Recently in Book Fairs Category

Rockwell Kent was on my mind owing to our new spring issue’s feature story about the time when Rockwell Kent, Rex Stout, and Egmont Arens teamed up to publish Casanova’s memoir in the states, where it was still banned. So I was perhaps pre-disposed to notice Ken Lopez’s display of a Rockwell Kent archive, at the ABAA fair on Friday, that included Kent’s own copy of the unbound sheets of Candide, a project he undertook after Casanova. And then, at the NYC Book & Ephemera Fair (the “Satellite Fair”) on Saturday, I spied a manuscript about Casanova written by Arthur Symons, who wrote the introduction for the Kent-Stout-Arens edition of 1925. The Old New York Book Shop in Atlanta, Georgia, was offering it for $3,000. How’s that for bibliophilic serendipity?

Casanova copy.jpg
Back at the Armory, there was another reminder of our current issue: Verona’s Bibliopathos was showing the tattoo bookbindings of Aarom von Hemmersbach. Aarom’s bindings (which sold, I’m happy to report) are created using an innovative tattooing technique -- he’s a tattoo artist in Winnipeg, Canada, after all.

Over at Whitmore Rare Books, I was drawn in by the pretty binding on Evenings with the Stars (1924). I learned that the author, Mary Proctor, a Columbia-educated scientist, brought astronomy to the masses with hundreds of articles and lectures on the night sky. It was priced at $2,750.

Vietnam Nurse.jpeg
Two things I noted at the ABAA fair this year: new stuff and (some) affordable prices. By “new stuff,” I mean I didn’t see twenty copies of the first edition of Malamud’s The Natural as I have in past years. In the inexpensive and cool, but not-in-my-collecting-scope category, was Vietnam Nurse, a pulp romance from 1966 written under a pseudonym by poet Fanny Howe, offered by Brian Cassidy, Bookseller for $125.

While others eyed Gutenberg’s Mainz Catholicon (c.1469) at Liber Antiquus, my personal favorite of theirs was a first edition of Monstrorum historia (1642), “the first treatise on teratology, the study of deformities and monsters.” A large, illustrated folio, it was bewitching. Price: $25,000. 

At $1.5 million, Barry Lawrence Ruderman Antique Maps had the showstopper, though: an archive of drawings and blueprints for the Statue of Liberty from Établissements Eiffel, 1880-1883.  

Two final favorites: At the ABAA fair, Battledore had Kate Greenaway’s lovely memorial ring, an 18-karat gold and hair-work piece, and, at the Satellite Show, Brenner’s Books had an advanced reader’s edition of the The Blackboard Jungle (1954) by Evan Hunter, aka Ed McBain. That title is special to me because I worked with Hunter on a reprint edition of The Blackboard Jungle a few years before his death in 2005.

We--the husband and I--also picked up two decorated publishers’ bindings at this fair, one from Mosher Books, another from Austin Abbey Rare Books (pictured above).

Still want to see more highlights from NY? Check out the round-ups published by the New York Times and Lit Hub.

Images: (Top, Casanova) Credit: Rebecca Rego Barry; (Middle, Evening) Courtesy of Whitmore Rare Books; (Middle, Vietnam) Courtesy of Brian Cassidy; (Middle, Monstrorum), Courtesy of Liber Antiquus; (Middle, Eiffel) Credit: Brett Barry; (Bottom, Thoreau) Credit: Brett Barry.

A week ago on Tuesday, February 26, Peter Harrington, the distinguished London rare book firm, marked its 50th year by launching In Her Own Words: Works by Exceptional Women, an exhibition of its new catalogue of works by women, a first in the firm’s history.

To a bustling crowd of press at a breakfast in the morning, and bibliophiles and collectors in the evening, staff briskly opened glass cabinets in order to show off their favorite items. Put together by Harrington booksellers Theodora Robinson and Emma Walshe, the books and items featured in the exhibition highlight the work of women in a variety of fields, but what brings them together, they note in their introduction, is that “these were women who pushed legal, intellectual, and and physical boundaries.” 


131543_5_Baker catalogue overflows with signed and presentation copies of women who broke boundaries and ceilings, pursued freedom, civil rights, equality, from Charlotte Perkins GiIman’s feminist Utopian novel Herland -- signed to Californian suffragette Alice Locke Park -- to two inscribed works by Dorothy Parker (who left her estate to the NAACP) to renowned screenwriter Frances Marion to great, but overlooked women in science, like Ada Lovelace and Rosalind Franklin, whose contributions are still debated today.



There are also tremendous association copies, including a copy of Sappho given by Samuel Taylor Coleridge to his daughter Sara. 



One related item crossing the ocean this week to be at the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair is Giovanni Boccaccio’s De claris mulieribus, second edition, dating to the mid-15th century, which is the first collection of biographies devoted exclusively to women. They’re also bringing one of (!) their rare Lovelace volumes, a first edition of the paper she wrote, annotated by her math tutor.


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There’s also a Pank-a-Squith gameboard, which is difficult to find with its suffragette game pieces, a rare hand-painted WSPU donation tin, and a Women’s Freedom League sash, once owned by the suffragette Hodgson sisters. 


As we approach International Women’s Day on March 8, many booksellers are honoring the much overlooked work of women, including Alembic Rare Books and Deborah Coltham, who are issuing a joint catalogue of women in science. Bernard Quaritch also published a catalogue focused on “Women.” And it’s worth noting that the next catalogue of women’s work issued by book dealer Elizabeth Crawford will be her 200th. 


The exhibition of work is on display at Peter Harrington through Friday, March 15 at its shop located at 43 Dover Street.


Images, from top: Joséphine Baker: Felix Achille de la Cámara; Pepito Abatino. Mon sang dans tes veines. Paris: Les editions Isis, 1931. Ada Lovelace: Menabrea, Luigi Federico. Sketch of the Analytical Engine invented by Charles Babbage, Esq. With Notes by the Translator. Franz von. Kleist’s translation of Sappho. Giovanni Boccacchio. De claris mulieribus. Strassburg: Georg Husner, about 1474-75, not after 1479. All credit:


A. N. Devers is a long-time contributor to Fine Books and owns The Second Shelf, a new London bookshop of rare books, first editions, and rediscovered work by women.

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Daniel Crouch Rare Books is at the CA book fair this weekend and has brought a most fitting map to his booth: a playful look at the cradle of the technology industry, circa 1983. Titled simply, “Silicon Valley,” the 30” by 39” color printed map offers a chipper bird’s-eye view of the computer industry as it was thirty-six years ago.


Among the hundreds of firms included on the map are companies like IBM, Toshiba, Apple and Hewlett-Packard vying for space with now-defunct tech players like Four Phase Systems and Wang. Illustrated by children’s book author Maryanne Regal Hoburg (B.B. Bear, Basic Brown Bear), the map demonstrates the robust, almost childlike enthusiasm of the tech ecosystem participants of the early 1980s. Peppered among the computer companies are sentiments like, “Everybody is in the fast lane,” and “Silicon Valley is a highly competitive place.” Near Apple’s headquarters, an archer aiming an arrow at an unwitting participant says, “I’ll shoot the apple right off your head!”


The map isn’t all just tech and computer companies; universities like Stanford and Santa Clara receive their due, and the local Chuck E. Cheese--founded by fellow Silicon Valley scion and Atari creator Nolan Bushnell--is promoted as the best spot for a kid’s birthday.


Produced by City Graphics of America, a small graphic design company known for fun, comic-style maps, this copy is being offered for $45,000. That’s a lot of bytes.


Image courtesy of Daniel Crouch Rare Books

The Zamorano Club is Southern California’s bibliophilic club -- it is to SoCal what the Grolier is to New York, and the Caxton is to Chicago. To mark its 90th anniversary last year, a volume of essays exploring the historic contributions of women booksellers, printers, and collectors in California was published, titled Zamorano Celebrates 90.


