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The weather outside wasn’t too frightful, and there were plenty of other festivities taking place nearby, but this weekend’s Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair enjoyed brisk business and lively discussion.

The Northampton Book and Book Arts Fair is produced by Book Arts Promotions in association with  Smith College Libraries, Mark Brumberg, of Boomerang Booksellers, and Duane A. Stevens, of Wiggins Fine Books.

Over forty exhibitors from around New England and beyond set up shop in the Smith College Campus Center, representing a diverse array of book designers, papermakers, engravers, and fine letterpress publishers. Sellers reported success during the two-day event, with over 300 people in attendance.

On Saturday afternoon, Nick Basbanes signed copies of his books, then gave the fair’s keynote lecture in the Graham Hall Auditorium, where he reflected on thirty years of writing about the history of the book and book culture.

As evening descended, the crowds dispersed into the chilly New England night.

Boston Rare Book Week Preview: Blake Etchings


The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair opens today, the perfect prompt to preview one of the show’s incredible highlights, courtesy of John Windle: two original etchings from William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and a single relief etching of the poem “Holy Thursday.”

First, a little background: In the 1780s, Blake revived the art of manuscript illumination, believing, in part, that the Industrial Revolution had degraded an art form into nothing more than a simple commodity. In response, Blake and his wife Catherine painstakingly printed, bound, and hand colored each book he produced. Few originals survive--only nine copies of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell are known to exist, for example. Slightly more endure--forty, to be precise--of Songs of Innocence, the first of Blake’s illuminated works and is a celebration of youthful innocence. 

                                                                                                                                                                                    Windle’s interest in Blake began in the 1960s when he worked for famed London book dealer Bernard Quaritch, which led to Windle’s opening of a San Francisco gallery devoted entirely to the 18th-century poet. Richard Davies at ABEbooks recently visited the Blake Gallery and spoke with Windle, which you can read here

The two plates at the Boston book fair hail from Copy Y, an incomplete copy that resurfaced in Cologne, Germany, in 1980. Printed in light brown on separate sheets with extensive hand-coloring in watercolor and additions in black ink, the two etchings are available for $250,000.

Also available from John Windle is a single sheet relief etching from Songs of Innocence called “Holy Thursday.” This plate comes from Copy W, one of Blake’s proof printings for Songs of Innocence and is considered one of the earliest existing examples of Blake’s attempts at illuminated printing. The poem itself refers to Ascension Day, when London orphanages traditionally washed, dressed, and paraded thousands of their charges to St. Paul’s Cathedral for a special ceremony, and the verses contrast the brilliant ceremony with the bleak, somber reality that awaited the children afterwards. “Holy Thursday” is available for $150,000.

                                                                                                                                                                                     Images courtesy of John Windle

The Boston Book, Print, and Ephemera Fair, aka the ‘Satellite Show,’ will take place on Saturday from 8:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. at the Back Bay Events Center (within walking distance of the ABAA fair at the Hynes Auditorium). Today we’re taking a look at some of the show’s highlights. (View a fuller gallery here.)

Lit Envelope.jpgFirst, a neat piece of publishing ephemera: a “tromp l’oeil similitude envelope that served as a ‘dust jacket’ advertisement” for Frances Sargent Osgood’s 1849 takedown of New York’s literati, A Letter About the Lions: a letter to Mabel in the country. Says the bookseller, Read ‘em Again Books, “...there are only two known copies of which this is one.”  

Crane.jpgNext, a handsome first edition of Stephen Crane’s War is Kind (1899), designed and illustrated by Will Bradley, who wrote to the publishers: “The book represents my best work up till now as a designer and printer. I have become greatly interested in it and want to make it my masterpiece.” Offered by Boomerang Booksellers.

Hobson.jpgAnd from Pages of Yesteryear ... This funky illustrated anatomy book, the first book on Western medicine to be published in China, Quan to xin lun, by British medical missionary Benjamin Hobson (c. 1850s). Includes 43 full plates of human and comparative anatomy. 96 double leaves, sidesewn accordion style.

Images courtesy of Book and Paper Fairs


                                                                                                                                                                            Readers may recall our story back in March highlighing the TEFAF Maastricht art and antiquarian fair. Next week TEFAF lands in Manhattan, where it will hold court at the Park Avenue Armory from October 28 through November 1 and welcome nearly one hundred dealers from around the world. Held three times a year in North America and in Europe, TEFAF is widely considered one of the world’s premier art and antiques fair, offering museum-quality pieces to the general public.                                          

                                                                                                                                                                              Among the dealers at this year’s show include Heribert Tenschert, a Switzerland-based German bookseller who, in his words, specializes in “the finest manuscripts and printed books available in the book market.” For the past 40 years, Tenschert has easily met that challenge--his catalogues themselves are collectable in their own right and sell for hundreds of dollars. The former professor of Romance Languages marks this milestone year with a particularly fetching two-volume catalogue entitled Paris mon Amour featuring “25 important illuminated manuscripts made in Paris between 1380 and 1460,” to be followed next year by another two-volume catalogue highlighting 35 books from 1460 through 1540. Tenschert’s stall at TEFAF will be almost entirely devoted to illuminated manuscripts, showcasing over fifty Books of Hours, including the 530-page illuminated Hours of Jacquette de Luxembourg and the Hours of Catherine of Aragon, whose gold leaf borders and 60 full-page miniatures is considered one of the most exquisite examples of its era.

                                                                                                                                                                            In 1997, Nick Basbanes visited Tenschert’s converted 18th-century mill picturesquely located on the banks of the Biber (a tributary of the Rhine) near Basel while researching his 2001 book, Patience & Fortitude: A Roving Chronicle of Book People, Book Places, and Book Culture. Though he grosses eight-figure sales annually, Tenschert’s clients number in the double digits--his offerings are reserved for the wealthiest people in the world. “I like to sell to private individuals because then I can buy them back at some point in the future,” Tenschert explains in Basbanes’ chapter entitled “Hunters and Gatherers.” He goes on to explain how he acquires his treasures, prices them, and whether super-selective collectors are endangered. It seems safe to say that in the seventeen years since Patience & Fortitude was published that business remains good. See for yourself at Stand 23 at TEFAF.                                                                                                                                                                                 Head over to our just-launched sister site Art & Object for more on illuminated manuscripts, including my story that ran last year in Fine Books about the Boston area’s ambitious multi-venue project dedicated to these beautiful books.                                                                        

Image credit: Heribert Tenschert Paris mon amour. 

As promised in yesterday’s post, here are some underappreciated women writers to spot at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.

1001688.jpgHoney & Wax Booksellers will bring the self-taught linguist Elizabeth Smith’s translation of the Book of Job (1810), the first complete English translation of the Book of Job by a woman, along with her miscellaneous writings. “Smith is kind of fascinating: rather than studying ancient languages in school or with a tutor, she taught herself, using the dictionaries and grammars newly available to everyday readers in the late eighteenth century,” said Heather O’Donnell. ($750)

1305 copy.jpgElizabeth Young (lizzyoung bookseller) will showcase Sister Age by M.F.K. Fisher, “A collection of fifteen stories on the OTHER subject M.F.K. Fisher was intrigued by: the art of aging and living and dying,” said Young, adding, “I believe she was pigeonholed into food writing because she was a woman. She was appreciated, but underappreciated as a pure writer.” ($225)

oragranaredactors.jpgRachel Furnari of Graph Books will exhibit a complete run of Or y Grana, a weekly magazine written and edited by women, and published in Barcelona in 1906-1907. Containing political essays, poetry, fiction, reviews, and illustrations, it is “often identified as the first ‘feminist’ Catalan publication,” and is quite scarce. ($2,250)

IMG_0343 copy.jpgA.N. Devers at The Second Shelf will feature Joanna Triall, Spinster by Annie E. Holdsworth, a paperback first edition published in London in 1894. This early feminist novel contains sparkling dialogue:

“Oh! that is absurd. Marriage with me simply meant earning my living in the easiest way. I was twenty and penniless; under such circumstances one naturally falls in love. It is a different thing when one has an income and an establishment, and no need to marry at all.”

                                                                                                                                                                                 “You forget the affections, Sarah.”

“The affections? The fiddlesticks!”

Holdsworth was an Anglo-Caribbean novelist, born in Jamaica. ($400)

                                                                                                                                                                                     Images courtesy of the booksellers

A couple years ago, I was sitting at my desk in a rented space of the Brooklyn-based literary magazine, A Public Space, edited by former Paris Review editor Brigid Hughes, where I had once worked as an assistant editor, but had since become a tenant as a freelance writer in need of a desk, when I overheard plans for their forthcoming issue focused on forgotten writers who happened to be women. I became intrigued by one of Hughes’s rediscovered authors, her memoir plucked on the $1 bookshelf at Housing Works in New York City, a woman named Bette Howland, who had published a memoir and two collections of stories, won a MacArthur Genius grant, was a friend and part-time lover of Saul Bellow, and wondered, like Hughes did, why I had never heard of her. I ended up writing a short piece for Lit Hub about A Public Space’s efforts to find and published work by her--and I ended up buying all her first editions online, most for only a few dollars.

                                                                                                                                                                         This is a far too regular a rhetorical question I end up asking silently about women writers who produced serious and accomplished work during their lives, before fading quite quickly from the spotlight, from cultural conversation. And it is a similar problem in rare books, something I saw simultaneously as I started writing for Fine Books and attending rare book fairs, at one of which I bought a first edition Joan Didion for no more than $20, and then checked the price of her neighbor on the bookshelf, Cormac McCarthy, and couldn’t believe it was over five or six hundred. It didn’t bother me that the McCarthy was so expensive. It bothered me that Didion was so cheap. I also observed that the majority of book buyers were men, and majority of sellers were men, and started to realize that that is a part of the problem in terms of getting women the proper respect in their distinguished lives and afterlives if it is primarily men deciding the market and the value.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Since around this time I started to dream up a business focused on books by women, and am now dipping my toe in the rare book trade for the first time with a small selection of books by and about women. The business is called The Second Shelf, after an excellent essay by Meg Wolitzer in the New York Times Book Review--I wrote to her and she gave me permission to use the title for my small venture. I hope to encourage women to buy more first editions and rare books, and also to help find and give occassion to celebrate the best women writers, and the forgotten women writers, including the Bette Howlands who should not be written out of literary history so easily.

                                                                                                                                                                                           It is common knowledge in the publishing world that women buy and read more books. It’s also common knowledge that men don’t tend to read books by women. The market for books by women must include far more women collectors, in order for their books and legacies to share space on the top shelf.

                                                                                                                                                                                 I’ll be sharing some offerings from booksellers exhibiting at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair tomorrow highlighting some underappreciated and important women writers in the spirit of The Second Shelf. 

Guest Post by Martha Bayne

The second-floor ballroom at Chicago’s Journeymen Plumbers Union Hall is a beautiful space--its broad, curving staircases and hanging lamps arguably as well suited to browsing vintage maps and books as hammering out a new contract for the Local. Or at least it was on Saturday, June 17, when the Midwest Antiquarian Booksellers Association (MWABA) hosted its 56th annual Chicago Book and Paper Fair.

IMG_2923 copy.jpgOf the fifty-three exhibitors, the vast majority were from the Midwest--Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Ohio, though some had traveled farther. In addition to the array of first editions of Lolita, On the Road, and A Canticle for Leibowitz, locked inside protective vitrine cases, some glorious bits of Chicagoiana could be found on display and up for sale: a massive ten-volume set documenting the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, a signed limited edition of Norman Maclean’s 1976 fly-fishing masterpiece A River Runs Through It, and Vol. 1, #2 of “The Dil Pickler,” a letterpress pamphlet produced by the city’s famed Bohemian club of free thinkers.

IMG_2911 copy.jpgIn a corner of the floor Carlos Martinez, proprietor of Chicago’s Bibliodisia, pointed out a two-volume set of the Koran with marbled paper covers and a colored map insert ($1,075) and a worn copy of Culpeper’s Complete Herbal ($75), an inspiration for J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books, and the basis for many of the potions and herbal remedies used at Hogwarts.

The fair was going “very well,” said Martinez, adding, “I’m always amazed at what people will buy.”

“I like looking at old stuff,” said Don Krage, who comes to the fair every year with his son, a collector of opera memorabilia. “This place is so full of things that go back hundreds of years; I always find interesting things for myself that spark my imagination.”

--Martha Bayne is a Chicago-based writer and editor whose work has appeared in Buzzfeed Reader, Belt Magazine, Crain’s Chicago Business, the Chicago Reader, Latterly Magazine, the Rumpus, and other regional and national outlets.

Images courtesy of Martha Bayne

I sat down for lunch with my friend Phil and gave him some news that he found shocking: I told him I was thinking hard about selling my once-treasured personal library. I was ready to let it all go -- every rare book about the American Revolution, a small collection of artifacts like a wrought iron camp stove, my big oil on canvas painting of George815.JPG
Washington and other Revolutionary art, my antique chairs, secretary, revolving book cases. My Henry David Thoreau corner, too. I was tired of it, I told him. I never spend time in the library anymore; I never crack a book. The collection I spent the last two decades assembling sat abandoned, my passion snuffed out. I might as well sell it and put the money into something else.

Phil listened patiently, taking time to digest our pile of hamburgers and chicken wings along with what I just told him. He took a slow sip of water and told me that my idea was the dumbest one I had ever conceived. He said that I had clearly been down in the dumps lately and that I should not make such a momentous decision in that state of mind. 

I promised him that I would give myself some time to see if I felt differently later. I shelved the conversation and went back to work running my antiques and collectibles business (and some rare books, too).

My girlfriend Won-ok and I then suddenly moved to a new house. It has a family room built onto it that features floor-to-ceiling recessed book shelves along one wall. It’s bathed in natural light from multiple windows and couldn’t be more perfectly suited for a library. The room struck me as a blank canvas, a chance to create something new. We unloaded our truck and I spent three days setting up my library before I even trifled with things like beds, kitchen utensils, and the like. I was shocked by the fervor the work unleashed. We invited Phil over to take a look. He was blown away. He said the room felt equal parts library, museum and salon. He was kind enough not to say, “I told you so.”

837.JPG Won-ok and I continued unpacking and began hosting social gatherings even as we worked. Everyone naturally gravitated to the library without me ushering them in. We sat for hours and spoke of politics, the news of the day, what our family members were doing, how our careers were going. We talked about old times. People asked me about my books, artifacts and art. They even began to read the books, too. I started reading again myself. I began reconnecting with dear friends including John and Abigail Adams, Ben Franklin and of course the General himself. I began to remember all the things I loved about collecting the American Revolution.

My modest library was more beautiful than it had ever been. I also realized that a huge part of my new joy came from the fact that, unlike the case in my previous dwelling, my library and every other room was not overwhelmed with excess merchandise from our business. Won-ok and I may not have mutually pledged “to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our Sacred Honor” but we did vow not to let any merchandise invade any part of our new home. It could go in our huge new basement office but not anywhere else. Not even for a day.

Won-ok and I unloaded all kinds of other clutter during the move. Our new home felt like a normal house once again. I kept on reading the Washington Post in my library every morning before work and playing with my books in the evening. I started writing again, too--“clocking out” of my basement office and retiring to the main floor so that I could get creative in my clean, sunny library.

I could not have been more excited to attend the 2017 Washington Antiquarian Book Fair on April 28-29. I was thrilled to return to the hunt of collecting and have the chance to again talk shop with the book dealing world. I even donned one of my all-time favorite t-shirts featuring an Edward Gorey illustration and a caption that reads “Real men read.” The shirt starts conversations everywhere I go, but I certainly didn’t anticipate the one I would have at WABF. Dealer Larry Rakow of Wonderland Books stopped me in my tracks.002.JPG “I designed that shirt!” he said, in clear disbelief to see someone still wearing one nearly 15 years after he created it. Running another company at the time, he asked children’s illustrators to submit work he could use to make t-shirts to promote reading. Famed illustrators like Gorey sent in their work and Rakow developed language for them.

“I realized most t-shirts and items about books were aimed at patrons who were women as they’re dominant in the professions of teaching and libraries,” he told me. “I thought it was time we should start producing shirts that spoke to men, too. That was back when phrases like ‘Real men eat quiche’ were popular. I thought, ‘No, real men don’t eat quiche. Real men read!”

I felt a little star-struck, standing there in the presence of a man whose work has given me so much joy over the years. The one I had on was actually my second; I wore out the first over the years. I couldn’t resist the urge to do a quick video interview with Rakow about the “Real men read” shirt.

I returned to my quest for books to buy and began exploring other opportunities to again immerse myself in the world of Fine Books & Collections. I had a great conversation with Amanda Zimmerman, who has one of my dream jobs as a librarian in the Rare Book and Special Collections Reading Room at the Library of Congress -- my favorite place on the planet. She moonlights as volunteer for the Washington Rare Book Group. Its members include everyone from professional book folks to everyday folks who just love books. I couldn’t sign up for its e-mail list fast enough. I also picked up a brochure from Rare Book School at the University of Virginia. Some guys dream of going to a Major League Baseball fantasy camp; I dream of going to a five-day program to study the history of books and printing.

I was so happy to be traipsing around WABF losing myself in the world of old books again that I didn’t notice that something had caught Won-ok’s attention. After years of kindly spending time with me as I enjoyed my hobby but never catching the fever herself, she spotted a book that Rakow had on display: The Speaking Picture Book: A Special Book with Picture, Rhyme and Sound for Little People. The finely crafted book was made in Germany in the 1800s and features nine pulls that you can tug and that miraculously still produce farm animal sounds. (See the book in action in this quick video.) 

021.JPG“If I made more money, I’d like to buy that book,” she told me over our WABF lunch break. I was stunned. She had never purchased an antiquarian book yet there she sat talking about diving right into the deep end of the pool. “I’ve never let that stop me before,” I said. “If you love it, let’s go back and get it before someone else does.”

We sprang from the table and raced back to our new friend Rakow. I couldn’t have been more proud or excited to see Won-ok buy her first rare book. I also couldn’t believe she out-spent me on the day.

Won-ok and I left the fair and eagerly headed home to place our prized new possessions in our prized new library. My love for the room and for old books has been completely reborn--and now there are two of us!

Former journalist Christopher Lancette lives in Silver Spring, Maryland, and is thrilled to again be contributing to Fine Books & Collections.


IMG_0764.JPGI was eager to get to the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair last weekend to check out its new digs in the heart of downtown D.C. A change of venues is fraught with risk any time a long-established cultural event moves to a new location. I hoped the new spot at the luxurious Sphinx Club and a date change from often bitterly cold March to sunny spring would give the beloved fair a chance to grow even more popular. Old fashioned lovers of old fashioned books like me want the best for 42-year-old WABF. We want events like this to mint ever-bigger numbers of bibliophiles.

                                                                                                                                                                                          My fears evaporated the second the elevator doors to the showroom opened and I saw that the locale gave the book fair not only a new look but a new dynamic. A buzz. The electricity in the air felt much more like a rocking book festival than a book fair. The place was stuffed with shoppers carrying carefully wrapped packages of books under their arms as they strolled through a much more open layout that was easier to peruse than the event’s previous site. The old place was divided into many walled up rooms; the new one features two floors that enable people to soak in the wonder of the event and easily find their way back to anything catching their eyes.

                                                                                                                                                                            The Sphinx Club also attracted new kinds of visitors because it sits in a bustling pedestrian-friendly area filled with offices, restaurants, housing and the Metro.

                                                                                                                                                                                      IMG_0770.JPGDealers from all over the country raved about the preliminary results. They swapped stories about their joy at selling big ticket items ($4,000 here, $6,000 there) on the first night instead of not being able to make such sales until day two. “The Sphinx Club at 13th and K is a place people know,” Paul Collinge of Heartwood Books told me. “I was concerned about attendance because of the move but we’ve had a good turnout on both days.”

                                                                                                                                                                                     “As opposed to being in sort-of the suburbs in the past, this is in the heart of the city,” another dealer told me as he passed by. “Yesterday (Friday, the first day of WABF), we had a lot of folks who got out of work and came here. The after-work effect was very strong.”

                                                                                                                                                                                      Dealers also noted that pushing the event from March to the end of April also paid dividends. It’s often hard to get people to drive to a tricky location in winter with the Mother Nature’s bad habit of dumping snow on the District during or close to the book fair.

                                                                                                                                                                             Shopper Zina Bleck from Hyattsville, Maryland loved the new-look WABF, too.

                                                                                                                                                                             “I wanted to come here because this is a place you come to find things you can’t find anywhere else,” she said, while ringing up a heathy tab at the Old Editions Book Shop booth. “It’s very friendly here. I don’t know everything about rare books and this is a place where dealers explain things.”

                                                                                                                                                                          New fans like Bleck and old-hound collectors found plenty to get excited about over the course of the weekend. Gilann Books offered an early draft of Roots by Alex Haley. Bill Hutchinson displayed an eye-grabbing stack of the National Journal editions from the 1820s published by the famed Peter Force. Autographs abounded, from the Founding Fathers to men on the moon. Antique children’s books, beautiful old maps, fine bindings - you name it, WABF had it.

                                                                                                                                                                                    I was also thrilled to see that WABF continued to incubate the love of fine books and collections in ways that extend well beyond the actual event. I was a bit shocked to discover that I had lived in the area for a decade and not stumbled across the Washington Rare Book Group. Volunteer Amanda Zimmerman, a librarian at the Library of Congress, happily added names of new people who signed up for announcements about its events.

                                                                                                                                                                                 “We bring book lovers together from all walks of life,” she said. “We have monthly events, curator-lead tours and do as much as we can to promote the love of books in this region.”

                                                                                                                                                                        That will generate even more enthusiastic buyers for WABF in 2018 and beyond. WABF Director Beth Campbell hopes the logistics work out for the event to stay in its shiny new downtown home.

                                                                                                                                                                               “I think this has gone over very well,” she shared with me. “It has been a lot busier than last year’s fair. The visibility in the city is great. We attracted a lot of impulse buyers, which is something we never really had before.”

                                                                                                                                                                               Campbell was particularly heartened to see that The Sphinx Club made it easier for the District’s young work force to attend.

                                                                                                                                                                                        “We saw a lot of younger people,” she said. “These lovely Millennials are the generation that’s going to take care of all this stuff. We’re turning the corner getting the next generation involved and it renews my faith to see them getting interested.”

                                                                                                                                                                            Images Credit: Chris Lancette.

