Sanford Smith, producer of The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, dies at 84

Sanford Smith, who created numerous internationally recognised art fairs in addition to running The New York Antiquarian Book Fair from 1979 up to its recent 64th edition at the Park Avenue Armory this year, died on May 25 in Manhattan.

Courtesy Sanford L. Smith + Associates

Sanford Smith

Known as Sandy to friends and colleagues, he began collecting comic books and baseball cards as a young boy, before studying at the Universities of Pennsylvania and North Carolina and then entering the family funeral business. His passion though was for art and he began collecting on frequent visits to antique shops in New York and Connecticut. Believing there was a gap in the market for well run art fairs, he moved into creating and managing his own, additionally taking over the reins of The New York Antiquarian Book Fair (NYIABF), described by The Guardian newspaper as “a kind of Glastonbury for bibliophiles”, and The Ephemera Society of America's annual fair.

"Although Sandy was known mostly for his art fairs, within the book world he is well-known for creating the most prestigious and relevant antiquarian book fair anywhere,” said Webb Howell, publisher of Fine Books & Collections. “That he was an icon of the book world never got in the way of him attending to the needs of the individual, ensuring that every buyer and every seller had a good experience. My thoughts are with his family and his staff, all of whom he cared for deeply."
The New York International Antiquarian Book Fair is officially sanctioned by the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Executive Director of the ABAA Susan Benne said: “We are deeply saddened by the news of Sanford Smith's passing. Sandy's vision and business acumen were instrumental in elevating the ABAA’s New York Antiquarian Book Fair as the foremost event of its kind. His legacy will endure, and we have every confidence that his successors, Jennifer Stark and Nicky Dessources, will honor and further his remarkable achievements. Our heartfelt thoughts are with them, as well as with Sandy's family, especially his sons Colin, Ian, Jared, and Luc, during this difficult time.”
Sandy was a popular figure among the many book dealers who regularly appeared at the NYIABF. “Sandy was more to me than a business relationship,” said Allan Stypeck, president of Second Story Books. “He was a personal and warm individual who over the years became a close friend. Both Kim and I were extremely appreciative of his kindness to our girls every year, from toddlers to teenagers, when we participated in the NY Book Fair."

Fran Durako, owner of The Kelmscott Bookshop, added: "He was always a presence at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, and elicited both praise and concerns among exhibitors each year at this major event. The New York Antiquarian Book Fair has  been very successful for its US and foreign booksellers, and Sanford Smith will be missed and will be remembered by us for his support of the antiquarian book community." 

Pom Harrington from UK-based Peter Harrington said: "Sandy Smith will be greatly missed. He transformed the New York International Book Fair into a world class event and put rare books on the map. Peter Harrington has been exhibiting at the fair since 1997, and it was always evident that Sandy ran an exceptionally sharp show. He was tough, but in a city like New York, that's what it takes to get the job done. He was, without a doubt, one of the finest promoters of rare book fairs and has done more for the rare book trade than most. His legacy will endure in the vibrant community he helped build."

Ian J. Kahn from Lux Mentis, Booksellers, said: "For the 15 or so years we have done the NYC ABAA fair with Sandy he was never anything but gracious, supportive, and accommodating towards us. For at least the last 10 years, he always made a point to visit the booth, often reflecting upon how much he enjoyed what we brought and how we displayed it. I will always fondly recall the year Sandy, somewhat grudgingly, returned to the booth on a Friday and purchased something that had made him chuckle since seeing it the day before. He was very, very good at what he did and we will miss him."

Sandy is survived by his four sons, five grandchildren and his wife Jill Bokor. His first wife, Patricia Lynch, predeceased him. An obituary has also appeared in the New York Times.