Women were only offered membership in the Zamorano Club beginning in 1990; still there were many contributions to showcase, namely: Gary Kurutz of the California State Library Foundation on bookseller Alice Millard; Carrie Marsh, director of special collections at the Claremont Colleges Library, on Los Angeles bibliophile Olive Percival; Author Romy Wyllie on collector Estelle Doheny; ABAA bookseller Jennifer Johnson on printer Lillian Marks of the Plantin Press; ABAA bookseller Brad Johnson on bookseller Peggy Christian; Author Michelle Zack on librarian and collector Mayme Clayton; and author Elizabeth Pomeroy on Agnes Dawson and the women of Dawson’s Book Shop.

Zamorano 90.jpgA copy of Zamorano Celebrates 90 will be offered for sale at PBA Galleries’ auction this week in Oakland, estimated at $200-300. Quarter-bound in purple cloth and brown leather with gilt-stamped titles and decorative endpapers, this is copy 75 of 75 subscriber copies signed by all the contributors. It was donated by Johnson Rare Books & Archives, and proceeds will benefit the ABAA Benevolent Fund.  

Piggybacking on all that is a panel discussion organized by the ABAA Women’s Initiative during the California Antiquarian Book Fair this Sunday from 9:30-11:00 a.m. The panel brings together five contributors to discuss the Zamorano project. The panel will be moderated by ABAA member Kait Manning and features Jean Gillingwators, editor and project coordinator of Zamorano Celebrates 90; Judy Sahak, librarian emerita at Scripps College and first woman president of the Zamorano Club; Gary Kurutz; and booksellers Jen and Brad Johnson. The panel is free and open to the public.

Image courtesy of PBA Galleries

Ralph Sipper Books_picasso pic.jpg “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.” (Pablo Picasso, Time magazine, October 4, 1976)

The Picasso being offered for sale at Ralph Sipper’s booth (#304) during the 52nd California International Antiquarian Book Fair next week may be one of the more reasonably priced pieces to hit the market in recent years. It’s an original six-color crayon drawing by Pablo Picasso being offered for $40,000. But the provenance is priceless.

Pablo and Pablo.JPGThe image of a grinning lion, rendered in Picasso’s inimitable style, graces the back of an oversize postcard measuring 4.75” by 6.5.” Sent from Cannes, France, Picasso mailed the card to Connecticut, where Pablo Frasconi, the six-year-old son of woodcut artist and book illustrator Antonio Frasconi, was the intended recipient. 

Signed simply, “Para mi Amigo, Pablito 5/11/58, Picasso,” the card was a thank you note for a gift of the boy’s own sketchings sent to the famous artist earlier that year.

“Unfortunately, the detail of what we sent Picasso was not recorded as far as I know,” said Frasconi. “I know it included Antonio’s artwork too, and a letter to Pablo.”

In adulthood, Frasconi followed in his father’s creative footsteps, taking up the video camera rather than the engraver’s burin. “As a young man, I remember seeing the film of Picasso painting on glass, and reading the David Douglas Duncan book Picasso’s Picassos,” explained Frasconi. “All of this resonated when I watched the films of [non-narrative filmmaker] Stan Brakhage at MOMA in 1971. I immediately decided to study film with him. Brakhage had that same innocent and introspective eye that I detected and admired in Picasso, and, at times, emulate in my own work.”

Indeed, as an 18-time grant recipient from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the American Film Institute, many of Frasconi’s films have focused on the lives of artists, starting with his own father. Other notable films include “The Light at Walden,” and “The Survival of a Small City.” He is currently a professor at the University of Southern California.


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Images, from top: Pablo Picasso postcard, used with permission from Ralph Sipper Books. Photograph, front and verso: “Pablo and his greatest possession,” taken December 1959 by Leona Pierce. Used with permission from Pablo Frasconi. 

Of all the many wonderful books, manuscripts, and ephemera on offer beginning tomorrow at Rare Books LA, one collection stood out to me, both because of its serendipitous dovetailing with our current issue’s feature story on National Park Service libraries and archives, and the alarming news about damage to our parks in the wake of the government shutdown. It is a catalogue called “Our National Parks,” and it is the brainchild of two antiquarian booksellers, Utah’s Back of Beyond Books and California’s Walkabout Books. According to the catalogue’s introduction, it took the booksellers three years to compile this material; while NPS pamphlets and brochures were easy to find, they wrote, “interesting manuscripts, archival, and photographic material appeared on the market less often than anticipated.” But, in the end, they succeeded. “Our National Parks” is astounding in its breadth, covering 323 items related to national parks listed literally A to Z--Acadia to Zion--and including photo albums, diaries, first editions, and vintage posters. Of course, John Muir is here, as are Ansel Adams and Marjory Stoneman Douglas. Here are a few more highlights:

016543 copy.jpgHarry Herzog’s “See America -- Visit the National Parks” promotional poster, a NYC Art Project, WPA, c. 1940. Price: $5,750

015400 copy.jpgFirst edition of Edward Abbey’s nature classic, Desert Solitaire (1968) from the library of screenwriter John Michael Hayes. Price: $975

20245_2 copy.jpgA photo album containing forty-two original photographs by F. Jay Haynes and manuscript text by J.H. Purdy documenting a hunting trip through Yellowstone and Grand Teton in 1896. Price: $18,500

Images courtesy of the booksellers

Biennially, the Codex Book Fair in California celebrates and exhibits the work of book artists. This year’s fair, Codex VII, runs from February 3-6 at the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, California. The primary exhibition this year is CODEXNordica, curated by Imi Maufe and Codex Polaris, a book artists group, who are bringing together a collection of artists books and book arts from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden. The work of a large selection of book artists from the Scandinavian countries will be on display alongside approximately 80 book works made especially for the fair by a variety of artists involved in a related project called Bibliotek Nordica.


Tables will be curated by the following artists: Åse Eg Jørgensen / Pist Protta, Denmark; Tatjana Bergelt, Finland; Arkir ArtBook Group, Iceland; Codex Polaris, Norway; Carina Fihn and Lina Nordenström, Sweden. In addition, Thomas Millroth will offer a keynote address at Codex and two artists, Åse Eg Jørgensen and Tatjana Bergelt, will speak at the seminar about their projects.


sounds_confusing2_maufe copy.jpgFurther, Imi Maufe will be speaking at the Book Club of California on February 4 and a related talk will take place at the San Francisco Center for the Book on the evening February 7. Also on display at the SFCB will be the exhibition “Posted/Unposted++”, a Nordic letterpress exhibition featuring the work of twenty-five Scandinavian artists. The exhibition will be on display until April 28.  After closing at the San Francisco Book Club, the exhibition curators intend for it to continue traveling the United States.


Image credit: Imi Maufe, courtesy of the SFCB

So begins Rare Book Week West and with it the good news that Booktryst, the rare books blog founded ten years ago by antiquarian bookseller Stephen J. Gertz, is making its book fair debut at Rare Books LA this weekend.

#1a.jpgBooktryst also issued its first catalogue this past Friday. “Rare Eros” covers--or should we say uncovers--erotica of the 16th-20th centuries, some of it illustrated and much of it provocative. Pictured here is something on the tamer side, a scarce Parisian directory of prostitutes and brothels published in 1829. It is a second edition, a variant of the only other recorded copy at the BnF. No firsts are known. The price is $900.

How about a young rake’s exploits in a nunnery? See #57, Nunnery Tales (1932) with five b/w “explicit plates.” Or the pin-up style of various mid-century editions of Exotica and Exotique? I wonder what the pages of Nicholas de Cholieres’ La Guerre des Masles Contre Les Femelles [The War of Men Against Women], published in 1586, hold?

John Payne, author of Great Catalogues by Master Booksellers (2018), called the catalogue “sensitive, thoughtful, and bibliographically carefully described selection.” See his full review here. A PDF version of “Rare Eros” is available, but perhaps NSFW, limited print editions designed by Poltroon Press are available for $40, or go see it for yourself in Pasadena, where, coincidentally, another bookseller will be offering books from the private library of Playboy founder Hugh Hefner.

Image courtesy of Booktryst

One of the nicest fairs in the cycle of our year, is the Chelsea book fair. This is managed by Graham York, on behalf of the ABA, and is held in Chelsea Old Town Hall. This is a beautiful venue, with tapestries and paintings from English history adorning the walls, and oozing with that easy charm that this part of London does so well. We were all slightly less “easy” this year, as the town hall has just been fully refurbished. It looks beautiful, but we were slightly nervous about damaging the paintwork!