Rare Book Week NYC: Navigating the Bazaar


Book Week has arrived in New York, and there’s plenty to do and little time to do it in. What are the best ways to get the most bang for your buck? Below, a few suggestions to help make your Book Week a rousing success:

1. Go to, browse the list of exhibitors, and study the layout of the shows (there’s three this year). With over two hundred exhibitors at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair (NYABF) alone, it’s wise to have some sense of which dealers you want to see first. What do you do if you don’t have a clue about who’s who? The NYABF is mantaining a robust Instagram page where various exhibitor-provided highlights give a sense of the vendors and their specialties.
2. Pack smart. If your game plan includes active acquisition, tuck a sturdy canvas tote into your carry-all or purse.
3. Find your Fair. The NYABF is Book Week’s crown jewel, and tantalizing offerings include a $3,000 children’s book entitled Die Wunderfahrt at Pierre Coumans’ booth, a stunning 40-volume collection of Balzac presented by Imperial Fine Books ($15,000), and other not-to-be-missed items. Still, if all the glitz and glamor of the Park Avenue bazaar is too rich for your blood, head over to the Uptown Satellite Show at the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola’s Wallace Hall at 980 Park Avenue. Sixty dealers, such as Rare PaperLizz Young, and Jonathan Kearns, are participating. Don’t be surprised if you see a few dealers from the NYABF browsing here as well. Free shuttle service between both locations runs from 7:45 am-6:45 pm throughout the weekend. And finally, the hip “Shadow Show” takes place on Saturday from 10pm to 5pm directly across from the Armory at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, where show organizer John Bruno (as seen on PBS’s “Market Warriors”) will be conducting appraisals from 1-3pm.
4. Do your homework. Active collectors know that education is key to making smart purchases. See the bibliographies in A Gentle Madness and Among the Gently Mad for worthwhile guides to book hunting. As noted author and collector Michael Sadleir said in 1937, “In nature the bird who gets up earliest catches the most worms, but in book collecting the prizes fall to birds who know worms when they see them.”
5. Get there early. Though the NYABF and the Satellite Show are running extended hours this year, the good stuff always goes first.
6. Talk to the exhibitors. Booksellers, especially antiquarian booksellers, are a highly educated lot, so a conversation on Renaissance illuminated manuscripts could lead into all sorts of glorious directions. 
7. Take it in stride, i.e., wear comfortable walking shoes--your feet will thank you.
8. Are you driving? Bring a roll of quarters in case you’re one of the lucky few who snags street parking. Failing to feed the parking meter could set you back $65, and that’s no way to end a great day at the Fair.

What are your best practices for a successful Book Week? Let us know!

The 50th California International Antiquarian Book Fair (CIABF) kicks off today, and in addition to the nearly two hundred booksellers bringing beautiful books and manuscripts, nineteen local book artists and organizations, from calligraphers to letterpress printers, will be sharing their love of all things biblio as well.                                                                                                                                            

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the highlights visitors won’t want to miss:

The all-volunteer San-Jose Printer’s Guild of letterpress printers will have a vintage table-top printing press at the fair where attendees are invited to print their own letterpress coasters. A Valentine’s Day design graces the front, while information about the Guild’s May 6 Printers’ Fair is on the reverse. The Guild will also be displaying examples of letterpress printing created by members, including flyers, booklets, posters, and other ephemera, as well as a few collectible catalogs from type foundries of decades past.



credit: Matt Kelsey

More info about the Guild can be found at



credit: Matt Kelsey

The Friends of Calligraphy, based in San Francisco, will be on hand to demonstrate calligraphic techniques while exploring the history and applications of the art of hand lettering, gestural art, and design. Four calligraphers will be on site during the fair, showcasing calligraphy in a variety of styles and providing an opportunity to watch calligraphy being crafted by expert hands.



credit: White Rain Productions

Representatives from the non-profit Ephemera Society of North America (based in Cazenovia, New York) are operating an information booth promoting society membership as well as their annual conference in March in Connecticut. Members will discuss various examples of ephemera and the importance of collecting and studying items never intended for posterity. Two displays, “Early Trade Cards and Ephemera,” and “Easter Egg Dyeing Ephemera,” include material from the collection of Society president Bruce Shyer, who will be at the booth to answer questions. More information at:



credit: Ephemera Society


San Francisco’s American Bookbinders Museum will showcase the history and craft of bookbinding by displaying and explaining the various tools and traditions of bookbinding.

We round out this week’s review of choice items available at the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair and the Boston Book Show with a peek at a very special edition of L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz with illustrations by Barry Moser. At the ABAA fair, Boomerang Booksellers of Northampton, Massachusetts, is presenting a first edition, first printing of the Pennyroyal Press edition of the book, which includes sixty-two wood engravings of, among others, political figures from the Reagan administration. Published in 1985, various political personalities from that era pepper the book, most notably with First Lady Nancy Reagan as the Wicked Witch of the West and her husband providing inspiration for the Wizard. Moser’s own daughters modeled for Glinda the Good Witch. (One wonders which political figures would appear if the book were illustrated in the midst of our current election cycle.)


40BIABF_Wonderful Wizard of Oz.jpg

                                                                                                                                                                  Oz fans may recall the 2006 exhibition celebrating what would have been the 150th birthday of L. Frank Baum at the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, Massachusetts. The installation explored the various representations of one of literature’s most beloved stories and its inhabitants, as well as the multitude of artistic shapes the book has taken since its initial publication in 1900. Moser’s illustrations for this book were a central part of that discussion.

                                                                                                                                                              A first edition, first printing of the Pennyroyal Press publication of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, with illustrations by Barry Moser, will be available at Booth 303 for the bewitching price of $57.50.

                                                                                                                                                              Images Courtesy of the Boston International Antiquarian 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


The eyes have it: Guercino (artist); Gatti, Oliviero (engraver). Sereniss. Mantuae Duci Ferdinando Gonzaghae DD. Jo. Franciscus Barberius Centen. Inventor.



Guercino (artist); Gatti, Oliviero (engraver). Sereniss. Mantuae Duci Ferdinando Gonzaghae DD. Jo. Franciscus Barberius Centen. Inventor.

                                                                                                                                                                   Be sure to visit stall A33 and welcome Honey & Wax Booksellers to its first New York Antiquarian Book Fair. Founded in 2011 by former Bauman Rare Books employee Heather O’Donnell, the shop specializes in great literature, rare first printings, curious editions, and, as O’Donnell puts it, “books with no downloadable equivalent.”


Among her wares, O’Donnell is highlighting books dedicated to education, including one of the earliest Italian pattern books by self-taught painter Giovanni Francesco Barbieri, better known as Guercino. A 17th-century drawing manual (pictured above) showcases his luminous and lively style, and instructs readers to concentrate on one feature at a time--eyes, hands, then, eventually, full portraits. Honey & Wax is offering this single-broadsheet volume comprising of twenty-two numbered copper-engraved plates bound in full contemporary vellum for $4,800.



Urania’s Mirror, or, A View of the Heavens; WITH: A Familiar Treatise on Astronomy, Explaining the General Phenomena of the Celestial Bodies . . . Written Expressly to Accompany Urania’s Mirror.



                                                                                                                                                               Another instruction guide is inspired by the luminous heavens. Rather than a simple guide to the skies, O’Donnell is offering a complete, second-edition, 32-card set of Urania’s Mirror. These charming, hand-colored cards illustrate the constellations, where pinholes denote the stars’ locations. Images are based on those found in Alexander Jamieson’s Celestial Atlas (1822). To see the formations of the constellations, viewers held the cards in front of candles or lamps to see the shape the stars would make in the night sky.  Few of these sets remain intact, and this one, which includes an astronomical table and textual explanations, can light up your corner of the sky for $6,200.

If you’re heading down to California this week for Rare Book Week West - and the 49th Annual California Antiquarian Book Fair  - here are a few special exhibitions at local institutions to tempt you (briefly) away from the bookseller stalls:

gettyda.jpg1) The Getty: In Focus: Daguerreotypes. “This exhibition presents a selection of one-of-a-kind images from among the Museum’s two thousand daguerreotypes, alongside those from the collection of Graham Nash.”

Also: Traversing the Globe Through Illuminated Manuscripts. “This exhibition features illuminated manuscripts and painted book arts from the 9th through the 17th century that bring to life in stunning ways the real and imagined places that one encounters on their pages.”

huntingtonca.jpg2) The Huntington: Friends and Family: British Artists Depict Their Circle.  Portraiture from the mid-18th through the early 20th centuries. “This exhibition presents another, more personal side of British portraiture. A wide-ranging selection of small-scale portraits in various media shows how artists from the mid -18th to the early 20th centuries portrayed subjects well-known to them in the prevailing artistic styles of the day - from the fashionable pastels of the Georgian era, to the careful observations of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood a century later, to the avant-garde abstractions of the modernists.” (Free admission if you’ve purchased a $25.00 ticket to the California Antiquarian Book Fair).

lacmaca.jpg3) Los Angeles County Museum of Art: Living for the Moment: Japanese Prints from the Barbara S. Bowman Collection. Over one hundred prints of the genre known as ukiyo-e, or pictures of the floating world. “During the Edo period (1615-1868), commercially printed ukiyo-e showed the sensualist priorities of Japanese at a time when a shogunal government restricted nearly all aspects of life.”


Martha’s Vineyard has long attracted writers and poets to its sandy shores, and since 2005, the island’s Book Festival brings writers from across the country to celebrate reading, writing, and the creative process. The free biennial event has grown over the past decade: This year, over thirty authors spoke about their current projects and also participated in panel discussions on various topics. Investigative journalist Stephen Kurjikan, 30 Girls author Susan Minot, and the Atlantic’s TaNehisi Coates were among those on the podium, sharing their thoughts and offering fresh perspectives on a range of topics. The two day event spanned both ends of the Island;  the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown hosted Saturday’s panels, and the Chilmark Community Center welcomed authors and attendees to billowing white tents on Sunday. Writers discussed issues such as women and sports, animals, race, and writing. Panels were moderated by fellow writers, such as Pulitzer-Prize winner Tony Horwitz and memoirist Alexandra Styron. Presenting partner A Bunch of Grapes Bookstore ensured that titles were available for purchase and inscription.

Steamer Martha's Vineyard, from an 1890s souve...

Authors didn’t arrive via steamer, but it’s a charming image nonetheless. Steamer Martha’s Vineyard, from an 1890s souvenir booklet. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The festival is the fruit of the labors of Suellen Lazarus, a former director at the World Bank Group in Washington D.C. and longtime summer Island resident. Inspired by the National Book Festival, she felt confident about replicating the event on a smaller scale. “I saw the Washington festival, and I thought we could do it. We have tents, better weather, and people like to come here - and many of them from D.C,” Lazarus said Saturday morning during a quick chat between panel discussions. “I’m very proud of our festival this year. There were a few themes I wanted to include - race, gender, and sustainability - and when we were organizing back in January, we thought about which authors we could intersperse into panels to generate thoughtful and engaging discussions.” As an example, that morning’s panel on Women in Sports included Olympian Ginny Glider, Boston Globe sports columnist Bob Ryan and professor Kenneth Shropshire, offering different points of view on a fascinating topic. Later that afternoon, Boston Globe investigative journalist Stephen Kurkjian (who wrote about the 1990 art theft at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), joined the stage alongside Jeff Hobbs, David Kertzer and novelist Sarah Wildman to discuss the craft of writing itself. 

Though she had worked tirelessly since the depths of winter to ensure everything was ship shape last weekend, Lazarus found time to enjoy the show. “I love listening to the panel discussions, so I don’t really work today.” Words of wisdom for any hard-working Islanders,as the rest of August will be very busy here: President Obama and family arrive tomorrow for a two-week vacation.


As a complement to the ABAA California Book Fair this weekend in Pasadena, PBA Auctions will be hosting a special sale on Sunday morning. The last part of the sale will be exclusively comprised of books donated by ABAA members to benefit the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Benevolent Fund. The fund benefits all booksellers - whether or not they are members of the ABAA - in times of need.

“Having seen some of the donations I can say with confidence that this will be a truly exciting sale, with items for all tastes and budgets,” said Lorne Bair, an ABAA bookseller in Virginia and member of ABAA’s Benevolent Fundraising Committee. “All proceeds will go to the Benevolent Fund, a charity established by the ABAA in 1952 to benefit all booksellers (not just ABAA members) in times of personal distress.”

The sale, number 526 for PBA, begins at 8:00 a.m. on Sunday morning, February 9. It will be held in the Cordova Room of the Pasadena Sheraton, next door to the Pasadena Convention Center, site of the ABAA Book Fair. The final section of the sale - lots 150-222 - will consist of books donated by ABAA members to benefit the Benevolent Fund.

Bair added that “the ABAA and the Trustees of the Benevolent Fund are extremely grateful for PBA’s generous offer to host the auction, as should be the wider bookselling community for whose benefit the Benevolent Fund was originally established.”

Previews for this sale will be held at the Pasadena Sheraton, February 7-8, 2014.  The catalogue for the entire sale - not just the Benevolent Fund Benefit - can be viewed online here.

Books on the Beach

MARTHA’S VINEYARD (August 3-4, 2013)  -

            Every other summer, authors from across the globe descend on Martha’s Vineyard for a whirlwind weekend of signings, presentations and bookish discussions. This year’s event drew writers including Pulitzer-Prize winner Tony Horwitz, notable nonfiction writer (and Smith College alumna) J. Courtney Sullivan, Tom Reiss, (another Pulitzer winner) and other literary luminaries. 


photo credit: William Lazarus

            The festival was held at two island locations this year - Saturday’s events took place at the Harbor View Hotel in Edgartown, and tents welcomed festival-goers at the Chilmark Community Center on Sunday.   The Harbor View hosted a series of moderator-led panels where topics such as the future of journalism, gangsters, and matrimonial fiction were discussed.  All authors were available at both locations to greet fans and sign books. 

            The humidity that notoriously plagues the island during warmer months was happily absent for the weekend, and temperatures in the seventies made browing stalls and chatting with authors a pleasant experience. 

The fifty-third annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair welcomed booksellers from all over America, and many came from across the Atlantic as well.  French sellers presented their treasures with typical Gallic flair, charm and grace. Below I share three of my favorite bouquinistes at the Fair and some of their eye-catching wares.

book fair.jpg

Children’s and Juvenile

            More than two dozen dealers at the Fair specialized in children’s books, and two were from Paris.  Michèle Noret, whose shop is nestled in the tony sixteenth arrondissement, brought lovely examples of children’s literature from around the globe. Her most intriguing items were Soviet-era volumes printed for budding Communists.  One choice example was a second edition 1927 primer called Lenin for Children. Available for two thousand dollars, the book includes thirty-one full-page illustrations by Russian painter Boris Mikhailovitch Kustodiev, whose paintings had previously shown at the 1906 Paris Salon.  



            Hailing from near Montmartre in the eighteenth arrondissement, Chez les Librairies Associés brought books covering a wide thematic selection (such as calligraphy and moveable books). They also enticed passers-by with beautiful children’s collectibles. Among their wares were seven titles illustrated by acclaimed Russian artist Ivan Bilbin, known for his renderings of Russian folk tales. One of those volumes, from the 1937 Père Castor series, was a fine first-edition of H.A. Andersen’s La Petite sirène for $350.


 Parties and Celebrations

            Libraries Benoît Forgeot (you’ll find them on rue de l’Odéon in the sixth) brought an outstanding collection of illustrated books celebrating holidays and festivals spanning the fifteenth to the nineteenth centuries.  Available for a tidy $80,000, one particularly sumptuous volume was a perfectly conserved depiction of a 1688 regatta. The boating event was organized in honor of the marriage of Ferdinand de Médicis, Grand Prince of Tuscany and Yolande-Béatrice.  Fourteen gorgeously illustrated in-folio plates by Alessandro Della Via portray the extravagant festivities. An image from the book also graced the bookseller’s most recent catalogue. (see below) 


Yesterday I posted about my Friday at the Manhattan book fairs. I returned to the NYABF fair at the Armory on Saturday for another few hours of intense browsing. My first stop was row E, having only made it as far as D the day before. 

The double booth belonging to Ian Kahn/Lux Mentis and Brian Cassidy Bookseller, located in E, is the fun stop on the book fair tour. Fine press, avant-garde, music-related, and sex-related books and ephemera. A set of pink undergarments fashioned out of strips of pink paper on which are printed slang terms about women? Seen at Lux Mentis. A 1968 paper dress of Andy Warhol’s soup can design given away by Campbell’s to women who sent in two can labels and $1? Seen at Brian Cassidy. 

I also attended the Book Collecting 101 Seminar run by Brad and Jen Johnson of The Book Shop in Covina, CA. It was a great seminar on the basics, covering insuring collections, packing/shipping books, and my favorite, the “Don’t list”: Don’t Follow Fads; Don’t Buy Blindly; Don’t Settle, and Don’t “Invest.” I was also reminded that a $5 Mylar cover is a necessary investment for a fine book (Note to self...). 

Other booth highlights included Phillip J. Pirages, where I scanned some stunning illuminated manuscript leaves. They don’t fit into any of my three main collecting paths, so I sadly passed on them. At Les Enluminures, I picked up the catalogue for its current gallery show of medieval manuscripts, Paths to Reform, and I’ll be nearly as happy paging through it.  

Two purchases were made in the final hour -- both in the natural history/nature literature category, a collection my husband and I share -- which caused us to meet two booksellers we will surely seek out at future fairs: Jeffrey H. Marks and Jeff Bergman

The NYABF is still open today. Happy hunting. 

Here are a few other highlights en route to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, which opens with a special preview tonight and continues with day hours through Sunday:

From Bruce McKittrick, the first printed book on birds, William Turner’s Avivm Praecipvarvm from 1544. ($45,000)

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Also from Bruce McKitterick, a book on the the first trade school and its accompanying interactive museum, also the first of its kind, in Germany. The Catalog of Semler’s Mechanical Museum for his Newly Founded Trade School in Halle, from 1709. ($15,000)

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From William Reese, a legendary rarity of Americana, Bauman’s detailed battle plan of Yorktown: ($250,000)

From Leo Cadogan, crossing the pond from Britain, a c.1500 book of hours formerly owned by a Franciscan nun and inscribed by her with a curse: ($28,000)

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And from the same firm, a 19th century devotional print surrounded by what appear to be real human bones: ($1,200)

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And many, many more interesting books and ephemera will be on display and available for purchase at the “world’s best book fair” this weekend.  So if you’re anywhere near New York City, stop on by.

While by no means complete, here are a few of my favorite highlights that will be on display at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair this weekend.  Beginning with a preview evening on Thursday, the “world’s best book fair” begins in earnest on Friday.

Two New York items from British bookseller Simon Beattie:

A set of twelve lithographs depicting New York scenes from 1927 by Zurich artist Hans Welti.  Welti completed the drawings during an earlier visit to New York as part of an “Economic Study Tour.”  Each lithograph is signed by Welti.  $7000

And from the same year (1927) a Russian translation of Theodore Dreiser’s early portrait of New York, The Color of a Great City, priced at $1800.
Dreiser 2.jpgFrom Utah bookseller Ken Sanders, a lot of two very scarce (one previously unknown) early Mormon broadsides: (The lot for $75,000)

ksrb_nybf_2.jpgFrom Lorne Bair of Virginia, a first edition with the extremely rare dust jacket of Abraham Cahan’s The Rise of David Levinsky, published in 1917: ($5,000)

david levnisky.jpg
Bair is also brining an original photograph from 1917 depicting the Young People’s Socialist League of Elizabeth, New Jersey, with children representing various wards in the city during a very different time in American politics: ($600)

young people's socialist league.jpg
Stay tuned for some more highlights on Thursday...

Where: Manhattan. When: Next Week. What: Three antiquarian book, fine book, and manuscript fairs, plus three major auctions. Here’s the lowdown on the week of events that book collectors look forward to all year long. 

New York Antiquarian Book Fair--Called “The Best Book Fair in the World,” the NYABF goes on for three days at the Park Avenue Armory, beginning with a preview Thursday evening, April 11th, and running through Sunday, April 14th. Over 200 dealers will display an astonishing array of rare books, fine art, maps, manuscripts, and ephemera. To read what three long-time dealers told us about the NYABF, see our article, “The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, Past and Present.

The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, a.k.a., the “Shadow Show”--This one is held downtown at the Altman Building on W. 18th St. It’s open on Friday night and all day Saturday. My advice: go early. It’s an open secret that the “uptown dealers” scout the Shadow Show and leave with bags full of new acquisitions. Antiques appraisals by John Bruno, star of the hit PBS series “Market Warriors,” will be held on Saturday from 1-3 pm at $5/item. 

The Professional Autograph Dealers Association Show (PADA)--This annual and highly anticipated show for historic autograph collectors has been revamped. The location (and dress code) has changed; it will be held at the Lotos Club on E. 66th Street on Sunday, April 14th from 9-5, and asks visitors to dress business casual. Top dealers will bring guaranteed authentic manuscript material in all areas and at all price levels. 

Christie’s Auction(s)--With its auction on the evening of Tuesday, April 9th, Christie’s kicks off the NY book collectors’ week with the collection of Arthur and Charlotte Vershbow. The evening session features 75 highlights, followed the next day by a second auction of the Vershbows’ illustrated books and manuscripts from the Renaissance and Middle Ages. (In our current issue, Jeremy Dibbell offers an extended look at this outstanding collection.) Also on the 10th, Christie’s offers the Francis Crick “Secret of Life” Letter

Heritage Auctions--On April 10th, Heritage holds its Rare Books Signature Auction at the Fletcher-Sinclair Mansion on E. 79th St., featuring the largest selection of Harry Potter first editions offered at one time! Plus, some great Ian Fleming books. On the 11th, it offers Manuscripts at the same location, AND Francis Crick’s Nobel Prize Medal

Swann Galleries--On April 11th, there will be an auction of Fine Books, including a Gutenberg leaf, incunabula, and Audubon’s Quadrupeds. On the other side of the book fairs, an auction of Printed and Manuscript Americana, featuring NY-related manuscripts, rare Mormon documents, and the Peter Scanlan collection of Theodore Roosevelt material happens on April 16th.

It’s going to be a busy week for bibliophiles in New York City. Stay tuned to the FB&C blog next week for previews and reporting from the floor. See you there! 

Julian Barnes at the Oxford Literary Festival

Guest Blog by Catherine Batac Walder

On Friday, March 22, Julian Barnes received the Sunday Times Award for Literary Excellence at the University of Oxford Sheldonian Theatre from the newspaper’s literary editor, Andrew Holgate. Barnes sat with acclaimed biographer and literary scholar Hermione Lee for an hour-long discussion of his life and work.

Lee and Barnes.jpg

Lee noted that the word “novel” has become a hugely elastic and unrestricted category partly because of Barnes, who is one of those authors who stretched, squeezed, and manipulated the form. Barnes said that it wasn’t what he set out to do when he first started writing. His only thought was that he was going to write a novel, experimenting on points of view whenever he started a new work. He believes that the novel is informal and is fascinated with the daring form, as when the hero and his sidekick hear themselves being discussed by minor characters through thin walls (e.g., that scene from Don Quixote). There are similarities in the structures of his works, as Lee pointed out; he doesn’t proceed chronologically and sometimes holds three stages or versions of a story alongside one another. She asked if this is a structure that appeals to him. He agreed, deep in thought, as though realizing it only at that moment, “I guess it must, as you’ve noticed it.” He added that one of the things you learn as a novelist over the years is how to move through time, citing Alice Munro as one who deals with whole lives in 20 or 30 pages.

