April 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Postcard from the NY Antiquarian Book Fair

The 56th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair took place this weekend. It was, as always, a spectacular and dizzying experience trying to "see it all." Any list of highlights in bound to be subjective, but here's a short list of interesting sights:

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.02.28 AM.pngThe Book of the Hamburgs. This is L. Frank Baum's first book -- and it's a treatise on chicken breeding! Published in 1886, fourteen years before The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, it is Baum's "first and rarest book," according to the bookseller, New York City's own Books of Wonder. The price was $45,000.


Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.26.03 AM.pngHere was a book after my own heart: A first edition of The Body Snatcher [1895] by Robert Louis Stevenson. It's a grisly tale about an anatomist and his need for fresh cadavers, presented in an elegant violet binding. I spotted it front and center in the booth of Maine booksellers Sumner & Stillman. The price was $1,650.

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.05.33 AM.pngWhen I asked David Lilburne at Antipodean Books about his fair favorite (outside of his own stand, of course), he directed me to Jonathan A. Hill, who was offering this breathtaking sample-book of decorative face powder wrappers and envelopes, assembled in Kyoto in 1815. The price was $3,500. Coincidentally, Hill recently released its first all-Japanese catalogue: Japanese Books, Manuscripts & Scrolls. Antipodean, by the by, had a super charming nineteenth-century book of dried sea mosses, hand-made by one Anna Bigelow.

Having posed the same question to historic documents guru Stuart Lutz, I was sent across the aisle to Daniel Crouch Rare Books, where a framed wall map of the world from 1604 enticed passersby. A cartographic masterpiece, it was priced at $975,000.   

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.23.38 AM.pngKubik Fine Books of Dayton, Ohio, deserves credit for reaching out to younger/newbie collectors with a shelf of $50 volumes, a stack of vinyl, and a pile of vintage comics. Gone With The Wind fans could have glimpsed a treasure in the booth of Jeffrey Marks: a volume signed by the entire motion picture cast (price: $85,000). Priscilla Juvelis showcased a beautiful artist's book by Barry McCallion of John Williams' novel, Stoner, bound in soft yellow suede (seen here, price: $2,750).

The most unusual item at the fair was a late 13th-century bronze bell from Southwest France, offered by Thomas Heneage, London, although Anna Pavlova's pointe shoe ($25,000) from Schubertiade Music & Arts of Newton, Massachusetts, took a close second.