We arrived on the 1st November, and soon had our stand set up and prepared. This year, we focussed on showing more art and posters, which made for a rather complex arrangement of frames to display them. Nevertheless, Marcia and I managed it, and were able to look round and see what everyone else had provided. 


Chelsea is run by the ABA, so naturally, we expect a high standard of material from all of the exhibitors. This time, I thought I would focus a little on the “non-book” items that crop up at an ABA fair! It goes without saying, that alongside these items were many many, many wonderful books, maps, prints and other paper collectables. 




First stop was to Graham York. With his wife Jan, he runs a lovely bookshop in Honiton in Devon. Part of their offering this year was a lovely microscope (in its case), a selection of miniature books and a very nice Italian atlas. 




Next door to them, was the irrepressible Christopher Saunders, the ABA’s Cricket specialist. Naturally, he offered many cricket books this year, but he also displayed this bat, signed by 27 of the players involved with a 1926 tour of the Australian Cricket team to England. A snip at only £450 for a whole wedge of cricketing history. 




I think the strangest item for sale at the fair, was a whole tray of (hopefully unused) glass eyes. Presumably intended for the doctor to choose the perfect match to a patient’s other eye, this rather macabre, but nevertheless fascinating collection was certainly eye-catching (sorry). 


As ever, it was great to catch up with friends, colleagues and relatives whilst in London. A great end to the year’s season in the UK, although we still have the Mechelen fair to go in Belgium; hope to see some of you there. 


--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author. 

Waylaid by the weather, I had only one day to browse both Boston fairs this year. It’s an impossible task, but still, I saw many amazing books, manuscripts, and objects.

Sandburg.jpgThe Boston Book Print and Ephemera Show (aka the Satellite Show) was bustling on Saturday morning. I stopped to chat with Phil Mosher and Sue Bishop of Mosher Books. In addition to a lovely selection of decorated publishers’ bindings, one of their highlights was a Carl Sandburg collection, which included his typewriter, as well as 12 boxes of archives, 57 letters, 42 inscribed books, and much else. The collection, being sold en bloc on behalf of an institution, was built over thirty years by his friend and collaborator, Helen Champlain, a New York City bookseller.

I made two purchases at the fair, the one most of interest to readers here might be a salesman’s sample of an 1872 book titled Lights and Shadows of New York Life. Here’s the thing: it reminded me very strongly of another sample book (or dummy) that I bought in NY two years ago: a historical treatment of NYC, bound in burgundy cloth with a decorative gilt cover design, and empty subscription pages bound in at the back. Except I knew that it was neither the same title nor the same author. (I wrote about that original find here.) Published by the National Publishing Company, this “new” sample book precedes the other by more than twenty years, and yet in content and illustration it is notably similar--a tour of Manhattan, especially the seedier parts, with crisp engravings of people and buildings. I think a thorough collation is in order. These two books are spiritual siblings, or cousins at the very least.

The other buy was a scarce Susan Sontag title. Both purchases were from Books End; I shopped there several times when I lived in Syracuse and picked up an inscribed Tobias Wolff first edition (with a fabulous Fred Marcellino dust jacket) there a few years back.

46486309_497409507410467_4834215674261798912_n.jpgMy husband, who often tags along on my book fair jaunts and has become a collector in the past decade, also made two purchases, including an unknown (to us) edition of Henry Beston’s Firelight Fairy Book from 1919, both from Maine’s Lippincott Books.

What else? I noted a few first editions of Rex Stout novels, on my mind of late as I just edited a feature about him for our spring issue.

After lunch, it was off to the ABAA Fair for the afternoon.

One of the first booths I ambled into, lured by the Anne Sexton first editions on display, was that of Jett Whitehead, whose specialty is poetry. There I met (in person) Peter K. Steinberg, editor of the two-volume Letters of Sylvia Plath, who wrote a feature about Plath for us last fall. Peter was there signing copies of his books; he also gave a talk on Sunday, which I was sorry to miss. He persuaded me to visit the Jonkers Rare Books booth to stand in awe of Plath’s own proof of The Bell Jar, in which she made textual corrections and signed her name/address to the title page. It was priced at $200,000.    

Watches.jpgThe booth shared by Ian Kahn/Lux Mentis and Brian Cassidy was brimming with unique books and objects, like a mid-twentieth-century salesman’s sample book of 700+ watch faces (pictured above, courtesy of Brian Cassidy).

Abbey.jpgPersonally I find literary realia/relics very cool, and Ken Sanders Rare Books delivered that with Edward Abbey’s National Park Service shirt and hat.

Raven.jpgAnother item that couldn’t be passed by without a closer look was an 1875 folio containing Manet’s illustrations for Mallarmé’s translation of Poe’s The Raven, offered by Benjamin Spademan Rare Books. The image of the raven was absolutely striking; it is also “very rare in its original vellum wrappers,” according to the bookseller. Its price was $100,000.

Scientia Books was offering a few nineteenth-century medical books that I covet, which were, alas, not in my budget this year. I made one small purchase from Simon Beattie: his recently published translation of Gottfried Benn’s Morgue. The poems are dark but quite beautiful. Beattie, who was sharing a very busy stand with Honey & Wax Booksellers, was heartily congratulated by many for his role in the recent booksellers’ boycott.

One final observation: the Boston fair hosts “Cultural Row,” a series of booths near the bar at the back of the fair for institutions, clubs, and schools, including the American Antiquarian Society, the Ticknor Society, and Rare Book School, among others, to share information with collectors. Why doesn’t the New York fair do this? Lack of space? It seems to me a very worthwhile thing.   

Images courtesy of Brett Barry unless otherwise noted

After a busy fair in Amsterdam, there was just time to repack my stock and change my socks before heading off to Paris for the autumn edition of Bibliomania. This is a large event held in the Espace Champerret. Conveniently located just on the peripherique, we checked our bags into our apartment and went to set up.

BiblioP1.pngThis is a long fair. Starting on a Tuesday morning, and with traders coming into the fair to buy during set up, the fair continues until Sunday evening. Fortunately, we had decided to share a stand, so we could each take a little time off to enjoy Paris.

The fair is also large. Spread across two large halls, there are over 100 dealers, many with sizeable stands. The range of stock was particularly varied. Some tables were flowing with magazines and newspapers. Others had art prints, posters, and photobooks. Others again had traditional “book stands” with old, rare, and scarce texts. Almost everyone had a selection of erotica. I felt that we were missing out with our innocent Anglo-Saxon stock. What was almost universal, was the dominance of the French text. Not surprising, given that this is a French fair I guess.

Picture2.pngWhilst we were at the fair, we were approached by a team creating a video about the booksellers at the fair, and asked to appear. Naturally, we said oui and once ‘miked up’ we talked about English bookselling in Europe (well how we do it anyway). Of course, their main interest was Brexit, and they seemed quite disappointed that I didn’t know what is going to happen.

BiblioP3.pngOnce of the great things about a French fair is the laid-back approach to selling, and the importance of lunch! Each day, at around 1pm, several tables were pushed out of the way (along with any customers who happened to be standing there) and a spread was laid out by some of the exhibitors. This was proper “fine dining” with tablecloths and napkins, bread, cheese, grapes, dessert, a variety of wines, soup, casserole, etc. For the next hour or so, the booths looked after themselves, whilst the exhibitors relaxed in between the stands. The occasional customer continued to forage for books without interrupting the proceedings.

BiblioP4.pngIn the evenings, there were further drinks and entertainments. One of the parties I was involved in was at the Catawiki stand, which held a drinks reception for sellers. Catawiki also held a special auction of French items belonging to exhibitors, and held a raffle, where three lucky winners could obtain a Jules Verne Hetzel first edition. Very nice! This certainly generated a good crowd, and kept Kurt and Frederic busy for the evening.

BiblioP5.pngDrawing the raffle was the magnificent Erika, who is the ever-calm fair manager. She managed to keep control of over 100 exhibitors, deal with the cars in and out, and keep everyone happy for six days--no mean feat. On top of that, she kept her sense of humour through it all.