In reply to Lee’s comment that he creates a pattern of images that recur and moments that come back within the book, such as the river running upstream in The Sense of an Ending, Barnes said that it comes with writing and rewriting. 

Lee also observed that “rewriting history” or “lying to ourselves” is a subject that he returns to in different ways in his books. Asking why this is interesting to him, Barnes replied that it might have come out while researching his book Nothing to Be Frightened of, which is partly about death and partly a family memoir. The process of writing and researching involved an exchange of e-mails with his philosopher brother. They discovered that they have a case of incompatibility in memory on things from their childhood, such as the method their grandfather used to kill chickens (this topic reminds me of Speak, Memory by Oliver Sacks). On the whole, he said, “we like improving stories.”

Lee asked about one common theme in two of Barnes’ books--being a boy at school--and wondered if there was something in his memory of what it felt like at school that has stayed with him. He attributed this recurrence to the fact that it was around this age when he started to read serious books. Another recurring theme, as Lee observed, is a narrator or central figure who is somehow inhibited, self-protective, hasn’t lived life to the full--a very English character, such as Chris in Metroland, and Tony Webster in The Sense of an Ending, among others. Personally I find that most authors have more fun creating these characters, as Barnes himself said something like he could explore a character more when they have these qualities.  


Barnes didn’t stay to sign books at the end but signed copies of his latest book, Levels of Life, to be released in April 2013, were available for purchase. Its themes of life, love, death, and grief made me weep. Barnes’ wife of 30 years, Pat Kavanagh, died in 2008. This book is like his love letter to her in the most informal form he could muster. There were thoughts of suicide (not unlike how one of his fictional characters had gone) after her death. There were words and actions he loathed from acquaintances and friends alike, his feelings all written here, in words I suspect he wouldn’t tell them face to face.

Barnes is the author of 20 books including novels, essays, and stories that have been translated into more than 30 languages. His most recent novel, The Sense of an Ending, won the Booker Prize in 2011.

Many thanks to Catherine Batac Walder, a writer living in the UK, for this post. She has previously written for us about Sherlock Holmes and ex-library books. She also reported on last year’s Oxford Literary Festival. Images credit: Catherine Batac Walder. 

Ninety antiquarian booksellers will be in attendance at the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show on Aug. 23-26 at the Baltimore Convention Center. We asked a few of them to share highlights of what they’re bringing.

Dali.jpgKen Mallory, an ABAA bookseller in Decatur, GA, is showcasing two Dali items. One is the numbered first edition of Babaouo (pictured here at left), published in Paris in 1932, in its publisher’s printed apple green wraps with onionskin jacket. This copy is signed and inscribed on the half title by Dali to a French ambassador to Russia ($3500). Another is a signed first American edition of Diary of a Genius, signed by Dali in black marker ($2,500).

Mosher Books of Ephrata, PA, sent a short-list ofMosher.jpg treasures that included a signed Memoirs of Napoleon in a superb binding ($9,500); Merian’s Topographia Bavariae, c. 1664 ($7,500); and a beautiful floriated binding by Kelliegram of Tennyson’s Poems, 1862 ($1,500). I was intrigued by this 1912 Mosher Press edition of Walt Whitman’s Memories of President Lincoln (pictured here at right), number 5 of only 10 printed on roman vellum and bound in classic vellum ($8,500).  

And for a Baltimore tie-in, Kelmscott Bookshop of Baltimore, will have this exquisite unique artists’ book. It is a hand-lettered manuscript of Edgar Annabel.jpgAllan Poe’s “Annabel Lee,” designed, written, gilded, and decorated by artist Maryanne Grebenstein (at left; $4,500). They’ll also bring O is for Opera, an abecedarian of famous operas and opera terminology, #31 of 45 copies, from Bay Park Press/False Bay Editions ($2,500).

Two related lectures may be of interest to book collectors at the show. On Thursday, Aug. 23 Lee Temares will speak about Juvenile Series Books, and on Saturday, Aug. 25, Gerald Barkham & Steve Epstein will discuss Posters & Broadsides: From Advertising to Art Forms.
Last year I vowed to get to the ‘Shadow Show’ earlier, and this year I did it. The so-called Shadow Show, or Manhattan Vintage Books & Ephemera Fair, run by Flamingo Eventz, happens downtown and has that great downtown accessibility to it. I vowed to get there at 9 a.m. on Saturday because last year I witnessed dealers from the ABAA show at the Armory loading bags of books from the Shadow Show into cabs on their way back uptown. So there is great stuff to be found, at prices that are affordable to even the newest, youngest collector.

I enjoyed chatting there with two of our recent ‘Bright Young Things’: Dan Whitmore of Whitmore Rare Books and Jonathan Smalter of Yesterday’s Muse. My husband purchased a first edition John Muir from Jonathan’s boothmate, another young bookseller, Elizabeth Svendsen of Walkabout Books. So it was a successful morning.

At noon, I returned to the NYABF at the Armory. On Friday, I had perused for five hours in a daze, but on Saturday I got a closer look at a few items that really piqued my interest. Adrian Harrington had a lovely four-volume set of Middlemarch that I really wanted to take home. Pickering & Chatto was offering an incredible limited edition of Til Vietnam, a collection of Danish poems and illustrations published in 1967, signed by Jean Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. And the Kelmscott Bookshop booth, full of beautiful things, had a whimsical and wonderful Caliban Press book, Lecon des Livres pour Calyban...

I also met up with an old friend and a few new ones -- exactly why the New York book fairs are so much fun. Can’t wait til next year.

Related articles
What I like most about the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is putting faces to names I email, Facebook, and tweet to on a daily basis. And of course, each one of those people can show and tell you something interesting. I spent five hours on the floor yesterday, and though I left empty-handed, my eyes were overloaded by all the beautiful things to look at.

I thoroughly enjoyed meeting Paul Cohen of Cohen & Taliaferro, whose booth is graced by Giuseppe Rosaccio’s Vniversale Descrittione di Tvtto it Mondo, the largest Italian world map published in the sixteenth century. Stop by, you can’t miss it, and you shouldn’t. I loved seeing the miniature books at Bromer Booksellers, the prison literature at Lorne Bair, and ‘Wall of Vellum’ at Philadelphia Rare Books & Mss. Co.

It’s also nice to see on the shelves some symmetry with our magazine content. I saw a good handful of Larry McMurtry firsts (which would go well with our current issue). Or, for those of you who enjoyed our feature on nature writer Henry Beston (summer 2011), a signed first edition in its scarce jacket (and very fresh to the market) is on offer at Peter L. Stern for $8,500; Between the Covers has a later edition with an autograph signed letter from Beston for $5,000. Browsing the booth of Rabelais--whose specialty is books on food & drink--reminded me of our feature (spring 2011) on cocktail book collector Greg Boehm.

More anon...
Preparing for my visit to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair later this week, I’ve perused many booksellers’ lists of ‘what they’re bringing’ to the fair. (Other highlights, published in our spring issue, are here.) These are a few that caught my eye--of personal interest or just “intrinsically interesting.”

yKIF.jpgFrom Lux Mentis, this (above) very recently published limited edition of Bartleby the Scrivener is incredibly cool. The artist, Wolfgang Buchta, describes his process: “In 2009 July, the graphic structure of the newspaper gave me the impulse to draw over it. Then I thought this background was the ideal way for Bartleby. After this decision, I wrote the text by hand. August-December 2009. Drawings on the newspaper, 70 pieces, used 57, January-May 2010. Mounted text and drawings together, June 2010. Gerie Reumiller did the scans and filtered the grey tone of the newspaper, 59 pieces, July 2010. Prepared for the computer to plate process, July 2010. Started printing the aluminum plates by hand on the lithopress, August-November 2010. Started preparing and printing the second color on stone, December-April 2011. Coloring the prints with watercolor, May-August 2011. Bound the first 10 copies in September 2011.” $10,000

As a lover of all things Thoreau, I will certainly visit the booth of James Cummins to glimpse the first printing of the first and only issue of Elizabeth Palmer Peabody’s journal Aesthetic Papers from 1849, featuring Thoreau’s Resistance to Civil Government, the first appearance in print of his (now famous) lecture on civil disobedience. $22,000

Jackiephoto.jpgGordon Hollis is offering a collection of fourteen autograph letters and cards and photographs from former First Lady Jackie Kennedy to ballerina Margot Fonteyn -- a wonderful opportunity for a collector of dance! One of the photographs seen above. $25,000

Gaskell.jpgAt least two books from Blackwell’s Rare Books made me covetous: this first edition (at left) of a novel I love, Gaskell’s Wives and Daughters, an Austen family association copy, no less. $1,920. And the three-volume set of Siegfried Sassoon’s Memoirs of a Fox-Hunting Man, Memoirs of an Infantry Officer, and Sherston’s Progress might find a buyer among all the new Downton Abbey fans (myself included). $3,120

Bookseller Kevin Kelly has a rare playbill broadside for one of Nicolo Paganini’s final performances in Birmingham, 1832. The catalogue entry intrigues: “Among Paganini’s notorious showmanship gimmicks was to break all but one string and play a piece, thus handicapped, with surprising dexterity. Such a performance is promised in the program here.” $2,500

Happy browsing and shopping, all! I’ll be walking the floor on Friday and much of Saturday--if you see me (with my lanyard/nametag), stop and say hello!

What’s the Point of the Arts and Humanities? A report from the Oxford Literary Festival

Guest Blog by Catherine Batac Walder

On Monday, March 26, I attended the discussion on “What’s the Point of the Arts and Humanities?” an event at the Oxford Literary Festival. The panel included comedian and co-founder of the Arts Emergency Service Josie Long, writer Philip Pullman, and world-renowned graphic novelist and magician Alan Moore. Dr Simon Kövesi, the head of English and modern languages at Oxford Brookes University, chaired the event.

Walder3_OxfordLitFest2012.JPGMeeting Alan Moore at a book-signing after the panel discussion.

A good part of the talk dwelt on assessment, economics, and funding of higher education (HE) in the UK, that is, should the state fund the study of the Arts and Humanities? Having experienced HE in various settings - the Philippines, Scandinavia, Southern Europe and the UK - I find that criticisms about government funding are endless and that I, originally from a developing country, have the inherent habit of comparing Philippine higher education, where funding is a problem not only in HE but on all levels of education. That is also to say that funding, not necessarily the systems, in Norway and Finland left me with awe.
What interested me more was the main topic addressed by the panel. What’s the point of the arts? Can the arts and humanities develop without university study and scholarship? Talks of cinema vs. books, art vs. commerce/industry surfaced. Pullman pointed out that he wouldn’t wish anyone to think that by praising the arts and humanities he was downgrading the importance of science. This bigger picture, this (false) division between art and science is interesting to me as having worked with scientists at a university here in England, I got to know some who also have the same qualms about industry/commerce as artists do. I agreed when Moore said, “if we go back to the history of our culture, the high points are our creativity, that’s how we measure things, that’s what makes us human.” But you could also say the same about science and technology. Overall it was a pleasant afternoon and you couldn’t help but hang on every word: Pullman with his scholarly discourse; Long with her activism and idealism; and Moore with his astute opinion of humanities and being human that only a student of unstructured education and a man of life experiences could give.

Walder2_OxfordLitFest2012.JPGBook sale at the marquee in Christ Church (where Lewis Carroll spent time as a student and teacher).

The annual festival opened Saturday, March 24 and will run until Sunday, April 1. For details on ongoing and upcoming events, visit

Many thanks to Catherine Batac Walder, a writer living in the UK, for this report. She has previously written for us about Sherlock Holmes, ex-library books, and The Water Babies.

Kara McLaughlin, proprietor of Little Sages in Cooper City, Florida, and recent entry in our Bright Young Things series, exhibited at her first fair earlier this month at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in St. Petersburg.  She sent in the following report:

photo 5.JPGI turned the key and felt her start up. Last of the boxes and bags tucked in, green light, action, we are doing this - yes, we are ready to roll. Miles of white highway lines to cover but they fly by and I pinch, pinch again that in a matter of hours the stage will be set and the audience set in motion. The first audience, to me at least, for my first show in bookworld.

There’s the space: blank and bare, save the gorgeous bones of wood, rafters and lights. Free them, I tell myself, release the spines, boards and covers and find the magic. I support and lean, angle and stack the relics, hop back to the aisle to catch the rough form and line, dash back in to rearrange. A loop of dialogue in my mind, “Will they see this from  there? Does color catch their eye?”  I hadn’t realized the artist I needed to be, the poet of form and content. The nook of my wares and lures tied, I call the evanescent shop open.

 photo 1.JPGWhat I anticipated and excepted did come, and more so - with waves that I simply could not know fully until diving in. Deep in the limitless, dynamic exchange between patron, reveler and medium, the humble  bookseller here to sometimes translate, occasionally guide  (yes I think it this vast and true).

Each shelf bursting with songs and story, inked to the bleeding edge with more  - each visitor thirsty and readied to sit at the table. This communion of bibliophiles, this celebration simply cannot be translated out of the flesh and blood. Shopkeepers know the beauty of face to face sales, but here it’s intensified and poured freely - and it is a delight.

photo 4(1).JPG The bundles I wrapped and tucked under my arm for travel - ah I know their stories well, but what I didn’t foresee were the stories that would be brought to me.  Some came with a few lines, a haiku  - some carried a long, deep tale. What led them to photograph the dreadlocked, wild horses on a small island in the Atlantic?  How many times have they built a Catspaw dingy by hand? How long did they work in the Carnegie Steel factory? When did their lover first read them Shakespeare? How did they feel when the truth of Emerson sunk in?  I’m convinced that a collecting mind is an engaged, even enlightened one.

photo 4.JPGWhen it comes down to it, folks who love books are lovers of life, and these knowing, appreciative friends need no convincing that beauty, history, science, poetry and all the forgotten details of the world are worth noting, saving and sharing. Like all good parties, no one really wants to pull out of the driveway but, here, we gather our keys and coat - and say goodbye for a time. Yeah, a good sleep called and I sure answered - but even as I folded the first bookcase flat and brought the shop back to a 2D world for a while, I asked myself - where to? I’m hooked, got the bug, gone round the bend.. this little traveling sage ready at the helm.  

Until then, dreamers, dream! The muse awaits.

With big book fairs come big books.  This year in Pasadena was no exception.  Fair highlights included the three volume first edition of Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen’s first novel, offered by Biblioctopus for $65,000.  Biblioctopus also had to hand an impressive copy of Shakespeare’s fourth folio, offered for $180,000.

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Douglas Stewart, a young dealer from Australia, brought along a first edition of The Lord of the Rings inscribed by Tolkien in the Elvish language he invented for the book.  The book sold quickly in the first day.  Stewart also had a leaf from the Gutenberg Bible, which he offered for $85,000.

In the realm of the truly unique, Lorne Bair had a personal photo photo album from Adolf Hitler, showing a variety of casual (and mostly unknown) images of Hitler and his lover on holiday.  The album was priced at $65,000.


A special exhibition on display at the fair was entitled “A Love Affair with Books: Personal Stories of Noted Collectors.”  Select items from the collections of Tony Bill, Mary Murphy, and Sarah Michelle Gellar amongst others, were proudly exhibited in glass display cases.  Gellar’s collection of children’s books focused in particular on the works of Arthur Rackham.  She has almost acquired all of Rackham’s illustrated books.

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I had the pleasure of attending Mark Dimunation’s excellent lecture “Jefferson’s Legacy,” about the building of the Library of Congress’ rare book collections.  Dimunation, the head of rare books at the LOC, spoke about the nation’s library as being a “collection of collections.”  The first collection acquired by the nation, of course, was Thomas Jefferson’s famous personal library.  Jefferson sold his truly outstanding collection of books to the US government in 1815 for $24,0000.  The 6,487 volumes in Jefferson’s library became the basis for the Library of Congress.  Two-thirds of Jefferson’s books, however, were subsequently lost in a fire.  One of Dimunation’s goals in his tenure as Chief of Rare Books has been to reconstruct Jefferson’s library exactly as it was in 1815.  Thus, he set about on a multi-year quest to track down the exact editions of some 4,000 books from the original Jefferson library that were lost in the fire.  Dimunation has almost achieved this ambitious and noble goal.  As of early 2012, there are only 275 books - from three centuries of printing and in nine different languages - left to acquire. 

Dimunation also spoke about some of the other key collections that have become cornerstones of the national library: the personal collections of Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Harry Houdini, as well as several major private collections of Americana and Lincolniana.  Two of Dimunation’s favorite acquisitions, from two separate Whitman collectors, are a copy of Thoreau’s A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers, inscribed to Walt Whitman, and a copy of Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, inscribed to Thoreau.  The two giants of American literature met each other once in Brooklyn in 1856, where a walk in the park saved a stalled conversation.  Whitman and Thoreau exchanged their books at the end of their walk before they parted, never to meet again.  The books are now happily reunited, facing each other, on display at the Library of Congress.

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Day two just wound down at the California Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena and the general mood amongst booksellers remained upbeat and positive.  John Crichton of Brick Row Book Shop in San Francisco, said that overall the fair had gone “exceptionally well.”  Lorne Bair, of Lorne Bair Rare Books in Virginia seconded the opinion as he discussed the “really pleasant venue, packed with a lot of people.”  Crichton chuckled when he said that the whole experience remained “unstressful” despite “the [onsite] bar closing too early.” 

The busy crowd included a wide variety of ages.  I spoke with two members of the Canadian punk rock band Terrorist, who are playing a show tonight in Los Angeles.  This was their first antiquarian book fair, which they stopped by on a whim.  They called the fair “eye-opening” and “kind of surreal,” as they expressed surprise at seeing such expensive books -- especially those that “you can just check out for free at the library.”

Another young reader, Christina Donatelli, was also attending her first book fair.  She will be traveling to Denmark next week and was amazed when a bookseller handed her a copy of a first edition of Hans Christian Andersen’s tales, complete with the author’s signature.  The bookseller told her that hardly anyone in Denmark had ever held a book signed by Andersen.

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As the fair finished day two, most booksellers seemed in a good mood with foot traffic and sales remaining high and steady throughout the day.

I will be posting again about this busy day at the fair covering the excellent lecture from Mark Dimunation of the Library of Congress about the formation of the core LOC collections, the special exhibitions on display, and some fair highlights brought along by booksellers..


fair 1.JPGAfter a late departure, stalled by dense fog (which is virtually unheard of in the high desert of Bend, Oregon), I arrived at the 45th annual California Antiquarian Book Fair around 6:00 p.m, just in time for the last two hours of the day.  This was the first year that the Los Angeles Book Fair was held at the convention center in Pasadena, moving away from its long time home at the Century Plaza Hotel on the west side of LA.  The general mood among booksellers was that the change was a big improvement.  All the booksellers were together in one spacious, open area, a nice contrast from the winding corridors of the Century Plaza.  The lighting - bright and clear - was another improvement commented upon by several booksellers.  Hosea Baskin, of Cumberland Rare Books, in Northampton, Massachusetts, referred to the new venue as “clean and sparkly and delightfully un-antiquarian.”  Teri Osborn, of William Reese Co., and one of our profiles in the Bright Young Things series, said that there was “a lot of foot traffic” and overall sales “seemed alright.”  Tom Congalton, of Between the Covers Rare Books, also mentioned that the there was good amount of the usual pre-fair activity amongst dealers.

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I spoke with a young fair attendee named Caitlin Getz, who at 23 years old was attending her first antiquarian book fair.  She found the experience “amazing” and “mind-blowing” and was clearly enjoying a leisurely stroll amongst the medieval manuscripts, first editions, and signed photographs.

By the time 8:00 pm rolled around, the fair activity had died down considerably, and the book dealers commenced making plans for dinner and drinks in the old town of Pasadena.  Tom Congalton succinctly summed up the mood for day two: “We’re hopeful.”

I’ll be posting again tomorrow with two entries about Saturday at the book fair.

Booksellers are packing up and shipping out this week, as many head to California for the San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print and Paper Fair this weekend and the California International Antiquarian Book Fair in Pasadena the following weekend. Last week I reviewed the ‘collective’ catalogue of seven booksellers bound for both fairs. Today I’m taking a look at some other books on their way to the Golden State...

Fleming.jpgBooks Tell You Why, a purveyor of fine first editions and signed books based in South Carolina, is headed to the fair in Pasadena with this stunning copy of Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, his first James Bond novel. It is a first edition/first impression in fine condition in first state dust-wrapper. The price is $55,000. Books Tell You Why is also bringing the German translation of the Physica Sacra, in five volumes. The book, concurrently published in Latin, is Johann Jakob Scheuchzer’s famous scientific commentary on the Bible with 762 plates on cosmography, paleontology, zoology, botany, and anatomy. The price is $12,500.

dulac.jpgMoving to booth 221 at the Pasadena fair, you will find fine illustrated and children’s books from Aleph-Bet Books of New York. In addition to a rare inscribed copy of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time ($18,500), they will be bringing the fabulous Edmund Dulac manuscript seen here above. “This is an amazing finished manuscript tale about King Henry, his knights on horseback, medieval lords and a nervous Earl Hugh Bigod and his castle of Bungaye. It appeared as a full page color illustration in the Christmas 1906 issue of the Graphic.” Bound in crimson morocco by Sangorski and Sutcliffe. The price is $40,000.

Beattie-Calif.pngUK-based Simon Beattie is exhibiting at Pasadena for the first time. Among his selection of fine continental books, an intriguing book: Der Orang-Outang in Europa, 1780, the first ‘California’ imprint, though published in Berlin. A satire of life in Poland, it’s anyone’s guess why the printer choose ‘Californien’ as its fictitious place of publication. The price is $3,250. William Godwin, Sergei Diaghilev, and a playbill for Richard Wagner’s Der Ring Des Nibelungen will also be at Beattie’s booth.

Sophie Schneideman Rare Books & Prints of London will be exhibiting at both California fairs. She is bringing a selection of private press books, including some California imprints from the collection of Clarence B. Hanson, Jr. of Birmingham, Alabama. She’ll also have several fine books on food and wine, and an original wood engraving from Lucien Pissarro, Girl Seated on a Grassy Hillside, No. 4 of 20, numbered and signed. The price is $949.
Coming up this weekend is the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair. Whether you’re in the market for a first edition of Louisa May Alcott’s Flower Fables (at Second Life Books of Lanesborough, MA) or a unique Bonnie and Clyde crime collection (including bullets, at University Archives of Westport, CT), or you’d simply like to take in one of the fair’s activities--talks about collecting and expert appraisals--there will be something for every booklover in Beantown.

