April 2014 | Rebecca Rego Barry

NY Antiquarian Book Fair Wrap-up

I spent about seven hours on Friday at the NYABF, which did not allow enough time to see everything or everyone that I wished to, but I did get to see a lot of books and friends, old and new. It was busy, and overall, the dealers I spoke to were very happy with this year's traffic. Here are some of my highlights...

Reese1.jpgAt William Reese Co., Teri Osborn and I had a laugh over this hand-colored frontispiece of The Art of Swimming, c. 1810-1820. So fascinated by the naked bather who is, strangely, trimming his nails while learning to swim (lower right corner), I nearly overlooked the pamphlet's famous author: Benjamin Franklin. Just a fascinating piece of Americana.   

LuxM copy.jpgAs usual, the booth shared by Lux Mentis and Brian Cassidy was something to behold. A shrine to the odd and avant-garde, I found Lux's vintage condom packages very amusing -- the type of thing you don't expect to see at the best antiquarian book fair in the world, and yet, at Lux Mentis, it makes perfect sense within their "Sex, Death, and the Devil" theme. Brian Cassidy was kind enough to allow me to peruse Morrissey's rare biography of the New York Dolls.   

Witches copy.jpgPriscilla Juvelis, who deals almost exclusively in contemporary book art, had a very busy fair. I was completely enamored by The Witches' Sabbath (2013) that she had sitting atop a glass exhibit case. It's a "witch's library," created by Sandra Jackman, that includes four unique artists' books and a book object which opens to reveal a spooky red silk interior, but also houses the books. A combination of collage, paint, and found objects, it's a beautiful and bizarre creation, and I envy whoever took that one home from the fair.  

Athean copy.jpgWhat else? The William Bundy-annotated set of published Pentagon Papers at Seth Kaller would make for awesome reading. And speaking of Vietnam, I had the pleasure of meeting historic document dealer Stuart Lutz in person, whose personal Vietnam collection is vast; part of it is now on exhibit at the Lehigh Valley Heritage Museum. Extra points for Athena Rare Books, which had an innovative booth set-up, displaying images of the authors whose books were on offer.

Three small purchases were made (by my husband for "our" collection of nature classics): at Antipodean Books, a signed later edition of John Burroughs' Birds and Poems, and at Jerry N. Showalter, a first edition of Burroughs' Wake Robin, from the library of Bradley Martin. No new Thoreau for us this year, although the Excursions at B&B Rare Books was quite lovely.

On Saturday morning, we made a pilgrimage to Rizzoli, the 57th Street institution that will be closing on April 11 (and until then, books are 40% off). A little band of bibliophiles, including my husband, Brett, Jeremy Dibbell, Jeremy Howell, and I then made our way to Manhattan's famous Argosy bookshop, where I found a gruesome surgical book to add to my burgeoning collection, and then over to James Cummins Rare Books, where we were greeted by James the younger.

I returned home to find Simon Beattie's newest catalogue in my mailbox, and so the browsing and coveting continue.

Images: Swimming via William Reese; Lux Mentis c. Rebecca Rego Barry; Witches courtesy of Priscilla Juvelis; Athena booth c. Rebecca Rego Barry.