BiblioP6.pngAll in all, Bibliomania is definitely on the recommended list. Friendly, enjoyable, and very different from most of the other fairs we do. We made several new friends and customers, and look forward to coming back here again.

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

Last week saw the return of one of my favorite book fairs -- the annual Amsterdam book fair. This is hosted at the Marriott hotel, by the NVvA, which is the Netherlands branch of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. What better way to start the day than this view of the Reichsmuseum from my hotel room?

amsterdam morning copy.jpgAlthough a relatively small fair (there were 48 exhibitors this year) it is very friendly, and expertly managed by the fair team. The fair is just the right size to spend time at every booth, so you don’t feel that you have missed much. Naturally this leads to me spending far too much money! Every booth had brought their best to Amsterdam, my personal favorite being a huge copy of Oriental Field Sports by William Howitt, on sale at the Aix La Chapelle booth.

oriental field sports-1 copy.jpgOne of the nice touches at Amsterdam is that there is always an event for the exhibitors as part of the stall fee. This year we attended a party hosted by Antiquariaat Schierenberg at Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. Here is Jereon looking somewhat relieved the day after.

schierenberg copy.jpgThe following day saw a return to the fair, and more gazing enviously at other people’s stock, including these fine book boxes on Michael Solder’s stand. It is always good to see friendly faces and other associations attend the fair, and to see the beautiful objects they bring.

solder book copy.jpgSo we are all packed up, and back on the circuit for the next fair. For me this is the Bibliomania fair in Paris. Marcia is extremely worried that a five-day fair here gives me far too many purchasing opportunities. Wish me luck.

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

The Fine Art Print Fair, organized by International Fine Print Dealers Association, lands in New York just over a month from now, from October 24 (preview night) to October 28. As the largest fair dedicated to prints, it covers a lot of ground. From works by leading contemporary artists to the masterworks of the form, there will be a lot to see. Here’s a quick preview of Fine Books’ favorites.  

Emily Lombardo_Why Hide Them_Childs Gallery.jpgEmily Lombardo, Why hide them?, from The Caprichos, 2016. Etching and aquatint, 9 x 6 inches. Courtesy of Childs Gallery. 

Harland Miller_Armaggeddon_Galerie Maximillian copy.jpgHarland Miller, Armageddon: Is It Too Much To Ask?, 2017. Linocut,
70 1/4 x 47 1/4 in. Edition of 50. Courtesy of Galerie Maximillian.


Jim Dine_Blue Artist at the Bahnhof_Alan Cristea Gallery copy.jpgJim Dine, Blue Artist at the Bahnhof, 2018. Courtesy the artist and Alan Cristea Gallery.

Martin Schongauer_Two Shields Supported by a Wild Man_CG Boerner copy.jpgMartin Schongauer, Two Shields Supported by a Wild Man. Engaving, diameter 78 mm ( 3 1/16 inches). Bartsch 105; Lehrs and Hollstein 104. Courtesy of C.G. Boerner.

On Kawara_One Million Years_michele didier.jpegOn Kawara, One Million Years, 1999. Set of 2 volumes - 14.4 x 10.5 cm each volume - 2012 pages per volume - Total of 4024 pages
. Printed on Bible Veritable Ivory Paper 32. 
Cover: black leather over 400 gr cardboard
Silver / Gold embossing on front and spine. 
Limited edition of 60 numbered and signed copies (from 01/60 to 60/60), 500 numbered copies (from 061 to 560) and 10 artist’s proofs (from 561 to 570). 
Produced and published by Editions Micheline Szwajcer & Michèle Didier 
©1999 On Kawara and Editions Micheline Szwajcer & Michèle Didier.

Sean Flood_Shaftway III_Childs Gallery copy.jpgSean Flood, Shaftway - III, 2017. Drypoint and Monotype, 24 1/4 x 34 inches. Courtesy of Childs Gallery.

Tom_Hammick_IslandinMaine_Reductionwoodcut_Flowers copy.jpgTom Hammick, Island in Maine, 2017. Reduction woodcut. Courtesy of Flowers.


Over 100 rare book, photo, print, and ephemera dealers will fill the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, this weekend and transform the space into a celebration of art and the written word with a series of events and 50,000 of their most favorite finds of the season. This year, the fair commissioned artist and animator Nicole Antebi of Hudson Valley Motion Graphics to highlight the book fair and the unique opportunity it provides to find and build meaningful collections. Take a look:


Cultivating great collections one object at a time from on Vimeo.


Looking forward to seeing you at the fair! 

Make Way for the Montana Book Festival!



A quick consultation of the weather forecast reveals hot and humid weather for much of the United States...except for Montana, where the first winter weather advisories have already gone out in parts of the state and other areas are enjoying temperatures in the low seventies. Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Why not book a trip out to Big Sky Country for later in September, when the Montana Book Festival gets underway in the city of Missoula. From September 27-30, the festival includes author readings, writing workshops, panel discussions, and live performances. Bonus: the temperatures there during late September average in the mid-sixties.


Formerly known as the Montana Festival for the Book, the latest incarnation was born in 2015 after a local group of Montana booklovers took over the festival from the nonprofit Humanities Montana. The festival is currently run by Sam Burris and former bookseller Tess Fahlgren and has welcomed authors like Pulitzer Prize winner Jane Smiley, award-winning short story writer Meagan MacVie, and local authors like Sarah Aronson. This year’s lineup will be announced shortly.


A favorite event returning this year is Pie and Whiskey, the Spokane, Washington-based tent revival dedicated to literary engagement. The adults-only program offers pie, whiskey, and writers reading stories on topics ranging from sex, drugs, politics, and everything in between.


The festival is funded by grassroots efforts and every bit helps. Organizers have even designed a $30 T-shirt with the cheeky slogan “Make America Read Again,” with 100 percent of all profits going to towards programming.


More info on the festival here.


In a fortnight it’s back-to-school and therefore back-to-books with America’s largest regional antiquarian book fair, the annual Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, now in its fifth year and happening over two days on September 8-9 in Greenpoint, Brooklyn at the Brooklyn Expo Center. 


Today also happens to be the birthday of Mary Shelley, and in honor of her genius and magnificent creation of her monster, the fair is celebrating Frankenstein with a preview of the Morgan Library’s forthcoming exhibition: It’s Alive! Frankenstein at 200. 


The fair features several Frankenstein editions, including a third edition from Peter Harrington in London. Their copy of Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus is handsomely bound in brown half morocco with Johannes Schiller’s The Ghost Seer and Charles Brockden Brown’s Edgar Huntly; or, The Sleep Walker. Published in 1831, its spines are lettered in gilt, with illustrated title pages by Theodor von Holst. This is the first illustrated edition of Frankenstein, the third overall and the final definitive text and, Harrington notes, the first to gain true popularity. Shelley incorporated most of the changes introduced by William Godwin in the second edition. It also includes her now famous introduction in which she describes her haunting nocturnal storytelling session with Shelley, Byron, and Polidori at the Villa Diodati. The frontispiece is the first book illustration showing Frankenstein and the Creature.


Next week we’ll share more items at the fair. For today, happy birthday to Mary Shelley, who wrote a masterful work of genius as a teenager, a fact doubted by many literary critics and scholars over the years, who prefer to assign her husband with the credit.


Image courtesy of Book and Paper Fairs


I would like to say that after organizing the London PBFA book fair, Marcia and I had a well earned rest. In fact we moved house, which has kept us busy for the last month. But now our gaze returns to the books, and one of the largest fairs of the year is the Dordrecht book market (or Dordtse Boekenmarkt as it is properly known).

dordrecht_1.jpegThis was held on July 1, and this year welcomed almost 500 exhibitors. The market is held outside and takes over the market square in Dordrecht center, as well as ten of the surrounding streets. You can get some idea of the scale of the fair from the map below.

dordrecht5.JPGI set off at a decent pace (you need to with a fair of this size), naturally beginning at number 700/842! With the temperature at 33 degrees (91°F), I was glad of my trusty panama.

