October 2010 | Jonathan Shipley

Smiling, Lots of Smiling, at the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

There is was. A first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. It was in its original dust jacket. Pristine, it was. I read the description, looked at the book, back to the description, back to the book. I couldn't help but smile when I saw this book - the first state of this famous novel, arguably the greatest ever written. With a price tag a little out of my price range I continued on to the next booth at the annual Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair, going on throughout the weekend, ending today, and soon my face hurt from all the smiling.

Taking place at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall, the fair is held every year, headed up by Louis Collins of Louis Collins Books and David Gregor, of Gregor Rare Books. The fair is a bibliophile wonderland with booth upon booth of treasured book upon treasured book, sprinkled liberally with wondrous ephemera, maps, posters, and more.

At the far end of the hall there was a booth that had on display autographed letters by Langston Hughes and U.S. Grant. A fine edition of Captain James Cook's voyages was selling for a sharp $75,000. Nearby that tome, was another booth with a coop of poultry books. The cover of The Cock Crows read, "If you are interested in poultry, you will like this book." I'm not, but I'm interested in this book anyway.

Other highlights, big and small, in random order to show you the random wonders one can stumble upon at this year's festival (if they haven't sold already)...

The program for Ian Fleming's memorial service.
Florence Nightingale's Notes in Nursing.
A collection of a morgue's post-mortem photographs
The Dwindling Party, an Edward Gorey pop-up book
Stephen Crane's A Red Badge of Courage
Oodles of Steinbeck firsts
Oodles of Hemingway firsts
Oodles of Dickens firsts
A museum poster from the 19th century touting a GREAT AMERICAN MASTODON
James Earl Ray's wanted poster
A book entitled Toilet of Flora
Treatise of Algebra
Leaves of Grass
, autographed
Moby-Dick, autographed by artist Rockwell Kent
A beautifully designed bibliography of Lieutenant Nobu Shirase and the Japanese Antarctic Expedition of 1910-1912
Naked Lunch
15th century atlases
Little Black Sambo
Blueberries for Sal
A Handmaid's Tale, autographed

I could go on. And on. I won't. If you're in the Seattle area today, stop by and go on and on yourself. It's more than worth it. Bring your wallet. You'll, at the very least, be tempted to buy something. You might have to mortgage your house for that Gatsby book, though.

Photo by Tom Woodward.