April 2009 | Ann Loftin

The Armory fair was no St. Laurent auction, but it wasn't dead, either.

I am just back from the annual ABAA book fair at the Park Avenue Armory, where sales were, if not brisk, certainly made. Most of the booksellers I talked to had at least made back their expenses, and some, Priscilla Juvelis among them, did very well. Though the place wasn't buzzing, there must have been at least a few movie stars, judging from the hoodies and sunglasses. (Can't they come up with a new way to attract attention?)
Philadelphia Rare Books was there, despite having lost their house (the historic 18th-century officers' arsenal) and much of their priceless inventory, in a freak electrical fire last month. You can read about it on their site: http://www.prbm.com.
Apart from that real tragedy, the overall mood was one of gallows humor: Michael Brown and many of the other sellers displayed political satire (said Brown: "How could you not?!") dating back to the kings of England and France, showing, were proof needed, that Wall Street didn't invent cupidity or folly. I had a very interesting conversation with Seth Kaller, who gave me a succinct lesson in document and manuscript authentication. He told me how he discovered a Davey Crockett forgery: the letter's embossed seal had a locomotive on it--a thing not invented for another 30 years! I also talked to Bill Schaberg of Athena Rare Books, who had one of the most elegant displays at the fair, and to Charles Agvent, who was showing a letter by Martin Luther King. Agvent told me that Republican noisemaker Bill O'Reilly had stopped by the booth and offered half the asking price for it. Agvent refused, but suggested he might come down a bit should O'Reilly come back. I say O'Reilly doesn't deserve to own the letter at any price.