Of the 500 stands, 300 can be skipped past at a fair pace. They are stocked with general “reading copies” and although exceedingly popular with the public, cannot hold me for long. Another 100 stands are largely offering comics and “strips,” which remain very popular in the Netherlands. This left 100 stands for me to pick over. Still a pretty healthy number to work through.

dordrecht2 copy.jpgAnd work I did! Amongst the highlights I discovered were a lovely color sample book and a book of cartoons celebrating the Canadian Army in Holland during the second world war. Both from Klikspaan, an excellent antiquarian shop based in Leiden.

dordrecht3 copy.jpgAt nearly 500 stalls, the fair is almost too big to cope with, and I am sure I missed many wonderful items as I skimmed past stalls.

dordrecht4 copy.jpgOf course it isn’t all fun & books. My labors were rewarded with an enormous ice cream, courtesy of Arnoud Bosch of Antiquariaat Salamander. I have naturally, had to promise to buy a book from him at the next fair. An the next fair is another “Biggie:” The annual Deventer book market, the largest fair in Europe with 878 (yes almost 900) stalls. Wish me luck!

Images courtesy of Marc Harrison

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

Buyers_2_-_1.jpgA major used book sale is happening this weekend in Newtown, CT, at the 43rd annual C.H Booth Book Sale taking place at the Reed Intermediate School on 3 Trades Lane from July 7-11.

Organized and hosted by the Friends of the C.H. Booth Library, all proceeds from the sale go towards enhancing the library’s current collections, support library services, and fund various adult and children’s literacy programs.

Collectors of Beat Generation writers would do well to to set their alarms for opening day: This year’s sale includes a selection of first editions by authors like William Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg, and Jack Kerouac, many of which hail from the estate of a local book collector. A very good copy of Kerouac’s 1965 semi-autobiographical Desolation Angels can be had for $75, while a good signed first edition, first printing of Burroughs’ The Ticket that Exploded is available for $500.

Francophiles might be tempted by a 13-volume set of J.J. Rousseau’s Works, translated in English and published in 1767. The entire lot is priced at $1,000.

The sale also includes an assortment of 19th-century calendar books, signed children’s books by the likes of Tasha Tudor and Steven Kellogg, puzzles, and other board games. Students might even find a couple of textbooks for the fall.

In short, the C.H. Booth Friends Sale has something for nearly everyone and at prices that can’t be beat.


Numbered admission tickets become available on July 7 at 7am. There is a $5 admission fee on Saturday only. Get there early--we hear the line forms quickly. 

Further questions, including driving directions and parking, can be answered at the Friends FAQ page. Happy Hunting! 


Image via C.H. Booth Book Sale

In a positive sign of the times, we’re pleased to report the forthcoming arrival of another new book arts fair. Booklyn, that beloved Brooklyn institution dedicated to promoting book artists, printers, and other bibliocentric pursuits, is getting into the book fair business. In September 2019, Booklyn will be joining forces with the New York City Book and Ephemera Fair, also affectionately known as the Satellite Fair that takes place the same weekend as the annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair, and they’ve put out a call for exhibitors. Here are the specifics:


Booklyn has forty tables available to exhibitors for the duration of the two-day show at the bargain price of $400 each, limit four tables per artist, group, organization, or press. Contact to reserve a table before the September 1 deadline. The Fair itself will take place Saturday, March 9, 2019, 8:00 AM to 4:00 PM, and Sunday, March 10, 2019, 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM at Sheraton Central Park 811 7th Avenue New York, NY, 10019.


The theme for the 2019 fair is a bit of a mouthful, but certainly gets the point across: “Resistance and Resonance, how have the recent Art Build, Me Too, March for Our Lives, Black Lives Matter, BDS, Immigrants’ Rights, Gender Justice, and Standing Rock direct action movements affected the field of creative publishing?” Participants are invited to submit a proposal for a presentation based on that theme.


Bookyln organizers hope this new endeavor will provide participants the opportunity to meet new audiences and collectors in Manhattan.


In addition to launching a new fair, Booklyn’s in some new digs: the organization recently moved to a location in the Artbuilt Brooklyn center located in the Brooklyn Army Terminal (Building B-7G) and will reopen to the public in July with a welcoming exhibition, workshops, and lectures. The telephone number remains (718) 383-9621.



Rare Books London is now underway, and there’s an audible hum of activity in the rare book trade about ABA’s 61st annual London fair running from May 24-26. 


Here is our second brief round-up of dealers’ particular favorites offered with hope for warmer, less rainy weather and a great turnout for the fair’s debut in a new venue. See you at Battersea!



Deborah Coltham Rare Books has sent this 1802 broadside advertising a range of waterproof clothing designed, manufactured and patented by Ackermann, Suardy & Co of Chelsea, who invented a method for rendering materials impenetrable to water. Enticingly, Maria Hadfield Cosway, a close friend of Thomas Jefferson, did the enchanting stipple engraving. Price £1,800



There is a rare, dramatic, and important, if unnerving, entry from Alembic Rare Books in a ring-bound official photo album of the United States Air Force’s “Operation Greenhouse” documenting thermonuclear weapon use in 1951. The 89 original photographs in this album were taken by a crew of thirty professional photographers from the Air Force’s Lookout Mountain Laboratory in Hollywood, California, who also filmed two documentaries, one for public consumption and the other for the government. Price £6500



And to calm our now stirred nerves, here is Simon Beattie’s meditative offering in Susan Maria Ffarington’s illustrated panorama of The 104th Psalm. Lithographed by Vincent Brooks Day & Son, London, c.1870, it measures twelve feet in length, and illustrates all thirty-five verses of Psalm 104. Ffarington was the author of several devotional books for children and designed windows for parish churches near her estate. Sounds heavenly. Price £600



It’s a nice easy step from Psalms to Shakespeare, and we’re finishing up our preview with Sophie Schneideman’s offering of Cranach Press’s The Tragedie of Hamlet, Prince of Denmarke, of which she writes: “Hamlet was 17 years in gestation from when [Count Kessler] had seen Gordon Craig’s black figures for his Moscow Hamlet and decided that spectacular woodcuts could be printed from them. The result is one of the most important and spectacular works of the private press movement.” Price £14,000


Our first ABA fair round-up, posted last week, is here.


Images courtesy of the booksellers

It is that time of year again, when Marcia and I must put all thoughts of road trips to one side, whilst we concentrate on preparing for the PBFA London Antiquarian Book Fair. As the name suggests, this is in London, has lots of antiquarian books, and is put on by the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association (PBFA). We manage the fair -- so it keeps us pretty busy.

ilec1.jpgThis year, we have once more gathered a group of over 100 exhibitors who come to London to buy and sell beautiful books, maps and other works on paper. Dealers come from every part of the world to be part of the fair. This year at the Ibis Hotel, Lillie Road, we will welcome dealers from Canada, including Aquila Books and Voyager Press. From America, B & B Rare Books and D & D Galleries. (My new policy of only accepting Americans who use initials for their trading name seems to be bearing fruit.) We also have friends old and new from Europe. Christian Haslinger and Antiquariaat Talke will both be presenting their usual impressive stands. We are also bringing along a contingent of Dutch booksellers this year, who we have met on our travels.

ilec2.jpgOf course our core membership are the stalwarts of the PBFA. We are very pleased that we span the generations of the organisation. Gerry and Glenda Mosdell from the Junction bookshop are amongst the “founding fathers” of the association, and at the other end of the spectrum, we are pleased to once again welcome the Bibliomaniacs, a group of booksellers from Papplewick school in Ascot, who proudly claim themselves as the youngest antiquarian booksellers in the world.

ilec 3.jpgWhatever your particular taste in books, you will find examples here. From the fine bindings of Temple Bookbinders to the modern firsts of Holybourne Books and Cheltenham Rare Books. From the ancient manuscripts of Alastor and Modern First Editions to the Antarctic explorations of Kingsbridge Books and Meridian Books. Naturally there will be a variety of maps and prints from the likes of Michael Morris and several others.