Sadly I won’t be walking the floor; if I were, Mac Donnell Rare Books would be my first stop. They’re bringing a leaflet that Henry Wadsworth Longfellow printed up to give away to children who visited him at Craigie-Longfellow House. It would also be very cool to see Athena Rare Books’ first edition of Alfred Dinsdale’s Television, the first book in English on that “vast wasteland.” They also have a signed second edition.
Coming up this weekend is the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair! On Saturday and Sunday, 101 book, map, and ephemera dealers will set up at the Seattle Center Exhibition Hall and offer some amazing items. Here’s a quick look at a few of them. 

screwjack.jpgEd Smith Books of Rolling Bay, WA, specializes in modern literature, photography, and screenplays. Smith is bringing some first edition westerns by Clarence Mulford, a first edition of No Country for Old Men, and a presentation copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s Screwjack in bright red cloth with gilt decoration (seen above; $1,250).
Back for its sixth year, the NY Art Book Fair, presented by Printed Matter, will be held this upcoming weekend from preview night on Thursday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 2. This fair, held at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City, is NYC’s premier event for artists’ books, contemporary art monographs, and art zines. (This picture is from last year’s NY Art Book Fair. Courtesy of Printed Matter, 2010.)

More than two hundred exhibitors will feature their work to browsing attendees, who might also pop in to the “Classroom,” a curated series of informal conversations and workshops led by artists and organized by David Senior of the Museum of Modern Art. More serious folks will join the two-day contemporary artists’ books conference, focused on emerging practices and debates within art-book culture. Tauba Auerbach will give the keynote. A new addition to the fair this year is the “Schoolyard,” an international selection of more than sixty zinesters and independent artists under a big tent in the MoMA PS1 courtyard. Exhibitors there include Cinders, Fluens Forlag and Flâneur (both Brooklyn); Goteblüd, Needles & Pens (both San Francisco, CA); and ZINE’S MATE (Japan). Of these, twelve will continue the tradition of Friendly Fire (politically-minded artists), curated by Max Schumann. AA Bronson, the fair’s director and president of Printed Matter, told me he expects this feature to be “super popular and busy.”
Yes, it may only be Monday, but surely you are making bookish plans for next weekend, right? If you’re anywhere in the NY/NJ/DE/MD/PA area, the mid-Atlantic chapter of the ABAA is hosting a mini book fair and sale at the Bookshop in Old New Castle in New Castle, Delaware.
    Thirteen ABAA booksellers have signed on to showcase their books, including Antipodean Books, Between the Covers Rare Books, Black Swan Books, Brian Cassidy Bookseller, Certain Books, Hammer Mountain Book Hall, The Kelmscott Bookshop, Bruce McKittrick Rare Books, Oak Knoll Books, the Old Bookshop of Bordentown, Willis Monie Books, Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts, and Wellread Books.
    And if that weren’t enough, Lilly Library curator (and FB&C columnist) Joel Silver will be there to sign copies of the new trade edition of his Dr. Rosenbach and Mr. Lilly: Book Collecting in a Golden Age, just published by Oak Knoll.
    The fair runs from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on Saturday the 17th and is sure to be a fantastic time.
Seventy antiquarian booksellers--Adrian Harrington Rare Books, Between the Covers, Brian Cassidy, and Quill & Brush, to name a few--will be on hand at this year’s Baltimore Summer Antiques Show coming up Aug. 25-28 at the Baltimore Convention Center.

Twain-Imperial.jpgImperial Rare Books is bringing this very handsome set of Twain in twenty-five volumes (seen above). It is the autograph edition of which this is #260 of five hundred with a tipped-in signed note by Twain. Bound in full olive green calf with gilt edging. The price tag: $22,500.

29-1510 Blumenthal books.jpgM.S. Rau Antiques is highlighting its leatherbound six-volume set of books that catalogues the collection of George and Florence Blumenthal, well-heeled Jazz Age collectors of paintings, sculptures, furniture, drawings, and more. Printed in 1926 in an edition of two hundred, this is #162. Priced at $3,850.

Beyond books, five hundred other exhibitors will show furniture, silver, art, porcelain, jewelry, glass, textiles, and more. A full exhibitor list is here:
Guest Blog by bookseller Garry R. Austin

The Searles Castle Book Fair was held the last weekend of July in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in the heart of the Berkshires. This fair has been run for a number of years by Bernice Bornstein who also produces the “Shadow Show” to the Boston ABAA Show in November. Bernice is a good-hearted bundle of energy, frenetic, dedicated and has a memory for people’s names and business history that is nothing short of amazing. Years ago she and her late husband Hal, ran the “Woburn Antique Show” three times a year, with about 400 dealers in each show with a waiting list as well. Today in the “Castle,” the number of dealers is about sixty, the floor plan is fluid given the nature of the rooms in this late 19th century mansion, columns here and there, large pieces of furniture that can’t be disturbed, a Veranda that is utilized, a stage and a lovely painted ceiling in the Music Room. The price of admission is worth the walk through in this remarkable facility that now houses the John Dewey Academy, a private school. And it’s the Berkshires in high season!

This fair has a very good mix of dealers and there are always a number of finds that make the weekend fulfilling and profitable. This year’s event was no exception. What was noteworthy was that amidst a time of depressing economic news, high unemployment numbers, passionate debate on debt ceiling deals, debt downgrades, and what market analysts term uncertainty, this fair seemed to be immune to those pressures. There were interesting books to be found. The trade was engaged and buying, and the public that attended also contributed to a healthy “handle” for the affair. Without naming names, at opening there was a line, and on that line were some of the more well known, sophisticated, high-end booksellers of the ABAA. One of the great tell-tale signs of a vibrant fair is the number of patrons carrying packages. Folks were browsing and clutching their previous purchases. One dealer was observed folding up a case from his table mid fair, he had sold all the books in it. I’m not claiming that everyone had a successful show, that rarely happens, but the stars seemed to be aligned and there were plenty of buyers there, both from within and without the Trade. The material was a cut above the average regional fair, was reasonably priced in most cases and was moving. It was a very good weekend, and many of us left in an optimistic mood. So I’ll be back next year as I assume will most of this year’s exhibitors too.

Garry R. Austin
Austin’s Antiquarian Books
Wilmington, VT
If you’re off to Italy this fall or just thinking about it, there are two events to put on your itinerary. The 8th Annual Artelibro Art Book Festival will be held September 22-25 in Bologna. Antiquarian booksellers, contemporary publishers and printers, artists, and collectors gather here to celebrate the art of the book with lectures, special events, and, of course, opportunities to buy. It sounds like a dream vacation. Last year, Artelibro attracted 55,000 attendees.

The theme of the 2011 fair is archaeology/archaeologies. To read more about this year’s specific events and dealers, go here:

Stay on in Italy for an extra week or so to attend the 27th Florence International Antiques Fair (a.k.a. the Florence Biennale), which will be held October 1-9 this year at the Palazzo Corcini. Not only is it one of the most important art exhibitions in the world, about ninety dealers will be on hand with fine art, antiques, and books.

 Biennale Firenze Grand Choir Book with 5 miniaturesThe French gallery, Les Enluminures, will be celebrating its twentieth anniversary by participating in the Biennale for the first time. One very special item they will show is a ‘Gradual,’ an illuminated choir book in Latin (pictured above, courtesy of Les Enluminures) in its original binding, metal hardware, and leather decoration from the Olivetan monastery where it was made and used. Les Enluminures also plans to bring manuscript leaves and cuttings, miniatures, paintings, and a thirteenth-century signet ring.

Then, you can go see David!
The small town of Cowan, Tennessee, hosts a book fair that is quickly becoming a big attraction for bibliophiles. The 2011 fair--coming up this weekend--features more than fifty booksellers (some listed here), and our own Nick Basbanes will give the keynote speech. According to the press release, “Dealers specializing in children’s literature, art, religion, fine bindings, and books about books will also be exhibiting at the fair. Book prices will range from $10 to $20,000, so there are sure to be interesting books for the leisure reader as well as the most avid collector.”

Take a tour of last year’s fair, and see what awaits...

Hay_Castle.jpgMost bibliophiles know the name Hay-on-Wye as the first ‘book town.’ Said to have thirty or more bookshops, it’s a tiny Welsh town that transforms during its annual literary festival. The population swells from its usual 1,500 to 250,000 for one week -- this week. The festival is going on now through June 5. It may be the only place where one can see the literary side of both the Archbishop of Canterbury and actor Rob Lowe. Bill Clinton once called it “The Woodstock of the mind.”

What might be unknown to some, however, is that the Hay Festival isn’t just in Hay-on-Wye. In face, the Hay Festival is also going on in Belfast, Ireland, this week. Later in the year Hay festivals will occur in Kenya and Spain. In 2011, for the first time, the Hay Festival travels to Cape Town (South Africa), Xalapa (Mexico), and Merthyr Tydfil (South Wales).

It’s amazing to see literary festivals making such an impact, particularly on such a global scale. As the Hay blogger put it after this year’s events began: “There has been delightful evidence that dumbing down is dead.”

Photo of Hay castle courtesy Wikimedia/Schuy 
Having just returned from a long weekend in Cambridge and Boston, I realize I should have planned better when I booked months ago and scheduled my visit to coincide with the Massachusetts and Rhode Island Antiquarian Booksellers Association’s annual book and paper exposition which happens NEXT weekend on Saturday, May 7, in Wilmington, MA (just outside Boston). Here is sampling of some of items you can see (and buy) next weekend.

Ten Pound Island Books of Gloucester, MA, a specialist in nautical books and maps, has this rare example of a folio for the Merchants’ Express Line of Clipper Ships printed in two colors in 1855.

From bookseller Peter L. Stern of Boston, a children’s classic: a first edition of Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat.

Rabelais Books of Portland, Maine, known for its vintage food and beverage books, offers a selection of special cookbooks, just in time for Mother’s Day. They’re bringing an early edition of American Cookery, the first American cookbook, as well as an early edition of the Joy of Cooking. War rationing inspired a Wartime Edition (1944) of the popular The American Woman’s Cook Book, pictured here.

In addition to the seventy-plus dealers, there will be several talks, demonstrations, and exhibits to enjoy. John B. Hench, a retired curator from the American Antiquarian Society will be there to present a talk and sign copies of his Books as Weapons: Propaganda, Publishing, and the Battle for Global Markets. Boston book artist Laura Davidson (whose ‘tunnel books’ we admired recently in NY) will be there with her artistic decks of cards, pop-ups, and accordion books. With talks on counterfeiting, postage stamp design, the origin of paper, historic photography, and bookbinding, it seems you could easily spend an entire busy day at the fair.

Dealer Greg French will  present Women of the Civil War, a collection of photographs of female participants in the war. The one seen below is of  Frances Clayton, a woman who fought in the Union and served in the cavalry and artillery units as a man named Jack Williams. She and Elmer L. Clayton, her husband, enlisted together in a Missouri regiment the fall of 1861.

Mariah-CivilWar.jpgShow hours are: Saturday May 7, 10-5pm, and admission is $7 for adults. The Shriner’s auditorium is located at 99 Fordham Road in Wilmington, MA. More information can be found at Enjoy!
Yesterday was another full--productive, surprising, humbling--day of looking at books. I started off at the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair, otherwise known as the ‘Shadow Show,’ and I’m so glad that I did. It’s a smaller and more casual atmosphere (also more affordable) than the show uptown, with about fifty dealers. For younger and beginning collectors who might be intimidated by bigger, flashier shows, this is a perfect fair to get one’s feet wet. 

I was happy to meet new bookseller Daniel B. Whitmore of Whitmore Rare Books, Pasadena, CA, who specializes in modern firsts and whose catalogue has a good amount of first editions from which popular films were made. Melissa Sanders told me that they already sold the Tim Burton manuscript we featured on the blog last week. I enjoyed poking around in the booths of Wilfrid M. de Freitas of Montreal, Richard Mori of Mori Books of New Hampshire, and The Country Bookshop of Vermont. John and Tina Bruno of Flamingo Eventz are very welcoming hosts too.
2011-04-08 15.33.34.jpgA long, fun day at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair! One of the best parts of a major book fair such as this is meeting up with old friends, or new friends with whom you’ve only corresponded via email. Here we all are, book people.

I saw many amazing things today. At Ken Lopez’s booth, I was so pleasantly surprised by a galley of Nicholson Baker’s The Fermata coupled with John Crowley’s manuscript notes, taken while he was reviewing Baker’s book. Very cool! At PRB&M, Cynthy Buffington Davis showed me a handful of treasures, the one that comes quickly to mind is a microscopic edition of the Declaration of Independence printed on card stock in 1836.

And now for the grand finale of our Preview Week here at the FB&C blog: 9 Items Not To Miss at PADA’s Spring Show on Sunday. Looks like music and politics are quite popular this year!

Herndon-3-410x341.jpg1. Herndon-Lincoln letter (seen above, courtesy of the Raab Collection). You’ve seen Lincoln letters before, you say? This one is “a newly discovered primary resource,” says Nathan Raab. Just this week, Raab announced this special find. The letter, written by Lincoln’s law partner, William H. Herndon, sheds light on the president’s religious beliefs, calling him “a Theist & a Rationalist.” The letter will be on display at both the NYABF & PADA. $35,000
In addition to the two auctions we previewed earlier in the week and the NYABF at the Armory this weekend, there is one more (small) auction & two other shows going on in NYC this weekend. Wow! Who has the energy for it all?

On Friday evening, over at the Center for Book Arts on West 27th St., Richard Minsky will be toastmaster and auctioneer at the Center’s Annual Benefit and Silent Auction. According to the CBA site, “This year’s theme is “Signs of Life,” inspired by a Victorian naturalist’s desk.” The evening features live music, cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and gourmet cake, besides, of course, the work of many wonderful contemporary artists. To view some of art up for auction, click here.

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One of the items up for bid is Composition by Candace Hicks, which Minsky blogged about while at the Codex Fair back in February and wrote about in his column for our spring issue.

The CBA event runs from 6 to 9 p.m. To read more or buy tickets, click here.

On Friday & Saturday, the Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair (a.k.a the ‘Shadow Show’) will be held at at the Altman Building on W. 18th St., and on Sunday, the Professional Autograph Dealers Association (PADA)* will hold its annual fair at the Helmsley Park Lane Hotel on Central Park South.

What dealers will exhibit at the Shadow Show? James Arsenault & Co., Lame Duck Books, and Whitmore Rare Books, to name just a few. Click here to see a longer list.

burton nightmare.jpgMelissa Sanders of Ken Sanders Rare Books told us about a really neat Tim Burton manuscript that they’re bringing. Seen above, it’s an early treatment for Nightmare Before Christmas. Burton wrote the seven-page document on a legal pad and pitched it to ABC as a television special in the early 80s, but they declined. A highly original item, offered at $15,000. I’m hoping to see it when I visit on Saturday morning.

*In tomorrow’s preview, we’ll look at the 9 Items Not To Miss at Sunday’s PADA show.

As we inch closer to the weekend, many collectors and dealers have their eyes on the prize: the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. It opens on Friday, April 8 at noon at the Park Avenue Armory (Park Ave. & 67th St.), and is always quite an event.

Show director Cristina Salmastrelli of Sanford Smith & Associates emailed to tell me how excited she is about this year’s fair. “My expectations are grand right now. I have not been this excited for a book fair yet! We have a great mix of new dealers and old timers that truly make up the best of the best in the book world ... My conversations with dealers these past two months have been upbeat and optimistic. Each dealer seems to be convinced they are bringing the gem of the 2011 fair, and I love it,” she wrote. SS&A also started a blog this year, where daily posts highlight an autograph, manuscript, or book that one of the exhibitors is bringing.

23752_2.jpgI’d like to call attention to a few more here. Susannah Horrom of the Kelmscott Bookshop told us about one very special book that she’s bringing to NY this year. It’s a signed limited edition artist’s book by James Alan Robinson titled Cetacea, The Great Whale (seen above, courtesy of Kelmscott). Printed at the Cheloniidae Press in 1981, it is number 24 of 100 copies, signed by the artist, as well as the binders (David Bourbeau and Gray Parrot) and printer Harold Patrick McGrath. The book has seven bleed etchings by Robinson, wood engravings on the title page and colophon, and blind stamped line-cuts of whales along the margins of the text on several pages. The price is $4,500.

[Fitzgerald letters, courtesy of Quill & Brush]

Over at Quill & Brush, F. Scott Fitzgerald will be the hot topic. They’re selling two autograph letters signed by Fitzgerald along with a telegram from him to Pauline Brownell, a nurse who took care of him after a driving accident in 1936. One of the letters reads, in part, “I wonder if you are happier--somehow you seemed so when I saw you, even to my alcoholic eye. God, I hope so--it was sad to see anyone so young and with so much stuff in such a state of depression. I wish I could have helped you as you tried to help me...” All three items will be sold together for $12,500.

Also at Q&B, collectors will be thrilled to hear that the 4th edition of Allen & Pat Ahearn’s Collected Books: The Guide to Identification and Values will be out next month, and pre-publication orders (a 20% discount off the list price of $75, domestic postage paid) will be taken at their booth or on their website.

James S. Jaffe has some very fine Elizabeth Bishop material, including an association copy of Poem, a broadside elegy for Robert Lowell, two original watercolors, and a collection of thirteen artworks collected by Alice Methfessel. Robert Frost, Frank O’Hara, W.B. Yeats, some Janus Press editions, some Perishable Press editions, and many more are featured on his impressive NYABF list.

James Cummins has some film-related material to showcase, including a typed contract between Faulkner and Twentieth-Century Fox regarding The Sound and the Fury and several facsimile scripts of Woody Allen films that bear inscriptions by his co-writer Marshall Brickman. Also on their NY list: an eyewitness letter regarding Lincoln’s assassination and an inscribed Catcher in the Rye.

Be sure to check out the ABAA’s blog, where some booksellers have been posting highlights for the past couple of weeks. See you at the show!
Coming up this weekend, the 30th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. In honor of that, the Florida Antiquarian Booksellers Association has posted an interview on the fair’s beginnings with Michael Slicker, ABAA proprietor of Lighthouse Books in St. Petersburg, FL.

On day two of the California Book Fair, I began the day by attending a lecture by Professor Adrian Johns, author of The Nature of the Book: Print and Knowledge in the Making, among other titles. He spoke to a filled room on the topic, “The Promise and Peril of a Universal Library.” He detailed the quest--from ancient times to modern--to create a universal library. Of course, the Google Books Project was a focus. Professor Johns wondered, “how it affects how we read and circulate knowledge,” or, to put it more plainly, “what is it for?” Artificial intelligence was one (frightening) answer.

After that I set out onto the floor again to get reacquainted with some booksellers and see some fascinating books. For example, Priscilla Lowry-Gregor at Lowry-James Rare Prints & Books showed me a stunning mid nineteenth-century English herbarium. Scott DeWolfe of DeWolfe & Wood talked to me about a neat set of five pamphlets he is offering related to a notorious 1831 murder in Massachusetts. Ian Kahn at Lux Mentis has a beautiful 1928 Candide (Random House/Pynson Press) in a custom portfolio with specimen printed pages colored by hand. I happened to be visiting Lux Mentis at a good time, and Ian introduced me to fellow browser Ken Shure of the Gehenna Press, who told me about his and Liv Rockefeller’s new imprint, Two Ponds Press, and its forthcoming inaugural work, Interior Skies: Late Poems from Liguria by Anthony Hecht. The edition of seventy-five will publish later this spring.     

The fair was less busy today than Friday, but overall, most booksellers I spoke to felt that the fair has been a good one, especially in terms of dealer-to-dealer sales. The fair will go on without me tomorrow, as I head back to New York, where many of us will meet again in April. See you then.    
This was a day filled with books and bookish things. I started my day visiting three of San Francisco’s amazing book shops -- John Windle, Brick Row, and Argonaut. All beautiful shops, and all open, even though the fair set-up was in full swing. I saw a very neat book at John Windle -- Home Decoration and Color Guide by Rockwell Kent. A slim little guide with color palettes, sponsored by Sherwin-Williams. Not expensive, and certainly a minor piece in a shop like that, but an interesting little find nonetheless. I had the pleasure of meeting Argonaut owner Bob Gaines in his shop, where is he training the third generation of Argonaut booksellers.

The CA book fair opened at 3:00. A line had queued from about 2:15 onward, a good sign. The bold signage and helpful staff marked the event’s entry, and from there, collectors were off and running. I spent about four hours on the floor, stopping at several exhibitors, among them Antipodean Books, Between the Covers, Lux Mentis, Books Tell You Why, Tavistock, James Cummins, Kaaterskill Books, Justin Croft, Oak Knoll, Serendipity Books (a very busy place with Peter Howard there), Plaza Books, Royal Books, and David Brass Rare Books (where I finally met Stephen Gertz of Booktryst fame). I also met Scott Brown in person after all these years! Scott is the founding editor of FB&C, now owner of Eureka Books in Eureka, CA. 

So much to take in, so many great books. Being in California, I suppose it’s inevitable to see a lot of Californiana, Jack Kerouac, and Charles Bukowski. Also Mark Twain. A couple of items caught my attention. In Justin Croft’s case, I saw the striking watercolor portrait of Emily Faithful (1835-1895), a pioneer of the British women’s movement and founder of Victoria Printing Press. It’s a lovely portrait, and having just read Emma Donoghue’s historical novel about Miss Faithful, The Sealed Letter, it was exciting to see at the fair. Books Tell You Why is featuring a new book from Heavenly Monkey Editions called The WunderCabinet. Created by Claudia Cohen and Barbara Hodgson, the book is issued in a box that features compartments of varying sizes containing objects from the creators’ own collections. The result is a wonderful interpretation of early cabinets of curiosities.

I managed to browse about 2/3 of the fair today, which means I am headed back tomorrow for some more serious looking. Until then...
Guest Blog by Richard Minsky, book artist and FB&C book art columnist

Field Report from CODEX Wednesday, Feb. 9, 8:40 p.m.

Saltzwedel.jpgCaroline Saltzwedel, proprietor of  Hirundo Press started her talk, titled “The Red Line to Eve,” with the comment that Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was Hitler’s favorite opera. She presented a straightforward explication of the relationship of the plot to her interpretive imagery in this work-in-progress (shown above).

karasik.jpgMarina and Mikhail Karasik then gave a creative multimedia presentation of their project (shown above) on The Palace of the Soviets, titled The Tower of Babel of the USSR. It started with an unreleased 1938 propaganda video about the building, and went on to show books about the building, which was never built, but was written about as though it existed. The quantity of architectural designs, models, industrial production and political philosophy surrounding the attempt to build what would have been the world’s tallest building, topped by a statue of Lenin much bigger than the Statue of Liberty, was mind-boggling. Marina, comparing it to Atlantis, then showed the artistic interpretation of this as a book and a collage-cartoon, some of which was hilarious.

After a short break, Richard Ovenden, Keeper of Special Collections and Associate Director of the Bodleian Libraries (Oxford)  spoke about “The Place of the Book Arts in the 21st Century Research Library.” He started with historical examples of book art works, (pictured above) from Mughal illustrated manuscripts to those influenced by William Morris, and proceeded to contemporary competitions and exhibitions of bookbinding design. This was followed by the importance of artists’ archives, such as their acquisition of Leonard Baskin’s Gehenna Press (including Baskin’s Albion handpress) and Tom Phillips’ Dante’s Inferno.

Photos credit & courtesy Richard Minsky, who did an excellent job reporting from Codex for us!

