Leaf Peepers and Letters: The Pioneer Valley Book Fair

Here in the Northeast, fall trumpets its arrival with crisp weather and fairs of all sorts. Outdoorsy bibliophiles with a yen for leaf peeping should mark their calendars for the Pioneer Valley Book and Ephemera Fair, making its twelfth annual appearance on October 16 from 10am to 4pm at the Smith Vocational and Agricultural School in Northampton, Massachusetts.

Sponsored by Southern New England Antiquarian Booksellers, the show welcomes booksellers throughout New England, as well as a few representatives from California, New Jersey, and Ohio. An examination of the exhibitor list reveals the richness of the Pioneer Valley book community: over a dozen bookshops dot the landscape, from the quaint town of Whately to the bustling, bucolic metropolis of Northampton.

On the of Fair's exhibitors includes Periodyssey proprietor Rich West who specializes in "significant and unusual American paper," such as historical prints, broadsides, and caricatures. "I've had great success during the pre-buy and some years have sold as much as I've ever sold at any fair," said West recently. "Sometimes people have to be shooed out at closing, but it's a very convivial show. The dealers all know one another and know most of the regulars who come through the doors." Out-of-state day-trippers hunting for dusty treasure are most welcome, too.

Fittingly, one the items West is highlighting this election year includes a pair of campaign prints from 1844 by Nathaniel Currier. The Grand National Democratic Banner depicts James K. Polk and George M. Dallas, while the Grand National Whig Banner features Henry Clay and Theodore Frelinghuysen. In that hotly contested political battle, underdog Polk defeated Clay by 65 electoral votes in an election that hinged on slavery expansion and the annexation of Texas. (Bonus fact: this was the last presidential election to be held on different days in different states.) The pair, listed in very good condition, are available for $1,200. 



Grand National Whig Banner (N. Currier, NY: 1844). Photo Credit: Rich West.

                                                                                                                                                                             Admission to The Pioneer Valley Book Fair is six dollars and sandwiches will be provided by Amherst's Black Sheep Deli, an institution that itself merits a visit to the area.

                                                                                                                                                                     More information (including a discount coupon) may be found at pioneervalleybookfair.com