As usual, the event is part of Rare Books London, which sees London present a variety of book fairs and events to the world. We hope you will be able to come and visit the fair. If you do, be sure to say hello to Marcia on the reception, and Marc on the Harrison-Hiett stand.

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

Welcome Bookworks, a New Artist’s Book Fair

FB&C readers, welcome Bookworks to the book artist’s fair scene. The San Francisco Center for the Book is hosting its inaugural event on Friday, May 18, from 5:30-8:00 p.m. at their location on Rhode Island Avenue. Eighteen book artists will be displaying their creations, all at price points between $50 to $500.


BW.JPG“We want this fair to support up-and-coming artists much in the way our founders, Mary Austin and Kathleen Burch intended when they created SFCB back in 1996,” said executive director Jeff Thomas. “Additionally, San Francisco hosts the CODEX book arts fair each spring, but young and struggling book artists often can’t exhibit there due to the relatively high cost to participate,” he said. “Our show is dedicated to supporting artists just starting out, as well as giving new collectors a reasonably-priced venue to start their own collections.” In addition to giving new artists a platform to reach prospective buyers, the show also welcomes established local book artists like Mary Laird and Lisa Rappoport. “At its core, this show is really about the vibrant book artist’s community here in San Francisco and that it can be accessible to all,” explained Thomas.

The event is free and will be accompanied by light hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, so RSVP ASAP! 

In just over two weeks the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association will host its 61st annual London fair, and for the first time will move to central London’s Battersea Park. The three-day event will feature 170 leading UK and international dealers, and is the centerpiece of over two months of activities relating to Rare Books London


Here’s a very small sample of what’s for sale at Battersea, with much more to come next week. 


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Justin Croft Antiquarian Books has sent us a sublime edition of Le Livre des mortes [The Book of the Dead], published in Paris by G. Leblanc in 1948. Held in a black chemise and slipcase, it is a folio with text and plates etched and engraved throughout and in its original wrappers. Illustrated by Anton Prinner, an important transgender artist who “habitually was addressed by his friend Picasso as ‘Monsieur Madame.’ The book is profound in its large format and drawn from the translation by Pierret after the Turin papyrus. Prinner was likely born Anna Prinner but lived as a man throughout his life, studied painting at the Budapest school of fine arts in 1920 and went to Paris in 1928. He also studied occult sciences, esoteric doctrines, and mystical philosophies. Price £8,000


10851a.jpgJohn Atkinson Fine & Rare Books has a first UK edition of recently deceased and much heralded theoretical physicist Stephen W. Hawking’s bestselling and famous book, A Brief History of Time: From the Big Bang to Black Holes, uncommon with inserted postcard sent from Hawking’s address at the University of Cambridge. Price £1,750


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And coinciding nicely with the exhibition on Captain Cook’s voyages that just opened at the British Library, to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the departure of the Endeavour on his first voyage, Maggs Bros. Ltd. Rare Books & Manuscripts has shared a first edition of James Cook and John Hawkesworth’s stunner, An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of his Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere and successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow and the Endeavour...


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This Account is in full tree calf binding, contemporary to publication, that has come from the library of the Earls of Macclesfield. This set is offered to the market for the first time, having been held back by the family from the series of Sotheby’s sales in the 2000s. Price: £15,000


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Finally for today, Weird Stories, a wonderfully witchy and scarce volumue from Jonathan Kearns Rare Books and Curiosities. Published by Chatto & Windus in 1884, it is, says Kearns, “one of the scarcest collections of Victorian weird tales from a widely acclaimed master in the field,” with stories including “The Old House in Vauxhall Walk” and the legendary “Old Mrs. Jones.” Price: £2,500


Images courtesy of the booksellers

Paris, tu es ma gaieté, Paris...

Spring in Paris--is there anything better? Doubtful. The icing on the cake? Today through April 15, the Grand Palais hosts the Salon International du Livre Rare et de l’Objet d’Art. This year the Salon is backed by France’s UNESCO commission and presented by president Emmanuel Macron. (To be determined whether he is greeted by hecklers as he was at February’s Agricultural Fair.) The Salon has grown in scope and attendance over the past few years, and 20,000 visitors are expected to stroll the temple to Beaux-Arts architecture at the corners of General Eisenhower and Winston Churchill Avenues.



This year’s special guests include the Institute for Contemporary Publishing Archives (IMEC) and the National Conservatory of Arts and Crafts (CNAM). IMEC specalizies in preserving archival collections at various publishing houses, while CNAM is a doctoral-degree granting program founded in the throes of the French Revolution. Both will be exhibiting materials culled from their respective archives.

Among the fifty participants at this year’s salon is Solstices (16 rue Pestalozzi, Paris), a rare books dealer specializing in architecture, political posters, Russian art, and surrealism. And Laurent Coulet will be showing a major Proust find.

Museum exhibitions, paper-making demonstrations, and book signings round out this delightful cabinet of curiosities, and with a ten-euro entry fee, the Salon is well worth the price of admission. (Bouquinistes, students, Friends of the Louvre, and LILA booksellers are admitted free.) Bonne foire to all!


Image: Salon catalogue via le Syndicat national de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM)

After the joy of the Colmar fair, it was time that we prepared our new stock and set off for the Maastricht Antiquarian Book & Print (MABP) fair. Maastricht is in the very south of the Netherlands, in South Limburg, a thin strand between Germany and Belgium. The MABP is a lovely little fair. In St Jan’s church, in the centre of the old town, overlooking the market square. 


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There was a wealth of fabulous items at the fair, on entering the church, one of the first things I saw (it was hard not to) was a large lithograph by Picasso, “Femme au corsage à fleurs” offered by De Vries & De Vries. Produced in 1957, it is simple yet striking.  


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Equally striking, but in a very different way, was on the stand of Paul Bremmers. The theme of the Maastricht fair this year was cartography, and if you are going to have a map, then one of those on Paul Bremmers’ stand would certainly fit the bill. At 2.4 metres by 1.7 metres the Nova Tabula Dioeceseos Traiectinae (Nieuwe Kaart van den Lande van Utrecht) is a lot of map!  


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At the end of the second evening, the hall was slightly rearranged, and we gathered together to have an excellent meal, put on by the fair organisers. The English contingent, including our colleagues from Graham York Books, in Honiton and Marrin’s Bookshop in Folkestone, joined us at the table, if only to keep Marcia under control! 


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Of course, whilst in Maastricht, it was essential to go and visit The European Fine Art Fair (TEFAF). Naturally, the emphasis here is on art and antiques--the entrance and corridors are fabulous themselves. Japanese suits of armour guide you down the corridors to the exhibits. On our way around we managed to sniff out a few of our colleagues offering books and maps. At the Bernard Shapero stand, I was very excited to see a set of the Andy Warhol Shoes. I have seen the book of these, but never the full sized lithographs.


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It was good to see some of the new-comers to TEFAF, such as Librairie Camille Sourget who were exhibiting for the first time. Something to aspire to one day! Finally, we went off to find our friends at Daniel Crouch Rare Books who had a fabulous display of globes and maps.


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After all of this excitement, we retreated to our apartment, and packed up for the long (long) drive to Sweden for the Stockholm ILAB fair, where we shall next report from. 


--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author. 

Pausing only to put our snowshoes and extra warm jumpers away, Marcia and I went to the airport to go to the SELAC fair (Salon européen du livre ancien et de la gravure de Colmar). 


Colmar is a very nice little town in Alsace, just inside France. The border is so close that in the airport you choose whether to walk through customs into France, Germany, or Switzerland. 


Once there, we had a lovely time with 40 dealers from France and Germany. Having met up with Kurt from Catawiki, we set off around the fair. Two things particularly stood out for me here. One was the sheer number of excellent limited, illustrated editions by French authors (often in very limited numbers indeed), and the number of exhibitors who displayed beautiful visual pieces. Indeed, for me, this was almost a varied and fascinating art exhibition. 




One of the first stands to catch my eye was Antiquariat Barbian, from Saarbrucken with some marvellous Chagall colour lithographs printed by Mourlot of Paris, such as this editions of Le Monstres de Notre Dame (above).