Guest Blog by Richard Minsky, book artist and FB&C book art columnist

Field Report from CODEX Wednesday, Feb. 9, 7:20 a.m.

The second day of the CODEX Symposium presentations began with Markus Fahrner talking about the Fahrner & Fahrner creative process. Barbara Fahrner could not be there, so she sent a stack of cards for him to read with her general thoughts on this. While he was talking a series of images flashed on the big screen (shown below).

fahrner.jpgIt didn’t work for me. The images commanded a lot of attention. When the books on screen raised questions in my mind, those were not always parallel to what he was saying at the moment. Perhaps my brain was on overload from all the input here, but that much multitasking did not enhance my comprehension. I liked what he had to say, but would have preferred either a straight talk about the creative process with fewer or no images, or some reference to the images and how they exemplified the aspects of creativity being discussed at the moment.

Perhaps this is a new presentation paradigm, as Juan Nicanor Pascoe used a similar format later in the morning when talking about his life as a fine printer in Mexico (two images, pictured above). Juan was a protégé of the great Harry Duncan. The talk was entertaining, starting with his family history and their migrations through several generations back and forth between Mexico and the USA. The images, which showed Mexican landscapes, printing presses, beer, and Juan playing the guitar, did not demand the sort of attention that would distract from his narrative, so in this case the suite of background images was a successful accompaniment.

Didier_Mutel1.jpgBetween the above two presentations, we were treated to Didier Mutel’s saga of the acquisition of his atelier, which included presses, ancient containers of pigments, and all sorts of cool stuff (shown above). Originally housed in a historical edifice, he has had to move several times, and showed pictures of the various facilities and artifacts, interspersed with examples of his projects and his young childrens’ work, all of which was enlightening. A perfect combination of skillful means, intelligence, technical experimentation, visual acuity, and humor.

Martha_Hellion.jpgThe day’s sessions finished with Martha Hellion talking about “Artist’s Books and Printing Beyond Borders.” There were pictures of works by many artists (one pictured above), but unfortunately it was hard to figure out who did what or why it was important because of difficulties hearing her. It would be better in the future to use wireless Lavalier microphones rather than podium goosenecks, so that speakers can move about freely.

ninja-persephones2.jpgIn the afternoon the exhibitors were back at their tables, and several told me that sales were up from the previous CODEX. One of my favorites is The Persephones (seen above) by Nathaniel Tarn, from Carolee Campbell’s Ninja Press. Each folio is hand painted by Carolee with sumi ink and salt, with a stunning effect.

Photos credit & courtesy: Richard Minsky.

This past weekend’s Pasadena International Antiquarian Book Fair, held in the attractive, spacious, and well-lit Pasadena Center, was a great fair to shop for and to sell books. Located in the beautiful (and warm and sunny) town of Pasadena in southern California, the Pasadena Center has ample parking, is surrounded by a variety of restaurants and shops, and is immediately next door to a very hospitable Sheraton hotel. In short, it’s a great location for a mid-winter book fair and book buyers and booksellers flocked to this destination venue to see what a weekend book hunt would yield. The ABAA will hold its annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair in this same location next year, and I think the membership will be pleased with the new location.

Booths 405/406, which were shared by yours truly (Book Hunter’s Holiday) and Tavistock Books.

Dealer-to-dealer sales among the 100 or so booksellers, some of whom came from as far away as England, were brisk during Friday set-up and helped the fair get off to a good start. When the fair opened to the public Saturday morning, the aisles and booths were crowded. I saw books of all kinds, ranging from around $10 to as high as the mid-five-figures, offered for sale.

Busy at the book fair

Each night, various small groups of booksellers and even a few librarians gathered for dinner or at the hotel bar to regale one another with antiquarian bookselling lore, book fair successes and failures, and tales of books bought and sold.

Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis and Brad and Jennifer Johnson of The Book Shop enjoying a sushi dinner.

Booksellers held their collective breaths on Sunday, wondering who might choose to go to an antiquarian book fair (even a good one like Pasadena) on Super Bowl Sunday. We needn’t have worried, as the exhibition hall was filled with a crowd for most of the day.

Still busy at the book fair

All in all, it was a fantastic fair, and one in which I look forward to participating again.

Ready to sell some books!

Guest Blog by Richard Minsky, book artist and FB&C book art columnist

Field Report from CODEX Tuesday, Feb. 8, 7:20 a.m.

symposium-attendees.jpgYesterday the CODEX Symposium started with a presentation by Crispin & Jan Elsted, proprietors of Barbarian Press, of their new edition of Shakespeare’s relatively unread romance,The Play of of Pericles, Prince of Tyre, illustrated with wood engravings by Simon Brett. An extensive presentation including a video tour of the book is at:

Jan_Elsted3.jpgWhat makes this book exceptional is that Crispin, who edited and conceptualized it, is an actor who has performed it and is also a director, a composer, and a poet. This made for a compelling presentation (shown above). The integration of type and calligraphy in the design begins with part of the text coming before the title page, as in contemporary movies where the action begins before the title and credits start to roll. This reinterpretation of a book’s sequencing continues as a theme throughout the text. Jan elaborated on the production process and the interactions of the collaborators, punctuated with poetic notes that Simon Brett had sent her on how to approach the printing of the images, which vary from small ornamental work to highly erotic, nearly pornographic vignettes, to powerful full page blocks. The continuous integration of text and image creates a book of great visual appeal.

peter_koch.jpgDebra_Magpie_Earling.jpgThis was followed by a presentation by Peter Koch (shown above) on the production of The Lost Journals of Sacajawea, which began with a moving reading by the author, Debra Magpie Earling (seen here at left). The book presents a spiritual and political view of the destruction of the native American landscape and culture in a poetic amalgamation of text with archive photos selected by Peter and printed in an unusual process by Don Farnsworth.

The Symposium ended its first day with a lecture by Paul van Capelleveen of the Museum Meermanno on the evolution of Dutch fine books. In the evening there was a reception at the Berkeley City Club for his new book, The Ideal Book. Private Presses in the Netherlands, 1910-2010.

In the afternoon the exhibitors were back at their tables. It is a valuable experience watching curators and special collections librarians look at a daunting number of books. The attention that is paid to each, along with the discussions of content and production values, was a lesson in connoisseurship, diligence, and love.

Photos credit & courtesy Richard Minsky.

Guest Blog by Richard Minsky, book artist and FB&C book art columnist

Field Report from CODEX  Monday, Feb. 7, 7:20 a.m.

codexrm2.jpgThe CODEX book fair and symposium kicked off last night with a VIP reception at the UC Berkeley Student Center Ballroom. One hundred and thirty-eight exhibitors from around the world have tables filled with book art, fine press books, and livres d’art.

Peter Koch (seen here at left), the entrepreneur who created and directs the CODEX Foundation,
is himself an artist and publisher of fine editions. He is showing recent works, and I was particularly taken by The Lost Journals of Sacajawea by Debra Magpie Earling, illustrated by Peter with photographs. Debra is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Reservation.

Marshall Weber of the Booklyn Artists Alliance had acandace-hicks-2.jpg plethora of books by artists they represent. When you stop at his table, ask to see the needlework Composition books of Candace Hicks (pictured here at right).

It’s always a treat to see artist, papermaker, printer, and publisher Robbin Ami Silverberg of Dobbin Books. Very few people can make a book from conception to growing the plants for special paper fibers, creating text and images, printing and binding, and Robbin’s work is exemplary.

Russell_Maret2.jpgIn addition to several recent books Russell Maret has on display, he has been designing his own type faces for his press and is showing sample pages from his forthcoming book, Specimens (two of which are seen above). He is currently president of the Fine Press Book Association. According to Russell, CODEX is the most important exhibition for book sales, and is an order of magnitude above the rest.

The Columbia College Chicago Center for Book and Paper Arts has copies of JAB, the Journal of Artists’ Books, and when you stop by there be sure to talk to the founder & editor-in-chief, Brad Freeman, who has been publishing it for sixteen years.

Central_Booking.jpgMaddy Rosenberg has a table (pictured above) with works by the artists who show at Central Booking, her gallery in Brooklyn that features contemporary book artists.

There are many more to talk about, but now I have to go because the CODEX
Symposium is about to begin...

Photos credit & courtesy: Richard Minsky.

To meet more of the artists exhibiting at CODEX, read last week’s preview of the fair.

In less than one week’s time, the antiquarian book world will converge upon San Francisco for the 44th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. More than 200 members of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers will be on hand with some amazing books, maps, posters, photographs, etc., some of which are previewed below. I’ll be there too! So stay tuned for more book fair coverage, once the fair opens on Feb. 11.

Kaaterskill Books of Easy Jewett, NY, issued a list of items it’s bringing to the fair, a wide variety that includes George Washington’s Farewell Address from 1796 in its original blue-gray wrapper ($1,750) to a second edition of Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s Pictures of the Gone World with holograph poem ($500), to several Mexican, Central American, and South American imprints.

book_334_Image1.jpgOne of the many intriguing books offered by Leo Cadogan Rare Books is a 1649 duodecimo from Cologne: Thaumaturgi physici prodromus, id set problematum physicorum liber singularis... (seen here at right). Author Gaspar Ens collected “problems” related to the physical world, such as how to apprehend people who pretend to have been possessed by the devil and how to cure sheep.

You can download a list of items Pickering & Chatto will be exhibiting. The one that caught my eye is a first edition of Eleanor Fenn’s The Female Guardian (1784) --Moral lessons for girls written by Mrs. Teachwell from her own experiences as a private school teacher. (£2,500). A selection of Suffragette material deserves notice, as does the scarce first edition of Mary Wollstonecraft’s Thoughts on the Education of Daughters from 1787 (£5,500). I’m detecting a theme here.

Prominent on Bruce McKittrick’s comprehensive list are Art & Architecture titles, with titles such as Gautier’s L’Art de dessiner, Paris, 1697 ($2,200) and Le Muet’s Maniere de bien bastir, Paris, 1647 ($4,800); Incunabula, such as the only known copy of Aesopus moralisatus, c. 1482 ($85,000); and Bibliography, such as an uncut Fournier’s Dictionnaire portatif de bibliographie, Paris, 1805 ($750).

See you at the fair! 

From Pasadena, booksellers and buyers (particularly those interested in books arts, fine press, and artist’s books) will make their way north to Berkeley, on the University of CA campus, where the third biennial CODEX International Book Fair and Symposium opens on Feb. 6 (and runs through Feb. 9). Book artist and FB&C Book Art columnist Richard Minsky will post his impressions during and after the fair on this blog. Until then, here’s a preview of five amazing books to see there.

Nolli.jpgAlice Austin Artists Books of Philadelphia, PA, will be there with Nolli (seen above), an exploration of the textural layers of Rome, by Alice Austin and Jon Snyder, was inspired by the Giambattista Nolli map of Rome, 1748. Alice told me via email, “The book was folded from one sheet of paper which was printed offset lithography in six colors, which required six runs through the Heidelberg Kors press, at the Borowsky Center for Publication Arts, University of the Arts, Philadelphia, PA.”

Theia Mania_0164.jpg
credit: Alicia Bailey

Alicia Bailey of Abecedarian Gallery in Denver, CO, has a beautiful book of love potions and spells, just in time for Valentine’s Day. As seen above, Theia Mania (madness of the gods, or the Greek term for ‘love at first sight’) is a collaborative work including 4 books and an audio CD housed in an aluminum box. Over 25 individuals participated in its production, which was executed by Alicia Bailey at Ravenpress. Another piece from Abecedarian is Fibre Libri, by Bridgit Elmer of Flatbed Splendor. Alicia tells us, “It is an artist’s book that tells the story of a group of people, learning about free software while learning to make paper.”

Pisano-Breathe.jpgBook artist Maria Pisano will introduce two new books from Memory Press, Viva Voce and Breathe. In an edition of 20, Viva Voce is a response to landays taken from Songs of Love and War: Afghan Women’s Poetry, collected by Sayd Bahadine Marjouh, who was subsequently assassinated. Pisano will also feature Breathe (seen above), a response to The Flower Soul, a poem by Imogen Brashear Oakley. A limited edition artist’s book, designed, printed--intaglio and relief--and bound by the artist, on Rives BFK and vellum. The text is handset and jointly printed on a Vandercook with Alan Runfeldt.

local-conditions_13_053.jpgAnagram Press will showcase Chandler O’Leary’s newest artist book, Local Conditions: One Hundred Views of Mt. Rainier (seen above). Local Conditions is an interactive artist book, capturing the changing faces of Mt. Rainier. The book contains 120 image flats and a viewing box; by combining and layering the flats, the reader can create literally millions of scenes. Illustrated and compiled from data collected by O’Leary, on location, over the course of two years. Letterpress printed, hand-watercolored, housed in a set of drawers with nested stab-bound book and Japanese-style outer wrapper. Edition of 26 books.

Sarah Horowitz1027.jpgSarah Horowitz of Wiesedruck Press will be featuring her recently completed work, Archeologies of Loss, a limited edition book of poems by Sarah Lantz and chine colle, botanical etchings by Sarah Horowitz, with a remembrance by Eleanor Wilner. She’ll also be showing a new broadside of William Blake’s poem “Ah! Sun-flower” with a small sunflower etching.

For a complete list of exhibitors, click here. Enjoy!

Pasadena is where it all begins this weekend, commencing a string of three major book fairs in California over the next ten days (next is Codex, and then the CA book fair in San Francisco). I’ll offer some preview highlights of them over the next few days, and our correspondents “on the ground” will chime in with post-fair recollections when they can.

The 12th annual Pasadena International Antiquarian Book, Print, Photo, and Paper Fair will be the first stop for many booksellers and buyers.

Book Hunter’s Holiday will be there, with some handmade history: an intriguing photo album filled with 150 images from the Soviet Union in 1932 composed by a far-right German nationalist ($3,500) and a 54-page scrapbook of the Battle of Manila Bay from 1898 created by the navigator of the flagship U.S.S. Olympia, with official, signed documents tipped in ($1,000).

Athena Rare Books has a generous selection of philosophy titles, priced from $65 to the mid-five figures. They are also offering a range of titles, both in Pasadena and next week in San Francisco, that include Mary Woolstonecraft’s The Vindication of the Rights of Women ($18,000) and Bill Wilson’s Alcoholics Anonymous, first edition, in first dj, inscribed by the author ($50,000).

Likely to please buyers at the Thorn Books booth are several sets of nineteenth-century Valentine’s Day Cards. They also have several first editions, such as a near fine first edition of Truman Capote’s Other Voices, Other Rooms ($300) and some children’s titles, such as an early edition of Mother Goose illustrated by Kate Greenaway ($100), among the variety on offer.

The fair runs February 5-6, 2011 at the Pasadena Center 
Exhibit Hall A, 
300 E. Green Street, 
Pasadena, CA. Hours: Saturday 10am - 6pm
, Sunday 11am-4pm. For a full list of dealers, click here.

Guest Blog by Richard Minsky, book artist

Field Report: CBAA Conference, Jan 13-16, 2011

More than 200 book art educators and librarians gathered at Indiana University, Bloomington last week for the Second Biennial Conference of the College Book Art Association. There were about 50 presentations in so many concurrent sessions it was impossible to attend them all. The speakers and topics were of top quality and interest, making it difficult to choose. There were in-depth analyses of individual book artists’ works, including Betty Bright’s study of Gaylord Shanilec’s Sylvae and Mayflies of the Driftless Region, and Tracy Bergstrom’s study of Tom Phillips’ Dante’s Inferno.

A few reports from this weekend’s 34th Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair

Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis - begin here and work forward.

Chris Lowenstein at Book Hunter’s Holiday - Chris wasn’t at the fair this year, but has a dispatch from Mr. Z, here.

Marie at Boston Bibliophile - report here.

Booksellers and book buyers are gearing up for next weekend’s book bonanza in Boston. The ABAA’s 34th International Antiquarian Book Fair runs from Friday, Nov. 12-Sunday, Nov. 14 at the Hynes Convention Center in the Back Bay section of town. More than one hundred rare gentlemen_prefer_blondes[1].jpgbook dealers will be there with their best wares, including this lovely first edition of Gentleman Prefer Blondes by Anita Loos, inscribed to editor Ray Long, who suggested the title for the book. Offered by Babylon Revisited Rare Books & Yesterday’s Gallery in East Woodstock, CT.

What else is on the slate? One of the high points will surely be the keynote address presented by Michael Suarez, director of the University of Virginia’s Rare Book School, at 1:00 on Sunday. His talk is titled “The Ecosystems of Book History: Local Actions, Global Analysis.” Also, the Northeast Document Conservation Center is offering a workshop on “How to Cure Smelly Books ... and Other Common Problems for Book Collectors” on Saturday at 1:00. For more information, and to see the exhibitor list (Bauman, Between the Covers, Bromer, Brian Cassidy, Lux Mentis, Maggs, Oak Knoll, William Reese, Royal Books, Ken Sanders, Veatchs, John Windle, and more, oh so many more!) visit the Fair’s website.

But that is not all, bookish friends -- while you’re in town, there are other events for book collectors and book lovers to consider, including the Boston Book, Print & Ephemera Show on Saturday the 13th at the Park Plaza Castle (just five blocks away from the Hynes Center). The following day, Skinner holds its annual fine books and manuscripts auction, where a rare contemporary broadside printing of the Declaration of Independence will be up for grabs.

The International Fine Art & Antique Dealers Show begins next Friday in New York. Dr. Jorn Gunther, who has been in business for twenty years and recently relocated from Hamburg to Switzerland, will exhibit an exclusive selection of manuscripts and early prints as well as miniatures during the week-long event. Among his offerings, “The Hours of Eleonore of Hapsburg,” a manuscript on vellum, from France, c. 1460-70, with a well-detailed provenance; a miniature historiated initial B on a psalter leaf from Florence, c. 1410; and a first edition of Robertus Valturius’ De re militari (Verona, 1472) with contemporary rubrication in a contemporary sheepskin binding. A woodcut illustration from this last piece seen here, courtesy of Gunther
What would you like to ask an author at Saturday’s National Book Festival? 

I’ll try to serve as a personal backstage pass for some Fine Books & Collections readers if you send me questions. 

Here’s how this will work: I’ll step into the media tent off and on throughout the day with notebook and i-phone in hand. You send me a question via Twitter @chrislancette. I’ll pick some of the most interesting questions and see if I can ask them to the author of your choice on your behalf. In your Tweet to me, simply start with the author’s last name and ask your question. Throw in the hashtag (#NBF) for the festival so everyone can follow the kinds of questions that you propose. Your Tweet would look like this once you Follow me:

@chrislancette: Remnick: What most surprised you about researching Obama biography? #NBF.

That’s all there is to it. I’ll do what I can to get some answers for you, sharing them in a blog post I’ll write after the event. If authors give me answers short enough for a Tweet, I’ll respond as soon as I get the answers and can use the Twitter app on my phone. If you’re not a Twitter user, visit Twitter today and check it out. It’s a lot of fun.

Meanwhile, stay tuned for a series of Tweets from the festival. To help you get started forming your questions, check out the National Book Festival blog post I wrote the other day.

Look for me in person if you’re at the event. I’ll be the guy wearing a gray t-shirt with the bearded face of Henry David Thoreau on it. I’ll see if I can hit our editor up for a little gift or two for the first few people who spot me and mention Fine Books & Collections magazine.

Tweet away, loyal readers.

poster_thumb.jpgThe countdown clock on the official home page of the National Book Festival shows me (as I write) that I have to wait 3 days, 14 hours and 43 minutes for the launch of this year’s event on the National Mall. That’s too long: The Mall is the planet’s literary hot spot for only one day each year and it’s a day that just doesn’t come soon enough.

Even the Librarian of Congress is fired up.

“We are delighted to be celebrating this 10th anniversary of a beloved event for book lovers of all ages,” James H. Billington said. “We will have a lineup of authors to thrill festival-goers.”

The nation’s book-lover-in-chief is talking about thrilling people but he’s not exaggerating. There is something for everybody this Saturday. I’ve learned from past mistakes that the key to getting the most out of the event (it’s not too late for out-of-towners to find hotel rooms) is to make a good plan in advance. Check out my blog post “Confessions of a 2008 National Book Festival Rookie” so you don’t repeat my errors.

If you remember nothing else, absorb these tips: 

  1. Plan to spend the whole day there because you’ll be mad at yourself if you stroll in late. I suspect I’ll arrive a little before the official opening at 10 a.m. and organizers will have to throw me out at the 5:30 p.m. closing time.
  2. Study the official Web site from the Library of Congress in the first paragraph above so that you can decide which of the some 70 authors you most want to see. Buy the books of highly popular authors long before you need to get in their line for an autograph.
  3. Determine your purchase transportation strategy: I put saddle bags on my bike and can carry many pounds of books there, plus more on my back. If you’re taking Metro, bring a backpack and know how much weight you can carry.
  4. Bring your smart phone and follow my Tweets from the event. You can follow me on Twitter @chrislancette. If you’re not coming to D.C., live the event through me vicariously. I expect to send no shortage of Twitter missives about #NBF.
  5. Be kind and patient with the authors and volunteers. Organizing the National Book Festival is no easy trick. 
You want best-selling authors? The Mall is going to be flooded with them. How about the internationally acclaimed Isabel Allende, Jane Smiley and Scott Turow. Need a thriller to pump some adrenalin into your day? Brad Meltzer will be waiting for you. Prefer something for younger readers? Katherine Paterson will be there. Seeking great new insight on President Barack Obama? Biographer Remnick won’t let you down.

Love history? Don’t even get me started (and good luck edging me out for a spot in those autograph lines!).

Wait ... I know that Fine Books & Collections’ fans have the most sophisticated tastes of all the biblio-nuts. You want something a little more high-brow -- the top-shelf stuff. Satisfy that craving with Orhan Pumuk. The Turkish author won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006.

I’m too fired up to sleep tonight -- and I’ve still got 3 days, 13 hours and 57 minutes to go.

The highly-respected English novelist A.S. Byatt says that women who write industrial-strength fiction are treated by critics as oddities, “like a dog standing on its hind legs.”

Byatt said this while firmly standing on the only two legs she has as she addressed the Edinburgh international book festival this week, accepting the James Tait Black memorial prize for her novel, “The Children’s Book.” Previous recipients of this literary award, Britain’s oldest, include D.H. Lawrence, Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene.
Running from Sept. 2-5 at the Baltimore Convention Center, the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show is widely recognized as the largest indoor antiques show in the U.S. It includes a 70-dealer antiquarian book fair within the show. A few of those dealers booked for Baltimore shared some highlights with us.

