such as the first edition in English of the book of prophecies of Nostradamus, printed in London in 1672. Michael Nostradamus was the court physician to several French kings more than 300 years ago and yet the prophecies he is credited with (Great Fire of London, Hitler, 9/11 attacks) are still hotly debated today. Rootenberg Rare Books & Manuscripts of Sherman Oaks, CA, will spotlight this one, priced at $3,500.