Another stand with striking images was a local exhibitor librairie le Cadratin of Colmar. They had some wonderful images of the Alps, including this dramatic ascent of Chamonix by Adolphe Braun. 


chatillon.JPGMy final image was from a series of caricatures. Pierre Chatillon was a Swiss national, who had been imprisoned during the first world war for a less than flattering image of Kaiser Willhelm. Whilst incarcerated, he produced a fabulous series of original works, all caricatures of his gaolers and other German officers. This delightful image was my favourite (above). These were offered, along with some original Gustave Dore illustrations (below) by librairie Pierre Calvet.


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Naturally I couldn’t let the opportunity pass and brought far too many books. In fact so many that we had book extra baggage on the plane home and dragged Kurt along on a trip to Strasbourg in order to purchase a suitcase. Marcia was most displeased! My favourite purchase kept up with the theme of artistic items -- I picked up a lovely photograph album showing the carnival floats at Nice in 1897.




Money and energy depleted, we set of home once again, to briefly rest before packing up our stock, and preparing for the Maastricht MAPF and TEFAF next weekend. 


--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author. 


It’s not an easy job, but someone has to do it: I spent Friday and Saturday in New York City browsing the antiquarian book fairs. This was my ninth year at the fairs, and they have never failed to amaze.

IMG_0135 copy.jpgIt’s simple enough to name my personal favorite from Friday at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair: the impossible-to-miss Jules Galet’s El Cuerpo del Hombre...1843-1846, illustrated with 193 striking lithographs, priced at $4,000 in the booth of Deborah Coltham Rare Books. There it was, face out, so to speak, and absolutely stunning.  

Atwood.jpgAnother favorite was a pristine, signed first US edition of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, in Fred Marcellino’s iconic dust jacket, brought by Caliban Book Shop. It was $500, and it looks like it was sold before fair’s end.

Brass copy.jpgUnder the glass at David Brass Rare Books, the gorgeous blue morocco Tina Miura binding of Bernard C. Middleton’s A Catalog of the Thirty-Three Miniature Designer Bindings of You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover (1998), with varicolored onlaid morocco “books,” prompted me to stop and take a closer look. The asking price was $8,500.

Two more that tempted: a copy of famous book hunter and author Vincent Starrett’s Brillig (1949) with a neat bookplate, seen in Jeff Bergman’s booth, and the advance reading copy of the first British edition of Nicholson Baker’s novel, A Box of Matches (2002), complete with a promotional book of matches, admired in Ken Lopez’s booth.

IMG_5172 copy.jpgOn Saturday, the NYC Book and Ephemera Fair at its new Times Square location was hopping (pictured above). Great offerings all around, and dealers seemed happy with the new space. It was biblio-déjà vu for me and my collector husband, who turned up a publisher’s dummy of John Muir’s My First Summer in the Sierra--one of his favorite books--at Colebrook Book Barn’s booth. (At this fair two years ago, we unearthed another very cool dummy.) We also picked up a few treasures with Adrienne Horowitz Kitts at Austin Abbey Rare Books, one of which is a relatively inexpensive, little illustrated book titled Gutenberg and the Art of Printing (1871), in a beautiful decorated publishers’ binding. The author is one Emily C. Pearson, perhaps a research topic for another day. Prints Charming Soho, Inc. took a novel approach, exhibiting piles of vintage paper suited for framing.

IMG_5173 copy.jpgImages: (Top) courtesy of Rebecca Rego Barry; (Middle, upper) courtesy of Caliban Book Shop; (Middle, lower) courtesy of David Brass Rare Books; (Both at bottom) courtesy of Brett Barry.

Release The Kraken! A NYABF Preview

Those feeling a bit windswept by the weather these days may do well to head over to the NYABF at the Park Avenue Armory and peek into Abby Schoolman’s exhibit at booth A32, where she’s highlighting some exciting contemporary art books and bindings. In addition to her stable of works by the likes of Mark Cockram and Tim Ely, Schoolman is introducing her latest Instagram find, The Kraken, by thirty-year-old Spanish paper artist Carla Busquets.

Kraken!.JPGThis one-of-a-kind book includes eight original drawings rendered in black ink on four folios mounted on five wooden dowels.The piano hinge structure is based on innovations by book artist Hedi Kyle and the piece is signed by the artist on the back of the last leaf.

“I mostly work with paper,” Busquet explains in Schoolman’s catalogue. “I love the versatility of the material, how easy it is to manipulate and also the skill required to turn it into delicate work.” She also looks to the natural world for inspiration, and in The Kraken, Busquet looked to the massive, fearsome sea creature of the deep that was believed to capsize seagoing vessels since the time of Odysseus. In this rendering, the kraken’s massive tentacles churn the black waves, ominously approaching a doomed schooner.

Formerly a conservator in the UK, Canada, and Spain, Busquets opened her own studio, la Frivé, last year where she hosts workshops for paper artists of all ages in addition to practicing her craft.

Bonus: this kraken won’t swamp your book-buying budget, nicely priced at $500.

If you’ve got time and energy to spare after rummaging through the NYABF’s wares, head down to Pier 36 where the annual Art on Paper show focuses on contemporary art.          


Image courtesy of Abby Schoolman

French author Victor Hugo was, it seems, a militant supporter of American abolitionist John Brown. A rare first edition of a pamphlet written by Hugo and retaining its original photograph of Hugo’s striking line drawing of the 1859 hanging of Brown, is one of the highlights at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, which opens tonight at 5 p.m.


hugo brown 2 copy.jpgPrior to Brown’s execution, Hugo sent a letter to the London Evening News decrying the decision to hang Brown. He wrote:


”...When we reflect on what Brown, the liberator, the champion of Christ, has striven to effect, and when we remember that he is about to die, slaughtered by the American Republic, that crime assumes an importance co-extensive with that of the nation which commits it -- and when we say to ourselves that this nation is one of the glories of the human race; that, like France, like England, like Germany, she is one of the great agents of civilization; that she sometimes even leaves Europe in the rear by the sublime audacity of some of her progressive movements; that she is the Queen of an entire world, and that her brow is irradiated with a glorious halo of freedom, we declare our conviction that John Brown will not die; for we recoil horror-struck from the idea of so great a crime committed by so great a people...

For -- yes, let America know it, and ponder on it well -- there is something more terrible than Cain slaying Abel: It is Washington slaying Spartacus!”

hugo brown copy.jpgThese sentiments and others that followed were widely reprinted and then collected in this 1861 pamphlet, published in Paris. It will be offered at the book fair by Librairie Le Feu Follet for $3,000.


Images courtesy of the NYABF and Librairie Le Feu Follet

Need a literary justification to visit the Caribbean this spring? Consider the NGC Bocas Lit Festival, taking place in downtown Port of Spain in Trinidad and Tobago. Billed as the region’s premier literature festival, the Lit Fest is devoted to developing and promoting Caribbean authors by hosting five lively days of author panels, workshops, film screenings, and performances. Held at the National Library and Old Fire Station, the festival will run from April 25-29 and is free to the public. 

In addition, NGC organizers will be announcing the 2018 prizes for Caribbean literature on April 28. Launched in 2011, these annual awards recognize the previous year’s most notable additions to the Caribbean canon. Last year’s winners included Jamaican poet Safiya Sinclair’s Cannibal (University of Nebraska Press), Augustown by Kei Miller (Weidenfeld and Nicolson) took home the top prize for fiction, and Virtual Glimpses into the Past/A Walk Back in Time: Snapshots of the History of Trinidad and Tobago by Angelo Bissessarsingh (Queen Bishop Publishing) won for best non-fiction work.




The overall winner receives an award of $10,000, while category winners each receive a cash prize of $3,000. Eligible submissions must have been first published in English in 2017 and written by a single living author who either holds Caribbean citizenship or was born in the Caribbean. (Though Francophone authors hailing from Haiti, Guadeloupe, and Martinique aren’t necessarily eligible unless they write in English, their work can be considered for the Prix littéraire des Caraϊbes et du Tout-Monde and the other prestigious French awards like the Prix Goncourt.)                                                                                                                                        
The NGC Lit Fest goals are to both celebrate the Caribbean’s literary achievements while also maintaining the region’s literacy rates, which hover around 97 to 99 percent of the overall population. Haiti remains the exception, where the literacy rate is near 60 percent, despite a rich two-hundred-year history of producing talented writers like Toussaint Louverture, Jean Price-Mars, Dany Laferriere, Jacques Roumain, and Marie-Celie Agnant.                                            


Need another reason to book a flight? Check out this interview  with Trinidad and Tobago native Tracey Baptiste, author of The Jumbies YA series. She spoke with my daughter, Abgail, in late January about Caribbean folklore and how it inspires her books. 