BlueRoom2.jpgThe rare book department at Arader Galleries is bringing some treasures from its travel and natural history libraries at 72nd Street in New York (seen above). According to Arader’s Kate Hunter, “Some of the highlights of [Arader’s] collections that we will be bringing to Baltimore include Audubon’s iconic The Birds of America, from Drawings made in the United States and America, published in seven volumes in Philadelphia between 1839 and 1844, this is the first octavo edition with 500 hand-colored lithographed plates after originals by Audubon, and including 65 images not found in the earlier celebrated Elephant folio edition of 1827-1838. In recording the birds of America and imbuing each image with natural grace and scientific accuracy Audubon established himself as the premier bird artist of his age and since.” She said they’ve also packed a fine copy of Elizabeth Blackwell’s A Curious Herbal, from the famous library of Beriah Botfield, and including 500 superbly hand-colored copper engravings. She called it “one of the most comprehensive and most beautiful records of English and exotic flora.” Arader will also offer the first major work of Sir Hans Sloane, A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbados, Nieves, S. Christophers and Jamaica, with the Natural History of the Herbs and Trees... Kate Hunter invites readers to stop by stand 808 to see these (and other) rare treasures from Arader.

49638r.jpgGriffon’s Medieval Manuscripts of St. Petersburg, Florida, will have a medieval leaf and a Piranesi print among its offerings. The leaf, seen here at left, is from an illuminated Antiphoner manuscript, Bologna, circa 1300, with a $30,000 price tag. There are seven lines of text, in a gothic liturgical hand and of music on a four line red stave. The Giovanni Battista Piranesi print titled “Veduta dell’ Atrio del Portico di Ottavia” dates to 1760 and is in very good to excellent condition. Griffon’s also17021r.jpg has a rare map of early America by Henri Abraham Chatelain, as well a pristine miniature leaf from a finely illuminated Dewan, early 19th century, seen here at right. At $475, it speaks to the company’s mission of introducing people to affordable art. As Dr. Anthony Griffon has written of his company, “Our goal is to attract the average person to experience a different and exciting arena of art collecting.”

Ian J. Kahn of Lux Mentis Booksellers in Maine shared some stunning images of the material he’s bringing to NobleChildren.JPGBaltimore this year. At left, Portraits of the Children of Nobility (1838) is uncommon in its full burgundy leather binding and has what Kahn called “a wonderful collection of images, each with supporting prose and poetry” for $425. A fine press book guaranteed to turn heads at Kahn’s booth is Mokomaki: Thirteen Etchings of Shrunken & Tattooed Maori Heads, illustrated by Leonard Baskin and published in a numbered limited edition by the Eremite Press, 1985. Wrote Kahn about this interesting item seen below, which he is selling for $12,500: “This is one of four copies created within the ‘Deluxe’ first 10 copies. The ‘Super Deluxe’ copies were created in response to Baskin’s friend (and vellum dealer) asking him if he would consider printing some of the images onto vellum. The result is inexplicably wonderful.” Also at Kahn’s booth will be an 1806 pamphlet titled Horrid massacre!!! that is said to be the first example of engraving for a printed book in the state of Maine, very scarce at $2,500.

VellumMokoMaki.JPGFor those who are also interested in art and antiques, more than 550 international dealers will be exhibiting in Baltimore, in areas such as fine art, furniture, jewelry, porcelain, textiles, and folk art. Check out the website for hours, prices, and a list of vendors.

RenegadeCraft.jpgThe Renegade Craft Fair is coming to Los Angeles this weekend. I heard about this fair from the Typeface documentary I watched recently. It’s basically a big fair that features hundreds of independent artists and handmade crafts, including letterpress posters, prints, and stationery. The fair is held in several cities throughout the year (was in Brooklyn back in June, will be in Chicago in Sept., etc.). Looks like the biblio-artists line-up in LA includes Bound in Circles, ExLibris Anonymous, Dandy Lion Press, InVita Paper Studio, Krank Press, Paper & Type, Paper Pastries, Paper Scoundrels, Pie Bird Press, Power & Light Press, RarRar Press, Redstar Ink, Squid Ink Collective, Sweetie Pie Press, Tiselle Letterpress, and more. Could be some very cool finds for collectors of letterpress and/or the Avant-garde.
Book dealer and colleague John Waite posted the following poignant account of his experiences at this past weekend’s Cooperstown Book Fair to the ABAA’s private email discussion list. I enjoyed it so much I asked if he would mind my sharing it here as well. I’m very pleased he agreed.

Most book fairs are neither good nor bad, just well organized and run... or not. The Cooperstown fair is one of the former. Housed in an attractive, well-lit athletic and recreational facility not far from the Baseball Hall of Fame, the fair has been held during the latter part of June for many years, more or less standing its ground in the face of declining enthusiasm for book fairs generally. A mostly regional event organized by dealers Will Monie and Ed Brodzinsky, Cooperstown stays in the game like a perennial minor league player who just isn’t ready to quit. As is the case with every book fair some exhibitors do well, some don’t, but most return for another year.

Yesterday when I left Vermont to begin the four-hour drive to Cooperstown, I hadn’t gone more than 15 miles south on I-91 when I noticed a large dog, maybe some kind of yellow lab mix, wandering on the highway in the sad way that dogs do when they are lost or abandoned. He seemed to be making his way north, stopping and tentatively looking this way and that before continuing. Whenever I see dogs walking aimlessly by themselves, the sight depresses me. So the trip to Cooperstown did not begin in the most auspicious way.

On the way I stopped to preview two country auctions, left bids on one or two things at each, and continued my drive. I also made impromptu stops at a used bookstore in Vermont and an antique shop in Glens Falls, NY, neither of which yielded any finds. My four-hour drive had by then had worked into a nearly seven hour safari, and I was still more than a half-hour from Cooperstown when I decided to have dinner, even though stopping then precluded even dropping off my books before the Friday set-up closed at 8 p.m. I checked into my room at KC’s motel in East Springfield, 15 miles north of Cooperstown, about 7:45 that evening, got out my laptop to check my email and look-up a few items, phoned my wife, and called it a day.

This morning I left the hotel early to go set up. I took the less-traveled Route 31 on the east side of the lake south towards Cooperstown. On the way I passed a handmade road sign that read in red letters “Thou Shalt Not Steal.” It was kind of strange since at that very moment I had been mulling over how much I had recently offered someone for a book that I probably wasn’t going to get. Much later it occurred to me that I should have stopped and taken the sign. I was at the fair by 7 a.m., arriving almost in tandem with Will Monie, who kindly helped me unload. Because I usually travel without a lot of material compared to most book dealers, I quickly set-up and in little more than a half-hour was out on the floor nosing around. Because I’m currently long on receivables and short on cash, I had little money to spend. I didn’t see much that I wanted to buy, except for a protectionist-themed 19th century fabric broadside with edges in red, white & blue in support of American Labor and American Industry. If I had been more flush with cash, I would have purchased it by myself. As it happened, another dealer liked it too, so we bought it together.

That turned out to be the high point of the fair for me, at least for business. I managed to sell one item to the trade for a full one-third discount, but it didn’t even cover the $225 investment for my half-booth. On the other hand, I enjoyed talking with other dealers, including an older man I had not met before who had served for nearly a decade as a US consular official in Pakistan in the 1950s. He told stories of working on commerce issues in Lahore and traveling with a military escort to meet tribal chieftains in Waziristan. In the decades since he had built a considerable library of books on Central and South Asia, in which he now trades.

At the end of the day, it was just another day. I took the most direct route home and returned after a little more than four hours. About three miles from my exit on the interstate, I noticed an animal dead on the right shoulder of the highway. At first I figured it was a deer with the light red-tan coat they wear in early summer. Then I realized it was the dog I saw yesterday just a few miles further south. Confused, lost, and probably not paying much attention, he had walked in front of a car or truck. I felt sickened for a moment then thought, apropos of nothing, that this dog’s end might be a metaphor for something. Then I thought maybe it ought to be a metaphor for making metaphors.
The relationship between book dealers and librarians can often be a bit like that between siblings. We both may come from the same family of book lovers, but that doesn’t mean there’s not some rivalry or even occasional conflict. This is probably inevitable. After all, institutions and booksellers are often competing for the same materials, and each approaches those materials with differing perspectives and goals. Dealers are ultimately looking to make a profit, while institutions are charged with stewarding materials and making them available for the coming generations.

The annual conference of RBMS, the Rare Book and Manuscript Section of the ALA (American Librarian’s Association) was held this week in Philadelphia, and as has been the case for the past several years the ABAA sponsored both the event’s opening reception and the Bookseller’s Showcase -- a sort of mini book fair, where about 30 rare book dealers display a selection of their wares for a critical mass of some of our most important customers: rare book librarians and special collections curators. It’s an opportunity for dealers and librarians to meet and discuss common goals and interests, as well as to explore ways we can work together.

This year was my first exhibiting at RBMS and overall I found the event deeply heartening, not only to be among colleagues and fellow book-lovers, but to be reminded of the enormous diversity of holdings and collections in rare book rooms around the country. I heard about collections of illustrated bibles, Victorian scrapbooks, and Vietnam “reimaginings.” I learned about books in surprising places (did you know the US Naval Academy at Annapolis is the repository of seven incunabula?). While it’s often the bigger institutions and collections (author archives, etc.) that get most of the press, this event amply demonstrated that there are hundreds and hundreds of growing and evolving archives and collections on all manner of topics at all manner of colleges, universities, and other institutions. 

And if there was one common refrain from those building these collections, it was that too often they are being woefully under-utilized. I met many librarian deeply committed to bringing their world more and more into the curriculum of their schools and classrooms.

Unfortunately, another theme often heard was funding and budget cuts, of furloughs and threatening lay-offs. But for every tone of worry, there was also a note of optimism -- a growing collection, a newly-endowed fund -- even if only tentative. And most hopeful of all were the number of younger, creative, and eager librarians in attendance. It bodes well for the future of our special collections.

For those wanting a fuller taste of this year’s event, my colleague Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis booksellers has been posting daily updates on his blog. And for an even fuller idea of what the conference is all about, audio and PDFs from last year’s RBMS have been posted on the conference website.

Alas, we’re not in London for the Olympia fair, but we can take a look at the available treasures nonetheless. The fair opened late today and runs through Saturday.

From Peter Harrington, a second folio of Shakespeare bound in
red goatskin by Riviere & Son in the nineteenth century. £235,000

293.jpgFrom Jonkers Rare Books, twelve issues of the Strand
, featuring the original Sherlock Holmes stories. £6000

297.jpgFrom Jonkers Rare Books, an original manuscript of a Charles Dickens
story, bound with related correspondence in red morocco. £45,000

277.jpgFrom Jonathan Potter, a large-scale map
of eighteenth-century London. £5000

289.jpgFrom Jonkers Rare Books, a two-page autograph letter from George
Orwell to a friend, written while researching his book, Down and Out in
Paris and London
(read more in June’s auction report). £12,500

The Horatio Alger Society is a group of collectors committed not only to gathering the books and preserving the legacy of a single author, but also to channeling their passion into worthwhile scholarship. Established in 1961, the affable group had its annual meeting this past weekend in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, hosted by long-time member Arthur Young, and his wife Pat. Young recently retired as the dean of libraries at Northern Illinois University, and is now living in the Granite State.

The busy program included presentations from three members, an auction, a book sale, a reception at the Young home, and a farewell dinner, where a thousand dollar “Strive and Succeed” scholarship was presented to a worthy recipient. I gave the keynote address, my third presentation to the H.A.S. over the past fifteen years, a personal record for me with one group. I was pleasantly surprised by the gift of a lovely plaque noting this milestone, and wish to express my gratitude in this space to the membership.

Single-author societies, as I wrote in Among the Gently Mad, are quite the phenomenon among book collectors, with one of the better known groups being the Baker Street Irregulars, whose passion for everything Conan Doyle and Sherlock Holmes knows no bounds. There are many confederations of collectors brought together by the pursuit of one writer’s works, and collectors just getting started should be alert to their existence. Another that comes immediately to mind is the Thomas Wolfe Society, whose annual meeting I had the pleasure of addressing a few years back,

The Horatio Alger oeuvre is considerable--119 published books, according to Young--a number of the titles so scarce that no single individual, so far as anyone knows, has a complete collection. Art Young has 112, about as many as anyone else.

The H.A.S, I have to say, is a really squared-away group that does much more than pursue elusive titles. In recent years, the focus has expanded beyond Alger to include collectors and enthusiasts of all juvenile literature, including boys’ and girls’ series books, pulps, and dime novels. Next year they will celebrate their 50th anniversary. Check out their web site, linked above.
More from New York, but thankfully, not from me! A sweet article from Forbes (“Rare Books and Suicide Bombers”) on the treasures at the NY fair this year. 
A much more leisurely day at the NY fair for me, not so for booksellers; when I arrived at noon, there was a line out the door to get in!

I was able to spend an hour strolling around, talking with booksellers I’ve never met before and looking around for some goodie to take home. Stopped in at Antipodean Books and had a lovely conversation with Cathy Lilburne, after which I purchased a fine first of Letters and Memories of Susan and Anna Bartlett Warner (1925). What a nice surprise! Susan Warner wrote the Victorian bestseller The Wide, Wide World, and I’ve been interested in the sisters ever since I wrote an article about them and their dilapidated house last year for Preservation magazine.

I chatted with Priscilla Juvelis, browsed the publishers’ bindings at Sumner & Stillman, and discussed Thoreau with Donald (Rusty) Mott of Howard S. Mott, Sheffield, MA. I could have spent much more time, and MUCH more money, but it was time to go. My short weekend in the city consisted of research at the NYPL, book fair, a fabulous dinner, exhibit at the New York Historical Society, more book fair, and lunch at Zabar’s. I’m already looking forward to next year. 

p.s. check out this super cool “library wallpaper” featured at the fair by

Friday at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair! I had the pleasure of meeting with several booksellers with whom I’ve had “email relationships,” but no faces for names until now. I spent two hours in the late afternoon assisting Nick Basbanes during his book signing, which was very successful.

As for any “conclusions” about the fair, all I have at the end of this busy day is a handful of random thoughts: booksellers seemed happy overall (I saw a lot of checks being written), there were more international booksellers on hand than in the past, and several collectors stopped to tell me how excited they are to see Fine Books back in print. Also, I saw more than a few younger (under 40) buyers.

Things my husband found of interest: a fountain pen crafted from the wood of Abraham Lincoln’s house, the famous asbestos-bound copy of Fahrenheit 451, a signed Dorothy Parker (who knew she’d have such loopy handwriting?), and a first edition, three-volume set of Frankenstein.   

Alas, I wasn’t able to browse much, so no purchases were made. I’m planning to return tomorrow for more leisurely looking.
As Rebecca mentioned in the previous post, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is being held this weekend. I’m very excited to be exhibiting for the first time at this event, where my fellow FB&C blogger Ian Kahn (of Lux Mentis) and I will be sharing a booth (B17). I know I speak for both of us when I say we hope readers will stop by and say hello.

For those who can’t make it to the event, I have created a Flickr set where I will be posting images and commentary throughout the fair:

From set-up to break down (the books, the booksellers, the booths, the attendees, etc.), it may be the next-best thing to being there. I’ll also be “tweeting” the book fair (as I’m sure Ian will be as well).

And finally, this year also marks the fiftieth anniversary of this august event and a wonderful history of the fair can be found in the latest issue of the ABAA newsletter. A great read.

Hope to see you at the fair!
We’re coming upon one of (dare I say THE) best book fair of the year: The New York Antiquarian Book Fair. In our spring quarterly, writer Christopher Lancette talked to show organizers and booksellers who were confidently gearing up for the Big Apple. What are they bringing? Martin Luther’s will, to name just one extraordinary piece (from Inlibris Gilhofer Nrg.). And today my inbox was flooded with booksellers’ catalogues and emails related to the NY fair -- the book world is abuzz.

Here’s something really interesting that I’d like to share. This year, the Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Company (PRB&M) is filling its front showcase entirely with books, manuscripts, and broadsides costing $500 and under! According to co-proprietor Cynthia Davis Buffington, the impulse isn’t so much about the economy as it is about enticing younger book collectors and to promoting book-collecting to beginners. Bravo!

A sampling of what will be available in that PRB&M front case: an array of nineteenth- and twentieth-century “pamphlet scriptures,” a group of seventeenth-century sermons, some fine bindings, a series of nineteenth-century American woodcut-illustrated “toy” books, illustrated books, and several volumes in travel, Mexicana, and Americana, including “a classic life of Washington in a gorgeous gilt-stamped striped cloth binding.”

I’m planning to be at the show on Friday and Saturday and will post updates. Stay tuned.
The ABA and PBFA joined forces for the sixth annual Edinburgh Premier Book Fair held at the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh’s New Town.  The fair, which began yesterday and concludes today, saw about 60 dealers exhibiting.

I visited the fair yesterday afternoon, near to closing time, and it was very quiet.  The morning had seen a flurry of activity which died down as the day went on.  I’m happy to say that McNaughtan’s Bookshop, where I work, did very well - enough to send me on a run back to the shop to fetch some more books to fill empty shelves.  But overall the fair was rather quiet and opinion of the fair’s success amongst booksellers seemed to vary widely.

Today is hoped to be busier.

In the meantime, I’m happily pouring over my two purchases - first editions of the first two volumes in F. Marian McNeill’s “Silver Bough” series, a classic, and increasingly scarce, study of Scottish folklore.

WASHINGTON -- Everyone who runs a business knows that it takes a long time to win a customer for life but that you can lose one in five seconds. That’s about all it took today for an organizer of the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair to tempt me to cross it off the list of events I support. Worse, it could kill the interest in the entire hobby for a visitor who took home her first rare books.

I hope the experience I share today along with two other mistakes organizers made serve as reminders for WABF and of any fair to remember the basics of solid customer communications.

What happened?

My friend Won-ok and I had finished our shopping around 3 p.m. today after we spent five hours shopping. We bought a ton of treasures. One of the volunteers with Concord Hill School -- the Maryland school that organizes the fair as a fundraiser -- nastily told us that “You can’t have all those bags.” She was referring to the grand total of three that another hard-working volunteer had filled with our goods. The woman then snatched some contents from one of our bags and overloaded them in the other two. 

It was a shocking display of rudeness that left me biting my tongue to avoid lashing back. 

My experiences to date with every single Concord Hill School volunteer had been nothing but outstanding. This event, by the way, is the first fair I ever attended and its friendly, helpful volunteers played a key role in giving me my seemingly incurable rare book collecting fever. 

But today I was ticked. The fair would close in only two hours, more empty bags were on the table, and I was standing there with piles of books in hand.

“Excuse me,” I wanted to say, “I just spent a thousand dollars on books that I’d rather not have crash onto the ground in the parking lot. I think you can spare another two-cent bag.”

The volunteer was oblivious to how she sounded and made no effort to soften it the way people do when they realize they’ve been rude. I knew it wasn’t my imagination, either. The volunteer standing next to the first looked horrified. She recognized the need to administer  some emergency room customer service and was sweet as pie. 

I stood frozen for a minute longer. I reflected on the otherwise delightful time I had over the past two days and how much I love the books -- and etchings -- I bought. “It’s certainly not the book dealers’ fault this volunteer was so rude,” I thought. “Don’t form your opinion of the fair based on the last five seconds.”

Still, this wasn’t the first ball organizers dropped this week. They stated on the Web site that there would be lectures by book dealers (there were none), and a request for additional information sent through the site went unreturned.

I chose not to say anything to the rude volunteer. Won-ok and I got in my car and pulled out of the garage. She is a lot more understanding than I am so it didn’t even occur to me that she might have been irritated, too.

“You know,” she began, softly -- knowing how much I love book collecting and how much I had talked about the WABF -- “That was pretty interesting for my first time. I enjoyed it, actually. But I didn’t like being treated like that. It kind of leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth.”

I cringed. 

Even though they were well out of earshot, I suspected about 75 book dealers did, too. 

Fine Books Hebenstreit wabf.jpgWASHINGTON -- I busted out of cabin fever Friday night ... heading straight to the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair to hunt for a few new prizes to add to my collection of 18th and 19th century books related to the American Revolution. I’ll be there again Saturday (March 6) not long after the doors open at 10 a.m. If you’re within reach of the nation’s capitol, you should come join me. The event runs until 5 p.m. so you’ve got time.

The event here is a great way to dump your blizzard blues, warm up your noggin’ and even do your part to stimulate the economy. Whether you’re a rare book collecting champion who attends fairs all the time or someone who has only heard of the hobby but never given it a try, the Washington fair is a great one to get out and see. The fair is big enough to give you a chance to touch and browse a wide array of rare reads yet not so big you have to hit the gym to train for taking it all in. It’s just as right for your wallet. You can buy a beautiful book for less than $20 or you can drop tens of thousands of dollars if you’re so inclined.

The Washington fair also gives me the chance to talk to dealers and ask questions ... everything I wanted to know about book collecting or my specialty area but couldn’t ask google. The dealers like it, too.

“It’s so easy to do things remotely on the computer,” Sharlan Douglas told me. “It’s nice to meet face to face.” Her bookseller husband Ken Hebenstreit (booth 11) agreed. “We hope to sell some things, of course,” he said, “but this gives us a chance to meet new people. We also have a very good customer in D.C. and we’re going out to dinner with him.”

The neatest item Hebenstreit brought down from Michigan? A first edition, advanced reading copy of To Kill A Mockingbird ($19,500).

Across the aisle in booth 38, new friend Ronald Cozzi of Old Editions Book Shop & Cafe told gave me some good news -- becoming the latest bookseller to tell me that his business is surviving the economic slump. He shared a very interesting take on why he’s still doing well.

“Collectors find a lot of comfort in this hobby,” the Buffalo resident told me. “They turn to their books even more.”

I then helped myself to a double scoop of comfort by adding The Pulpit of the American Revolution to my collection. It was only $200 and covered an element of America’s founding not yet represented in my library.

I kept my eyes on my niche but I enjoyed watching people smile when they spotted something that fit theirs. You can’t help but shake off winter when you see a first edition copy of Charlotte’s Web signed by the author. You can find that in Peter L. Stern & Co. booth (26 A) for $8,500. Booth 31 (Jeff Bergman Books) will lead you to a copy of the only authorized biography of Babe Ruth. 

Jett W. Whitehead Rare Books in booth 42 B is a beacon for poetry lovers. Gibson Galleries has a gorgeous set of something that every nature lover would love to own but you’ll have to get there quick on Saturday in case some writer-type decides to snatch it up. (Hint: Fine Books has written a lot about him recently, including a review of a novel about him that I wrote.) Hemingway makes several key appearances in various booths.

I could go on but it’s closing in on midnight and I’ve got to get my biblio rest. My first stop tomorrow is at booth 18, where I’ll hand The Book Corner $125 for the memoir of Revolutionary War Major-General Heath. I’m still kicking myself for not buying a book from that dealer last year. The book about a Hessian’s view of the war was rare yet inexpensive. It would have been perfect for my collection but I got so distracted I forgot to go back and get it. The owner, Bill, event spent a half an hour teaching me about books on that subject.

You should visit him, too. Be sure to tell him I sent you -- but keep your paws off books about the Revolution!

If you’re just joining the saga of the 2010 San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair, please read Part 1 and Part 2 of this post first.

And now, the conclusion of the 2010 San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair . . .