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Having shaken the dust of Stuttgart from our proverbial shoes, this week Marcia and I packed up our Volvo with stock, and set off for Dunkirk, the ferry to Dover, and eventually the PBFA Cambridge book fair


This is one of our favourite fairs of the year. Cambridge is a beautiful city, full of excellent restaurants, the occasional college, and my cousins. The fair is ably run by Phil and Sarah from the Haunted Bookshop, a lovely children’s bookshop in the centre of town. Having set out our wares, we made our way to G David, the city’s other antiquarian bookshop (just over the Square from the Haunted Bookshop). The evening before the fair opens, there is traditionally a “bit of a do” in David’s antiquarian room. This year, they outdid themselves with the catering -- including the first time I have ever seen a “sausage tree.”


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The next day, the fair began in earnest. There were some lovely exhibits this year, and the Guildhall looked at its finest. It was good to catch up with some of my old colleagues from the UK. I spent quite a while chatting to Graham York from Honiton. Graham and Jan always have interesting stock, and this year was no exception. Nestling amongst the books was a lovely antique microscope.


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I was persuaded to purchase a couple of Russian prints from David Maynard, which will no doubt appear in Maastricht next month. David also had a fabulous Salvador Dali item, Dix Recettes d’ Immortalite. Although incomplete, this lovely items still contains a number of pop ups and etchings by Dali, including four signed by him. A large and impressive piece.


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Back on the Haunted Bookshop stand, I was shown a beautiful large plate of the East Window of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge by Joshua Kirby Baldry. Executed in 1809, the colours are as fresh today as they ever were.   


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My own favourite item from this year’s fair, was offered by John Underwood. He had a beautiful collection of hand-painted wooden soldiers, by E.V. Howell. Painted in 1929, these were created as small samples for larger museum exhibition items. Against all probability, John found another dealer at the fair who had a collection of original paintings of these same figures, which the artist had created in preparation. Naturally he acquired those pretty quickly!


And so the fair ended. Being polite, we paused to thank our hosts and the PBFA for organising the event, and we set off again for the continent. Our next stop is the SELAC fair (Salon Européen du livre ancien et de la gravure de Colmar) on the 3rd and 4th of March. Hopefully we shall see some of our new, and old, friends there. 


colmar fair.jpg--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

The 51st California International Antiquarian Book Fair comes to life in Pasadena this Friday. To mark the bicentennial of Frankenstein, the fair’s featured exhibit is a celebration of Mary Shelley’s ‘monsterpiece,’ from first editions to comics to vintage movie posters, with selections from the University of California at Riverside Library, Occidental College Library, the Academy Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ Margaret Herrick Library, and local book artists on display.

Riverside.paperback1-1 copy.jpgOn Saturday, two related talks are scheduled. At 1:00, Sidney E. Berger, professor of library and information science at Simmons College and the library school at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, will present Frankenstein in the Popular Imagination. At 3:00, there will be a panel discussion titled It’s Alive: How Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein Changed the World. It will be moderated by Los Angeles Times film critic Kenneth Turan and include David J. Skal, author of The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror; Sara Jane Karloff, the daughter of the original movie monster Frankenstein, Boris Karloff; and literary scholar Miranda Butler, UC Riverside.  

Harrington.jpgOf course, if you’re interested in buying some Frankensteiniana, there’s sure to be much on offer, including a spectacular collection of 21 letters by Mary Shelley to various persons, including two to Edward Trelawny and one to her step-sister Claire Clairmont, from bookseller Peter Harrington (£125,000); the first one-volume edition of Frankenstein (1831), bound as issued with the first part of Schiller’s The Ghost-Seer from Jarndyce Antiquarian Booksellers ($3,300); and a 1829 Theatre Royal playbill for the performance of “the popular Romance of Presumption or, The Fate of Frankenstein” from bookseller Simon Beattie ($300).

Images: (Top) Paperback editions of Frankenstein with expressive cover art will be on display in the special exhibit, courtesy of UC Riverside Library; (Middle) Mary Shelley letters archive, courtesy of Peter Harrington.

One of the reasons my wife and I chose to move to The Netherlands was so that we could easily travel to more of the many European book fairs and have bibliographic adventures. Last weekend we did just this -- flying from Amsterdam to visit the 57th Stuttgart Antiquarian book fair, organized by the VDA (the German national bookseller association, which is a member of ILAB). We were also looking forward to the short trek to Ludwigsburg to visit the wonderful shadow fair in the Musikhalle (pictured below).

ludwigsburg above copy.jpgBeginning in Ludwigsburg, we were pleased to immediately bump into our old friends Ralf and Susanne Lorych from Berlin. They were offering their usual fascinating range of books in English, French, and German, and I was able to add a nice little pamphlet on Belgium to my stock.
colonialwaren copy.jpgAnother great find at Ludwigsburg was the stand of Kunsthandel Brugsch und Lehmanns Colonialwaren, also from Berlin. They had a wonderful and eclectic display of curiosa and grotesques (pictured above). From shrunken heads (which they assured me were not real) to iconography, globes, and gothic artworks. The overall effect was that of entering a fascinating Dickensian grotto. We were very pleased to persuade them to sign up the for PBFA London Antiquarian Book Fair. This is the premier book fair that we manage in May. Very exciting, as we now know that our visitors to that event can look forward to the spectacle.

luther copy.jpgThe highlight of the trip for me was being able to examine (but sadly not afford at €450,000) a lengthy handwritten letter by Martin Luther written in 1543, and offered by Kotte Autographs of Rosshaupten (pictured above). Although I dislike the antisemitic diatribe of the letter, one couldn’t help but be awed in the face of a manuscript by a man who had such an impact on world history. Published in the same year as Luther’s letter, Kotte also offered a beautiful first edition of De humani corporis at €950,000 (pictured below).

vesalius copy.jpgAccompanied by my friends Kurt Salchli and Horst Kloever, book specialists from the online auction Catawiki, Marcia and I moved on to visit the “official fair” at Stuttgart and were soon surrounded by another profusion of beautiful objects.

Hatry of Heidelberg had a lovely display of books on swimming, including De arte gymnastica libris sex, from 1587 at €1,400. They also had some beautiful children’s pop up items.

tenschert hours copy.jpgBibermuhle of Ramsen, had a wonderful collection of incunabula and Books of Hours, including that of Jean Troussier at €880,000, and I had to spend a while gazing at the illuminations on this stand (pictured above).

After a brief interlude plotting ways of gaining more exhibitors for the Amsterdam book fair with Laurens Hesselink from Asher/Forum Rare Books in ‘t Goy (near Utrecht), and catching up with Robert Frew from London, we continued our tour of the fair.

There seemed to be many excellent collections of art and lithographs this year, and one of my favorites was that of Kunstkabinett Strehler of Sindeltingen, who as well as an excellent collection of signed works by Picasso and Chagall, had a beautiful display of Maria Sibylla Merian whose botanical illustrations are as fresh as they were in 1679.

My last dash round included a much closer look at the fabulous Japanese and Chinese material of Hans-Martin Schmitz and his wife, who had traveled from Koln. I think there is something about the ‘last chance saloon’ feeling of the final half an hour of any fair. The clock is ticking and I am always tempted into purchasing a large number of pieces...

And so ended our foray into Germany. We returned arms (and luggage) full, back to the Netherlands, where poor Marcia will now have to catalogue our purchases and prepare for the next adventure. Cambridge here we come in two weeks’ time.

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.

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.)


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                                                                                                                                                                  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.

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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)

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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.

Candace Hicks.jpg
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.
Auction Guide