When Tom -- who worked very hard and never complained -- had finished helping me unpack the Bookmobile and put some books on shelves, Thoughtful Husband, Huck, and our neighbor, who, in keeping with the Tom Sawyer theme, we’ll call Joe Harper (close friend of Tom Sawyer), came to pick up Tom and go the aquarium in the City. I finished setting up the booth and set out to find the book of my dreams, the sleeper no other booksellers noticed, the book on which I could make some money.

As I set out to make a circuit of the large exhibition hall, I took along a few Dante catalogues to distribute to the other booksellers. Due to the delay in receiving the print catalogue from the printer, I had mailed the catalogue to customers and other booksellers only a few days before the fair. I decided to mail catalogues to local booksellers who would receive it before the fair and to personally give a catalogue to out-of-town booksellers at the fair. If I had mailed it to them, they wouldn’t have received it in time for the fair.

Before I got very far, I saw a bookseller I know walking my way. This is the same bookseller who at a bookseller holiday party had scoffed (and rightly so) at the idea of the Dante catalogue ever making its way into print after nearly three years. I made sure to mail him a copy of the catalogue as soon as I received it. I wanted him to know I had finished it at last.

I worried what he’d say to me. Here was a bookseller who (justifiably) thought that because of an almost comical amount delays I perhaps wouldn’t be able to finish my catalogue. Here was a bookseller who quite likely wondered if, when I did finish the catalogue, the books offered by this newcomer would be worthwhile. Would the catalogue prove that it was worth the wait? I wanted to hide behind the trophy case in my booth or dive beneath the tables. Perhaps the only thing worse than not completing the catalogue would be to have completed it and have people think it was no good.

Well, even worse than that, really, would be to sell no books from the catalogue. I know I shouldn’t be too wrapped up in what other people think of it. But still . . .

I looked around and saw nowhere to hide. I briefly hoped that maybe he hadn’t had time to look at the catalogue before the book fair. “Chris!” he called out to me, striding towards me. No hiding now. He shook my hand warmly and said, “Your catalogue is beautiful. I hope you won’t mind, but I’ve forwarded it to a customer who I think will be quite interested in it.”

Would I mind? Of course not. Heartened, I thanked him for his kind words and set out to find some books and give out the rest of the catalogues. I found a few nice books while making the rounds of the other bookseller’s booths. Three beautifully bound books about Italy, some original photographs by an American woman photographer, and a few other little gems written by American women. The fair was indeed getting off to a good start, though there was not one “amazing” find in particular. All of my finds were good solid books priced at a point where I could still make a profit.

When I returned to my booth, one of my favorite bookselling friends was waiting for me. She’s a mom to two boys, too, and she completely understands why things like Cub Scouts and homework projects might make me take me so long to complete the Dante catalogue. Showing her solidarity as a fellow bookselling mom, she asked me to sign her copy of the catalogue. A couple of other people asked me to do the same thing. I was bemused and surprised but flattered.

Two other booksellers whose long experience I respect and admire told me they were going to keep the catalogue on their shelves as a reference. I nearly fell over. The catalogue, along with the hard work and research that went into writing it, was being taken seriously. Though I generally try to be a modest person, I have to say that I was pleased with the positive reception given to the catalogue by others in the trade. It helped make all of the struggles of completing the catalogue worthwhile.

When it opened to the public on Saturday, the fair was a busy one. I sold books of all kinds to book lovers, book collectors, and booksellers. Sunday was a bit slower, with less sales, but I sold a few expensive books that day, so it was a good day for me. It was a great fair, this time as much about my catalogue’s coming out as it was about selling books. I had a great time.

At the end of the weekend, I had ten invoices to book lovers and collectors, nine invoices to booksellers, and one invoice to a library. Some of the invoices were for multiple items. There was no one type of book sold. I sold all kinds of books, ranging in price from $25 to $1,000. This fair was the first in a while where booksellers in particular seemed to have a little bit of cash to buy books again. That wasn’t the case this past year at the Santa Monica or Sacramento fairs. That, or maybe I didn’t have the books people were seeking at that fair. That’s the fun part of the book business. You never know what will sell, and sometimes you are pleasantly surprised by what does.

I realized that the 2010 San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair was three days I will always remember when I look back at my progress as a bookseller. After three years, I had reached a goal I had set for myself a long time ago. I had written back in 2007 that the two of the hallmarks of a “real” antiquarian bookseller are selling books at book fairs and issuing print catalogues. I’ve since learned that there are other equally important qualities (like buying books at a good price; forming relationships with colleagues, customers, and librarians; and learning how much you still don’t know), but it’s fun to go back and think about what it took to get here.

See you in the stacks!

You can read Part 1 of this post here.

Eleven-year-old Tom, my assistant for set-up day at the book fair, and I clambered over bookcases and boxes and into the Bookmobile. I sped down the highway toward the City, watching the sun poking through the grey rain clouds. The Bay Bridge and the Transamerica Pyramid rose in the distance against a backdrop of choppy Bay waters, and we blasted Tom Petty’s song “Runnin’ Down a Dream” on the radio, singing along as loud as we could. As we got closer to the City, I left behind the exhaustion of mailing out 300 + catalogues and the stress of what was going to be a heavy schedule for the next ten days. I’m always excited to go to book fairs. There’s just something about the moments before a fair when all is possibility -- the possibility of many books sold and of a few good book finds -- that makes me extremely happy.

Often, I hear booksellers say that book fairs aren’t worth it. In order to sell at a book fair, booksellers take time away from the business (in some cases an open shop), lug a bunch of heavy books and bookcases a long distance, and spend money to travel and stay in a hotel. And sometimes no one buys any of your books, or at least not enough of them for you to make back your costs. These are valid complaints and they can affect decisions whether or not to do future fairs.

For example, The Santa Monica Book Fair was a break-even event for me this past September. I had fun at the fair but really had to question at the end whether it was worth it to be away from my family for five days if I was only going to break even. The Central Valley Antiquarian Book Fair, held the weekend after the Santa Monica Fair, was also slow fair for me. It’s usually my highest grossing book fair each year.

Not this year.

Needless to say I was nervous about the San Francisco Book Fair. Would it be a good fair for me? I had invested every bit of cash flow into printing and mailing the Dante catalogue. What if I lost money on the fair, too?

I tried to remember a couple of years ago, how I felt when I did this fair for the first time, when I compared myself to the title character in the movie Rudy:

I was just happy and amazed to be there, and, like Rudy standing alone on the big-time field at Notre Dame before he plays, I thought about the potential a big fair offers a small-time bookseller like me. Would I sell the most books of any seller there? Would I find the unrecognized treasures that every bookseller looks for when shopping at a book fair? Would other booksellers even know who I am or visit my booth? Would anyone buy any of my books? Probably not. As a new, small bookseller, I would likely be overlooked. I was, as usual, filled with anxiety over these issues, but mostly I just wanted to stop and think about what might be and to be grateful to be a small part of it.

What has changed since then?

I have more experience. I have done many more book fairs since I wrote that I felt like Rudy. I am now aware of all that might go wrong at a book fair and the myriad ways to lose money at a book fair. But driving to the fair, the old feeling of excitement came back to me, as sure as if it was the first time I ever sold an antiquarian book to a live human being.

Wait a minute. What has changed since then?

I have more experience. I have done many more book fairs since I wrote that I felt like Rudy. I was now aware that most of the fairs I do are profitable for me. I’ve also developed a good eye to hunt for and find good books at fairs, books on which I can make a profit at a future date. And as an added bonus, I’ve developed a great network of bookseller friends to visit with and to buy books from and to sell books to. I had dinner with several of them on FridaySaturday nights.

As I said in that 2008 post when I did the San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair for the first time:

I just know that I wanted to be an antiquarian bookseller so much that I didn’t care whether I could be a top-tier bookseller. I want to be a part of the antiquarian book world, regardless of how well-known of a bookseller I ultimately become.

I took stock for a moment.

Yes. I could say the same thing today, and even more vehemently than I said it two years ago.

We parked the car and checked in to our booth, Booth #205. Adjacent to us in Booth #305 was my bookselling friend and mentor, Mr. Z. We’d requested that the fair organizer remove the partition between our booths to make one very large space with Mr. Z’s books on one side and mine on another. Here’s a photo of how it looked after Tom unloaded my boxes and Mr. Z’s assistants Kara and Jill unloaded his boxes:

Some of my books and ephemera are in the left-hand trophy case. Mr. Z’s are on the right.

Tom, my able assistant, got right to work unloading 22 boxes of books and 8 bookcases for me. If you will permit a moment of motherly pride, I marvel at the fact that my “baby” (don’t tell him I used that word) is growing up and that he is now big enough to lug heavy boxes and furniture. When he had finished a couple of hours later, Thoughtful Husband and Huck came up to the City to check out my booth and to pick Tom up.

Here are a few photos of my side of the extra large booth:

Some books from the Dante catalogue.

A small collection of Kate Greenaway ephemera.

Interesting books on all subjects.

Western Americana.

Books by or about American women.

I had four other book cases on the outside perimeter of the booth for a total of seven bookcases, one trophy case, and half of a glass counter case.

With the words to Tom Petty’s song echoing in my ears, I was ready to run down my dream.

Tom Petty - Running Down A Dream
It was a beautiful day, the sun beat down
I had the radio on, I was driving
Trees flew by, me and Del were singing
Little Runaway. I was flying

Yeah running down a dream
That never would come to me
Working on a mystery
Going wherever it leads
Running down a dream

I felt so good like anything was possible
I hit cruise control and rubbed my eyes
The last three days the rain was unstoppable
It was always cold, no sunshine

Yeah running down a dream
That never would come to me
Working on a mystery
Going wherever it leads
Running down a dream

I rolled on as the sky grew dark
I put the pedal down to make some time
There’s something good waiting down this road
I’m picking up whatever is mine

Yeah running down a dream
That never would come to me
Working on a mystery
Going wherever it leads
Running down a dream

TOMORROW: The third (and final) post about the fair: Was It a Success? Rare, Fine, and Sold.

Alright: It’s more than a week overdue and I am still swimming in oceans of work to do after returning home from ten days on the road. Still, it’s high time I wrote a little report of the 2010 San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair. I put the boxes of books to be re-shelved to the side for the moment. Part 1 of my report appears today with more to follow tomorrow.

Two years ago, I wrote about selling books at the San Francisco show. It was only my second book fair.

I was quite excited and quite nervous.

This year’s San Francisco Antiquarian Book Fair is book fair number ten. I’ve gained a lot of experience and made a lot of progress since the 2008 fair.

I was quite excited and quite nervous.

Not only would I be selling books at this fair, I’d be personally handing out a lot of copies of Book Hunter’s Holiday Catalogue #1 to customers and to other booksellers. What if no one liked the catalogue? What if they wanted to know why all of the “serious” Dante books from the 1500s are not in my catalogue? I had just mailed out the catalogue three days before the fair, and people’s reactions were just beginning to trickle in. So far so good, but watching people examine the catalogue in person could potentially be gut wrenching.

Added to the catalogue anxiety was my usual lack of sleep the night before a fair, when I am kept awake by the nightmarish thought that I have since learned haunts most booksellers: “What if no one buys any of my books?”

Did I mention that Tom and Huck’s school also gave them a 10-day “ski week” vacation, beginning on Friday, February 5, the set-up day of the fair? Not only would they be home from school for the duration of the fair, but they wanted to leave for the snow on Monday, the morning after the fair ended. The plan was to come home on Thursday night and then for me to leave Friday to attend (but thankfully not to also sell books at) the Los Angeles International Antiquarian Book Fair. That’s a full calendar, and it would require that I be away from home for about 10 days. I was exhausted from getting all of the catalogues in the mail, too. I was beginning to feel a little bit overwhelmed.

Maybe I should just stay home.

“Not on your life,” said Thoughtful Husband. “You’ve worked on this catalogue forever. You love book fairs. Get out there and sell some books!” He took Friday off of work to stay home with the boys. I got a hotel room in the City so I could focus on the fair.

My room in the literary-themed Carriage Inn -- the Lawrence Ferlinghetti room. The Carriage Inn and its neighbor, Good Hotel, were home to many of the booksellers for the weekend of the fair. It’s near the fair venue and the rates are affordable.

My room came with its own Remington typewriter. I loved that.

In trying to sort out all the details for my travels, a remarkable thing happened. Tom, who is almost twelve, is looking for ways to earn his own money. He wanted to know whether I would pay him if he came with me to help unload boxes and book cases and to get them set up in the exhibition hall the day before the fair.

Absolutely relieved to have help with the heavy lifting, I said, “Sure. I’ll pay you. But you really have to carry a lot of stuff and you can’t go home until Dad can come and pick you up in the afternoon. It’s hard work to set up at a book fair. I don’t want any complaining.” Secretly, I was happy he would get to see that the life of an antiquarian bookseller involves more than sitting at a computer in a tiny corner of our dining room.

Tom rolled his eyes, said, “I’m strong,” and joined me. He wouldn’t let me take his picture because I told him that, as my employee, he had to wear a collared shirt. What’s a mother for, if not to bust her kids’ chops once in a while? :) We compromised a little bit. He was allowed to wear jeans. It is set-up after all, and it’s sometimes dusty and messy work.

We loaded up the Bookmobile and set out for San Francisco, about 30 minutes from our house. Though rain was in the forecast, it was shaping up to be a pretty nice day.

To be continued . . .

So the 43rd California International Antiquarian Book Fair is here! (Or actually, there, since I’m still in NY). For those of you attending, be sure to check out the special exhibit, “From Author to Oscar,” which focuses on Oscar-winning films that were adapted from books. Rare copies of the books will be on display, along with photos, posters, and related ephemera from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library.

To coincide with the exhibit, rare book experts Kevin Johnson [read a Fine Books First Personal Singular with Kevin] and Jim Pepper and Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan will hold a panel discussion on the role of great books in Oscar-winning movies, as well as the impact of Academy Awards on the book collecting world. That’s tomorrow--Saturday--at 3 p.m.

Have fun!

BroadwayUnderSnow.jpgOnly in New York is something so totally bookish like Bibliography Week possible, certainly on the scale of this event, which is mounted each year during the last week of January when the major national organizations devoted to book history have their annual meetings in the Big Apple, and get together at a number of related events, many of which are free and open to the public. (Image at right: Broadway Under Snow, by Rudolph Ruzicka, The Grolier Club, 1915.)

The week kicks off on Tuesday, January 26, with the Sixteenth Annual Bibliography Week Lecture, to be given this year by Michael Suarez, SJ, noted book historian and recently appointed director of Rare Book School, at Columbia University. His talk, scheduled for 6 p.m. in the Faculty Room of Low Library (116th St. at Broadway), is titled “Learned Virtuosity, Virtuously Displayed: Cultural Elits and Deep Purses in Restoration and Eighteenth-Century Illustrated Books.”

A talk at the Grolier Club (47 East 60th St.) on Wednesday, January 27 by Milton McC. Gatch titled “Bibliotheca Parisina 1791: A Tale of Two Cities, or An Auction in Revolutionary Times,” 2 p.m., is free, and public. A reception later that evening to mark the opening of an exhibition at the Grolier, “Mary Webb: Neglected Genius,” featuring materials from the collection of Mary Crawford, is for members, but the show is open the public from January 12 to March 12.

Thursday, January 28: In Brooklyn, the latest works of book artists will be on display at the Open Salon, 37 Greenpoint Avenue, 4th floor, hours 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The shop, founded in 1999, describes itself as an “artist-run, non-profit, consensus-governed, artist and bookmakers organization located in the up-and-coming neighborhood of Geenpoint.” Sounds like fun, and very definitely worth checking out.

On Friday, January 29, again at the Grolier Club, the Bibliographical Society of America holds its annual meeting, with papers being presented by new scholars. Eric Holzenberg, director of the Grolier Club, will speak on “The Bibliophile as Bibliographer.” The event is open to the public.

Saturday, January 30: The annual meeting of the American Printing History Association, to be held at the New York Public Library (Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street), 2 p.m. For those who have never visited the Center for the Book Arts (28 West 27th St., 3rd floor), a Winter Open House is on from 2 to 5 p.m. Demonstrations, tours, exhibits are on tap. All in all, a great week for bibliophiles, and a nice warm-up for those planning to attend the 43rd annual California International Book Fair in Los Angeles, Feb. 12-14.

While I was at the Golden Gate Park Book Fair Sunday, I answered a lot of questions for those who visited my booth. I’m used to the typical questions asked at book fairs about old books, rare books, and bookselling. What I wasn’t expecting was this question from three people who were wandering the fair together:

“Would you mind if we took a picture of that book?”

“Uh . . . I guess not. Sure, you can take a photo of it.”

A few minutes later they were still wandering through the booth taking pictures of many of my other books.

I tried to figure out if they were bloggers, like me, who might be posting the pictures of the books in a post about the fair. Or, perhaps they loved the books and didn’t have the cash to buy them so they thought a photo would suffice.

Since the four of us were squeezed in my tiny, 8′ x 10′ booth, I eavesdropped on their conversation. I know I shouldn’t have, but I was curious (and maybe just a little bit uncomfortable) about why they would want to take so many photos of my books.

“Oh my God! Did you see this one? Quick! Get a picture of it.”

“Check this one out!”

“Someone please tell me why don’t we still make covers that look like this one! This title is hilarious.”

Paranoia began to take over. What if they wrote a blog post about how not to sell books and used pictures of my books and my booth as examples? Or what if they were booksellers and what if they used images of my books to sell their own?

Paranoia is an ugly thing. One’s imagination can make one’s thoughts entirely irrational.

I couldn’t stand by and smile silently any longer.

Finally, I said, “So, do you mind if I ask why you’re taking pictures of so many books?”

“Oh. Sure. We’re book designers. We work for Chronicle Books. We’re at the fair to get inspiration.”

What a relief!

“Take as many pictures as you like to inspire you,” I told them.

I had to laugh.

When I was in college (aeons ago), I spent every summer vacation and winter break working as an intern for Chronicle Books. Back in 1987 it was a very small (I think about 15 or 20 employees) company owned by the same family who owned The San Francisco Chronicle. I loved working there. I used to take the train to the City every day and walk through the (then) gritty neighborhood to the office at Fifth and Folsom. As an intern, I rotated to different departments, sometimes working for Operations, sometimes working for Editorial, and sometimes working for Publicity. The people there were nice and took time to teach me things about publishing. Though I didn’t work there after college, I still remember the people I met there and the days I spent there with fondness. It’s fun and flattering to think that some of the books I’d chosen to retail for my own business might be providing inspiration to a former employer.

It’s also nice to know that in this era of digital books and cheaply made mass-market paperbacks some book designers are looking to the past to design the future.

See you in the stacks!

I am carefully wading out of a sea of boxes full of books and portable book cases strewn across my dining room/office to give you a full report on this past weekend’s Golden Gate Park Book Fair, held in the Hall of Flowers in San Francisco’s beautiful Golden Gate Park. After that, I’ll have to dive back in until all the books are put back on the shelves again.

The Golden Gate Park fair was the first one I have done (and I’ve done nine fairs in the two and a half years I’ve been in business) where there was a long line of people waiting to enter when the doors opened. The fair’s organizer did a great job getting the word out about the time and location of the fair. In addition to the bibliophilic crowd were the many people who were out and about walking through Golden Gate Park on a beautiful (75 degree) Sunday who were likely drawn in by curiosity and by the free admission. The aisles were filled with people from opening until closing time. Having occasionally done a fair where the aisles are so empty the booksellers could have used them as golf fairways, the sight of so many people at a book fair made me so happy.

That said, I would characterize the customers at this fair as readers and book lovers but not necessarily book collectors (with a few exceptions, of course). What that means is I sold a lot of books, but the books I sold were in the $10-$25 range, books which are usually overlooked at the larger fairs with paid admission. What that also means is that there were many people in attendance who were like me several years ago. That is to say that I heard comments ranging from, “I never knew old books could be so beautiful!” to “Why would anyone pay $100 for an old book?” to (my personal favorite because I said it myself when I “discovered” the world of antiquarian books), “Why didn’t I know these type of books existed before today?”

There are a couple of ways booksellers view such potential customers. Some might refer to such book fair attendees as “looky-lou’s” because the person looks at the books and perhaps comments that they’re lovely but doesn’t buy any of them. Another bookseller might call such a customer a “tire-kicker”. This usually refers to a book lover who browses the books for sale, takes one off the shelf and then handles the book, often rather, er, exuberantly, perhaps opening it too far or bending pages when turning them. Such a customer usually has little or no experience handling old books. I’ve seen their book-handling methods make booksellers twitch.

The third way, and the way I think most booksellers assess such book fair visitors, is to see this as an opportunity to expose people to the world of antiquarian books, to book collecting, and to the fun of seeking and finding the perfect book. I was very impressed with the way so many people asked questions about the books -- “How old is this one?” “How do I know if it’s a first edition?” “Why is this book considered significant?” “How do I learn to do this?” Before I was a bookseller, I often attended fairs but NEVER asked questions unless I planned to buy a book. I was way too intimidated by either the books’ usually high prices or by the sometimes silent manner of the booksellers.

Yep. I was a “looky-lou”. I am officially ashamed to say that I did not have the self-confidence to ask questions so I could learn more. Now I still need to learn even more, but I’ve learned not to be afraid to ask questions. Many booksellers are so happy to have someone to talk to about books that they are thrilled to answer your questions. And if you find a rude seller, might I suggest trying again at another booth? While there are a few who genuinely seem to dislike people, most booksellers love to talk about books and are happy to talk to you at a book fair.

Once I observed that most of the people at this particular fair were not going to be buying rare books, I took the opportunity to explain to them why they might want to do so in the future and why it is so fun to build a collection in any field (not just the “expensive book” field) and how to go about doing so.

By the end of the day, I sold more than half of my book case filled with $10 books and had sales of a few more expensive books. I did make a profit, though smaller than my average for larger fairs, but I also think I may have attracted a few more potential book collectors (maybe even booksellers?) to the trade and that is always a good thing.

I bought a few interesting titles, and I hope to show those to you soon. Buying books and discovering new stock is another of the many benefits of book fairs.

Would you believe that in my rush to leave the house for the fair I forgot my camera? Sorry to say I did. I would have liked to show you pictures of my booth and of the bright, light-filled Hall of Flowers.

I have to run now, but tomorrow I’ll tell you about the mysterious customers who asked if they could photograph the books in my booth.

See you in the stacks!

New Books Stack Up Fine Against iPod’s Creepy Cousin, the “Cooler”

By Nicole Pasulka

In New York’s Jacob J. Javits Center during this year’s Book Expo America (May 28-31), a senior editor waved her hand across nearby publishers’ booths. “All this is a stage,” she explained. “It may look like someone’s over there cooking dinner, but it’s a set, it’s not real. Most business at BEA happens just by hanging out with your friends when they stop by your booth to chat, and at the parties.” My first time at BEA, and I was desperate for a role.

In the Javits Center lobby, people with something to do and somewhere to go darted toward escalators and clustered near the press table. By contrast, I ambled along a massive grid of stalls and brightly colored poster-board, and before long had surrendered to snap judgments and superficiality. James Patterson: ubiquitous; Danielle Steele: coiffed; Wordsworth Classics edition of Rob Roy: worth every penny of its $4.99 cover price. I chatted aimlessly with librarians and marketing directors. But did I really need to know the “pub date” of James Elroy’s new novel? Publishing insiders do not ask questions like a bored journalist. This wasn’t going well.

Isn’t book publishing becoming less about actual books and more about digital technologies? Here was conflict and an angle: I’d ingratiate myself by sympathizing with booksellers and producers and vilifying technologies that threaten their profits. “What’s up with this Kindle thing?” I asked an unoccupied associate publisher. Her eyes lit up: “Ooh, have you used one? I think there’s a display here. I’ve been dying to try it.”

The publisher and I set off for the Amazon booth, though it wasn’t clear whether we were looking to size up the competition or research Christmas gifts. In the literary technology section, we passed a Borders TV studio, were corralled into taking a touch-screen survey on why we were here, and then stumbled across two women serving piña coladas in perilously low-cut bathing suits. Turns out the beachwear and booze were a marketing Hail Mary for an e-reader called “The Cooler.” A sales rep gave us a demonstration next to a kiddie pool full of sand. The Cooler looked like an iPod’s creepy cousin and scrolled with the ease and readability of a stone tablet. No amount of rum was going to make this thing user-friendly.

The Cooler reps didn’t seem like publishing insiders, and they didn’t have much of a product, but they were having a good time. If I didn’t have a part to play, I might as well enjoy being in the audience. Nearby, a small crowd gathered around a dark-haired boy of about thirteen. His eyes were glued to a monitor while his fingers flew across an approximation of an electric guitar. It was Danny Johnson, the Guinness World Record holder for Guitar Hero--a video game in which players follow along with pop songs on a plastic guitar. The booth’s posters claimed Johnson would be trying for a different record, but his dad explained that “he already broke all the records,” and was “just playing around now.” Danny Johnson didn’t crack a smile while he destroyed his competitions. Watching someone else playing video games is slightly more entertaining than watching my dog nap, so I moved on.

Guitar Hero and drinking before 2 p.m. are technically fun, but in a convention center recreation can feel a little too staged. The Independent Publishers Consortium (Consortium Book Sales), in a far corner of the fair, was loaded with small publishing houses handing out DVD catalogues, stickers and, at the Feral Books table, packets of opium seeds to help you “harvest your own pain medication.” And it was here that I found the real headliners at BEA--the books, scads of them. And a chorus of representatives from participating independent publishers was more than happy to explain the plotline of a graphic novel by Mario Van Peebles or pass along a copy of Marilyn French’s posthumously published novel The Love Children.

I’m not sure whether publishing is changing, or dying, or thriving (I’d seen plenty of evidence to support all three conclusions) but books are definitely myriad and exciting and people still write them, read them, and make them look good in a convention booth. I left with more than I could carry.

Every time I return from a book fair I’m asked by family, friends, and colleagues, “Was it a good fair?” I’m never entirely certain how to answer that question. A “good” book fair is good because of many different elements working in conjunction with each other. A fair can be good based on the sales made; certainly we all want to make a profit for our time and effort and our investment in renting a booth. A fair can also be good based on new contacts established; you never know when getting to know someone’s interests might lead to a future sale. A fair can also be good based on the purchases one makes; several times at book fairs, I have found items in other dealer’s booths that gave me that fingerspitzengefuhl feeling, bought them and then sold them at a profit. Finally, a good book fair also includes a bit of camaraderie. I have to think I will make a profit in order to sign up for a book fair, but even if I don’t, any of the criteria mentioned above can make the fair a good one.

This past weekend was my second time selling books at the Gold Rush Book Fair in Grass Valley. It was my sixth book fair and it was the first time I decided to rent my own booth space rather than sharing it with another seller. I think I have done enough fairs at this point to judge whether or not it was a good fair.

So, was it a good fair?

By most criteria, it was indeed a good fair, though it was not without its moments where I wondered if it would be otherwise. To begin with, the air conditioner in the Bookmobile stopped working. This meant driving around 100 degree (Fahrenheit) Grass Valley with no air conditioning and a three hour ride home through triple digit temperatures yesterday. Added to the hot weather was a lack of confidence that I think was precipitated by the fact that I have not sold my own books at a fair since September, 2008. The US economy has changed a great deal in the past six months, and I wondered whether any collectors or other dealers would have money to spend on books and on traveling to a book fair that is held in a destination town a bit off the beaten trail. Lastly, I did ok at this fair last year, breaking even on my expenses, but I really hoped to do better this year. I wondered whether that was possible or whether I might actually lose money on this fair.

Note to those of you who plan to be booksellers: None of this wondering and worrying is helpful, so you will do best to just ignore it and go to the fair. You’ll sell more books than if you had stayed home.

Though it is a small regional fair (just 41 dealers this year), the Gold Rush Book Fair is one of my favorites. It’s held in a picturesque historic town. It’s the only fair I’ve done that has a special dinner for all of the booksellers, and because of this, it creates a special camaraderie among the booksellers and is just a lot of fun. After meeting for cocktails and happy hour at the lovely Toad Hall Bookshop,
toad hall
we booksellers were herded up the stairs into a Masonic Hall where Grass Valley’s Chief of Police, his wife, and many other good cooks, prepared a delicious spaghetti dinner for all of the booksellers and our guests, about 75 people. Peter Siegel of Bea and Peter Siegel Books was the Honored Guest Bookseller of the 2009 Fair, and I loved hearing his story of how his mother got started in the business when he was just a boy. (Being a mother of boys myself, I especially liked hearing Peter’s impressions of books and book hunting from his childhood.) Peter also shared the story of how he came to be a partner in the business and his opinions on the future of antiquarian bookselling.

Peter Siegel, left, accepting the honor of 2009 Honored Guest Bookseller from the fair’s organizer, John Hardy.

The dinner was served at long, family-style tables, so I found myself getting to know some of my fellow booksellers (Stephanie Howlett West, Dan Glaeser, and Chris Volk and Shep Iams,) a little bit better. It was a fun evening and a good way to kick off the fair. Even though I have been known to be a bit shy in social situations, I wish more book fairs had such gatherings. They’re good for morale and can be good for sales.

The fair got off to a brisk start at 10:00 a.m., and I had my first sale (and the best of the day) to another dealer a little before the fair opened to the public. Things were busy until about 2:00 p.m, and then seemed to slow down a bit until the fair’s 5:00 closing time. By this time, I had had several sales and had made a modest profit, an improvement over last year. I sold more books to “civilians” than I did to booksellers, but the amount of the sales made to the booksellers was larger. I came away with at least two new customers who I heard from via email today, so there may be some follow-up sales this week or at a later date.

All in all it was a good book fair. Though I have made more profit at larger book fairs in major metropolitan areas, a booth at the Gold Rush Book Fair is relatively inexpensive when compared to the larger fairs. It’s easier to make a profit at this smaller fair with its (for me anyway) smaller expenses.

All that glitters is not just gold at the Gold Rush Book Fair. In addition to the “gold” or potential profit a seller can make by participating in this fair, there are other intangible benefits to doing the fair. I think my post from last year sums it up best:

“The value of book fairs can not be judged by sales alone. Their worth can also be found in purchasing opportunities, in networking with colleagues, and in developing customer relationships. I love book fairs, and I loved the fair this weekend enough to come back next year.”

Here’s a photo of my booth.

I’ll leave you with this final quote about the Gold Rush (and Gold Rush towns like Grass Valley) from historian H.W. Brands:

“California presented to people a new model for the American dream--one where the emphasis was on the ability to take risks, the willingness to gamble on the future.”

I’d say this statement about California applies to book fairs as well. Booksellers take a risk when we sign up and pay for a booth space at a book fair, sometimes with mixed results. But our participation in book fairs signifies our willingness to gamble on the future of books and bookselling. Short of an open shop, a book fair is one of the best ways to bring books to the public. I’m all in.

A fine copy in near fine dust jacket of the first edition of Tennessee Williams’ The Glass Menagerie was appraised at $10,000 by the members of the Southern California Chapter of the ABAA this weekend at its Rare Books Round Up - Free Appraisal booth during the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, the largest book event in the United States with attendance routinely at 100,000+ for the weekend.

Why the high appraisal? The copy was signed by Williams, plus each member of the original Broadway cast (including the immortal Laurette Taylor), as well as the composer of the original production’s music.

Who, you may ask, composed the music for the original production of The Glass Menagerie and what’s the big deal about the composer’s signature to this copy? Two words: Paul Bowles, who, before embarking on his career as a novelist, was a successful composer of theatrical incidental music. A student of Aaron Copeland, Roger Sessions and Virgil Thompson during the 1920s-1930s, Bowles’ first visit to Morocco - so closely associated with him through his writings - occurred in 1931 when, traveling with Copeland in Europe, Gertrude Stein suggested that they visit the North African country.

Upon his return to New York, Bowles rose to prominence as a composer of theatrical music, working for Orson Welles and John Houseman, and others, becoming the go-to composer for literary dramas of his era. He composed the music for plays by Saroyan, Hellman, Koestler, Werbel, and Rostand as well as productions of Shakespeare. By the early 1940’s, he had also added respected music critic to his resumé.

This copy of The Glass Menegerie is, without question, the collector’s dream for this book; they don’t get any better.

Other noteworthy books were offered for appraisal, one of which is rarely seen: A first American edition, first printing, first issue, in the publisher’s full sheep binding, of Huckleberry Finn. The bibliographical nightmare that is this book is well-known. Copies are usually seen in a mixed issue, so to have a “pure” copy is quite extraordinary. In the original green pictorial cloth binding, “pure” copies can fetch upwards of $50,000 - $75,000 and more. Less desirable in sheep, similar copies can go for $25,000 -$35,000. The copy presented for appraisal was, alas, in poor condition. Estimated value: $6,000-$8,000.

A fine copy of the signed, limited Presentation Edition of Charles Lindbergh’s The Spirit of St Louis flew in below the radar, estimated value: $2,000-$3,000. And, finally, an inscribed, fine copy in very good dust jacket of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March goose-stepped up to the Rare Books Round Up booth. Bellow didn’t sign very many books. Estimated value: $2000.

It has become axiomatic that the first life-sucking, brain-pan par boiling, walking on the sun sweltering weekend of the year in Los Angeles will occur during the Festival of Books. Providing further evidence of global climate change, this year visitors (and exhibitors, to be sure) to the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, held annually on the UCLA campus during the last weekend of April, were spared. With sunny skies and temperatures in the mid to high 60s, it was a two-day dream, particularly for the man who left the Festival with a million mega-watt smile, his copy of The Glass Menagerie carefully tucked into his briefcase.


Three brief notes for budding collectors, based upon routine appearances at the Festival of Books ABAA Rare Books Round Up: Never store your books in plastic storage bags, zip-lock or otherwise. If the publisher is Grosset & Dunlop, don’t bother bringing the book for appraisal; it’s a reprint. And that copy of Gone With The Wind? The copyright page has to state: “Printed May 1936” for it to be a first edition, first printing, and the dust jacket has to have GWTW listed as an upcoming book in the right column on the rear panel for it to be a first state DJ.

After packing books, traveling, checking-in to a hotel with an unfamiliar and uncomfortable bed, awaking jet-lagged, haggard, with lower and upper back muscle kinks, or with a serious case of post-cross country driving fatigue, then unpacking books and setting up, most dealers start the Fair exhausted, this writer included, and it’s downhill from there. As a consequence, one begins the Fair in a twilight dream state prone to hallucinations, mild to major, and a peculiar sensitivity to events generally associated with the occult, surrealism, or Rod Serling. But maybe that’s just me. Probably.

The Fair opened last Thursday evening, a private showing to benefit the Morgan Library. This year the benefit was not as crowded as in prior years, no doubt due to the Madoff Effect and the general economic thrill-ride to hell leaving the well-heeled worn-heeled, their Baroni suits with frayed collar and lapels. The only benefit they were truly interested in, apparently, was that which TARP funds might reap. Clearly, the mega-bonuses were being saved for a rainy day. Yet though it rained in New York that night there was no concomitant shower of simoleans inside the Park Avenue Armory, specifically within the Armory’s Wade Thompson Drill Hall where the Fair took place.

“The Armory was built by New York State’s prestigious Seventh Regiment of the National Guard, the first volunteer militia to respond to President Lincoln’s call for troops in 1861. Members of what was known as the ‘Silk Stocking’ Regiment included New York’s most prominent Gilded Age Families including the Vanderbilts, Van Rensselaers, Roosevelts, Stewarts, Livingstons and Harrimans. Built as both a military facility and a social club, the reception rooms on the first floor and the Company Rooms on the second floor were designed by the most prominent designers and artists of the day including Louis Comfort Tiffany, Stanford White, Herter Brothers and Pottier & Stymus. The Armory’s 55,000 square foot drill hall, reminiscent of the original Grand Central Depot and the great train sheds of Europe, remains one of the largest unobstructed spaces of its kind in New York. A marvel of engineering in its time, it was designed by Regiment veteran and architect Charles W. Clinton.”

Though the latter-day Greedy and Gulled Age Silk Stocking regiment marched in louche-step around the hall in close order, they had holes in their socks, feet blistered by current events. Very sad. I was offered an apple by one of the recently fallen but though it was deeply discounted from its $250,000 asking price, I had to decline; my mother taught me to always have a dime for an emergency phone call and I needed it, no matter that a phone call hasn’t cost a dime in decades and phone booths are history.

After doing the N.Y. Fair and the Morgan Library benefit for years, old, familiar faces are seen. Fashion designer Mary McFadden was in attendance, still defying age and 20-20 vision, her hair a shade of black not occurring in nature but matching her outfit and overly Mabelline’d eye-liner and lashes, her facial structure and derma surgically preserved as a living death mask, her skin a shade of white generally associated with Dracula’s daughter, here Dracula’s grandmother. We’re talking Morticia Adams with a Louise Brooks bob. She was accompanied by her ninety-one year old paramour, Marquette de Bary, who didn’t look a day over eighty-five.

And She was there, again, parading the aisles. She being a tall drag queen, her pate covered with a huge platinum blond wig styled ala Vidal Sassoon on steroids. She wore a tight, hips and enhanced-breast enhancing Valentino-red dress with straps that highlighted her daddy-was-a-fullback shoulders, and stilettos that reached for the Hubble telescope. I will pass over her make-up job. Suffice it to say, My Fair-To-Be-Charitable Lady was a sight to behold, a parody of alluring womanhood. In fairness, this person is a noted and knowledgeable collector of art books with an excellent eye and though my mother taught me to always play in traffic, talk to strangers and accept candy from them, I’ve yet to strike up a conversation with this individual.

The Fair finally opened to the public on Friday. Dealer expectations for trade and public sales were very low and were met. One dealer, a British firm with a long and noble history, sold a total of one book during the entire weekend, a $3,000 volume. Their profit margin barely covered the cost of a glass of orange juice on their hotel’s breakfast menu. Expensive books forlornly sat on shelves. It was reported to me that some dealers with high five-figure books were offering discounts up to 50% yet still had no takers. Few dealers were selling books at their posted prices, with most adjusting for grim reality and plane-fare back home. The action, such as it was, was in the $2500 and below range, and dealers who had interesting material at a price did alright, particularly if their booths were located to the front and middle of the Armory floor. If you were on the side aisles down toward the end of the hall, you’d have been better off if your booth was located in Ulan Bator. While I haven’t checked the official figures, attendance seemed to be down from last year

2009 New York Antiquarian Book Fair, Park Avenue Armory, Saturday April 4th, 1PM. Or so it seemed.

From The Big Book of Rare Book Trade Jokes, appropriate to this year’s Fair:

• One morning on the way to opening up, a rare book dealer is walking down the street where his shop is located. There’s a long line of people snaked up the block and around the corner. He follows the line to its origin, which miraculously begins at the entrance to his shop.

“What’s going on,” the shocked dealer asks the first person in line.

“All of us who’ve ever said to you, ‘Let me think about it,’ and then left have actually returned to buy a book.”

• How do you retire from the rare book business with a million dollars? Start with five million.

• Definition of a rare book shop: Where old books go to die.

Saturday and Sunday brought another interesting person to my -  and everyone else’s - attention. She was a short woman, circa 60+, who  appeared to have stepped out of 60’s counterculture comix: An aged, hippie chick with natural, parted down the middle semi-frizzed hair past her shoulders; beaded bangles and leather bracelets on her wrists, poured into a tight, spaghetti-strapped floral mini-dress that just barely covered once generous now stingy breasts and extended to just millimeters below the female gift to mankind, her thighs and caboose strong and bountiful if no longer sturdy, forelegs ensheathed in funky, knee-high leather boots. In short, R. Crumb’s wet dream.

There were, to be sure, three highlights at the Fair this year.

A first edition, first printing, first issue copy of H. Rider-Haggard’s King Solomon’s Mines (1885) surfaced. The bibliographical points to the extremely rare first issue of King Solomon’s Mines are simple, revolving - as these things often do - around the date of the advertisements found at the rear. It’s a scarce, low-five figure book, David Brass reporting that in over forty years in the trade he’d seen only three first issue copies. So, what’s the big deal about King Solomon’s Mines, the basis for six film adaptations, at least two of which were really bad movies? It is, simply, the prototype for the modern adventure novel, that’s all; a major book, and the genesis of the Lost World genre of literature.


The biggest book to surface at the Fair was a first edition, first printing copy of Kenneth Graham’s The Wind in the Willows in dust jacket. In dust jacket: alert the media. Like The Great Gatsby, fairly easy to obtain without dust jacket with prices hovering between $8500-$12,000, the price for a first edition copy of The Wind in the Willows with the dust jacket in just about any condition skyrockets into the $100,000+ stratosphere.

The final highlight was the brownies offered by Lux Mentis, Ian Kahn’s firm from Portland, ME. These were not just any ordinary brownies. Rich and chocolatey, they were topped with very tasty, firm vanilla icing that sported the visually satisfying, full color and cool Lux Mentis logo illustration. I have no idea how this is accomplished but I presume by some sort of black magic or offset-icing lithography by Betty Crocker. By this one sweet giveaway and Mr. Kahn’s predilection for minute to minute Facebook status updates that have made me more aware of his daily life than my own, Portland cements its reputation as an up and coming book town to be reckoned with.

I end this impressionistic account by relating a foreboding incident that occurred upon deplaning in New York. While waiting at the baggage carousel, I spotted someone who looked familiar but due to acute post-transcontinental flight derangement I did not immediately recognize. Standing next to a baggage skycap neatly dressed in a clean, dark suit with crisp white shirt and tie, the man was a shamble of wrinkled, ill-fitting and worn pants, white shirt buttoned at the collar that appeared to have been slept in for week, sport jacket that for politeness could best be characterized as loose construction fit from better days, three-day beard, eyes puffy enough for him to be charged for excess baggage, with a deeply cragged face and a shock of near-white hair that seemed to be attempting a desperate flight from his scalp. I know this guy, I thought, but who is he? Samuel Beckett’s ghost? Then he opened his mouth, and I knew. Now, in retrospect, everything about the 2009 New York Fair falls into place.

Though the Log Lady was not in attendance, Special Agent Dale Cooper wasn’t waxing eloquent on the virtues of a good slice of pie and a nice cuppa joe, Laura Palmer’s dead body was not found in a dealer’s booth wrapped in clear plastic sheeting, there were no reports of surreal dreams involving a one-armed man named Mike, no one wore blue velvet or compulsively huffed on a bottle of nitrous oxide, and the Elephant Man was a no-show, the strange, dream-state quality that permeated the Fair was assured by the portent of the shabby man all alone at night in J.F.K. airport’s baggage claim zone, the man who Mel Brooks once characterized as “James Stewart From Mars,” and who haunted the Park Avenue Armory like Eraserhead haunted (and halted) my desire for a child.

I presume that David Lynch made it to his hotel that night without detour to the Lost Highway.

ehhead1.jpgPortrait of the writer, post-2009 New York Antiquarian Book Fair

bookfairsign.JPGAll book fairs have tales to tell and the 42nd Annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair is no different.  The choppy, grey waters of the San Francisco Bay were cold and ominous, and rain and wind pounded the Concourse Exhibition Center mercilessly. Despite the ravages of the winter weather, the yearly gathering of bibliophiles was all the more inviting, because on the inside of the large building the world’s largest book fair was about to begin.
For our first California ABAA fair, this was quite the adventure. Our books made an inexplicable side trip to Portland, OR. While undoubtedly exciting for our cases, it made the otherwise fun lead-up to the fair very tense. We spent the day at Serendipity Books, enjoying Peter B’s hospitality (and great food). I know we were not the only ones more than paid for our food and drink with books. It was great fun. 

Our books arrived the day the show opened. As I am (pathetically) one who takes upwards of 10 hours to set up a booth, this could have been a very bad thing. Luckily, we had used the prior day to at least have all the booth infrastructure in place, so it was really just an issue of getting the books on shelves and more or less grouped as I wanted. Not only were we able to be done in time for the opening, but I was even able to go back to our (close) hotel and get changed in relative comfort.

After three days at CODEX, I attended my first ABAA book fair. I had dragged my suitcase, to which now were added several bags stuffed with CODEX treasure, onto the tour bus that took us into San Francisco. I figured it would be easy enough to get from our last stop, the San Francisco Center for the Book, to the hotels reserved for visitors to the 42nd California International Antiquarian book fair. This sensible-sounding plan proved somewhat harder to execute, as the hotels were nowhere near the Center for the Book, and cabs were not easy to come by at rush hour. Welcome to the big city.

The last day of Codex began with a memorable talk by the legendary British book artist Ron King. Ron showed slides of his work dating back to the 1950s. He got a long standing ovation; his wife, Willow, a sculptor, later said she was afraid he might start crying. He didn’t, but it was a very moving experience to be in that audience and to contemplate this man’s artistic genius. Like Picasso’s, his mind is constantly moving forward to the point where now he is no longer making books per se, but carving seven-foot-high, book-like forms out of wood.

There was a different feeling the last day of the fair, a sense of urgency and seriousness of purpose. Though many librarians and collectors said they felt restrained by incipient budget cuts, they looked intently, and made wish lists. Those who could buy, bought. I heard that Stanford’s special collections curator, Roberto Trujillo, spent $30,000, but I think he was the exception. Still, everyone agreed that the overall level of artistry was even greater this year than in 2007.

I have been overwhelmed by the impact of my first CODEX experience, the fine press event in California this week. Walking around this fair is like having Beethoven and Picasso and Proust sitting behind tables of their work, all willing to show you how they do it. There are some California artists who work for Booklyn who are so brilliantly, darkly, and insanely funny that I started crying from laughing so hard. Then, on the other end of the spectrum, there are some artists whose work is so highly serious, so deeply civilized, so cultured, so refined, one can hardly bear to talk to them. 
Auction Guide