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2015 Bookseller Resource Guide
Dear Reader

Fair Games

Fine Books and Collections editor Ann J. Loftin
Editor Ann J. Loftin

This month, collectors who live in cold places have at least three good reasons to go someplace warmer. First, there’s the Miami International Map Fair (Feb 7-8th), the Super Bowl of mapdom, as it’s been called. Next there’s the second biennial Codex International Book Fair (Feb 8-11th), on the campus of the University of California at Berkeley. And closely following (Feb 13-15th), the 42nd Annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair takes place in San Francisco. I asked the fair organizers what it’s like to try and assemble so many different dealers in one place and got a predictable answer: “Hell on earth,” said Peter Koch of the Codex Foundation, a man from whom good copy freely flows. “You don’t know.”

Koch’s headache du jour is that the University of California “is so sick of being sued,” they’re requiring all vendors to come equipped with liability insurance. Multiply that requirement by 150 book artists, many of whom don’t speak English, and you get the idea. But Koch is soldiering on, because, as he says, “the world needed this event, big time.” Also, Koch adds, “I’m a fool. I want things to happen. This is my way of changing the world, at the micro-level.”

Over at Winslow & Associates, the organizers of the antiquarian fair sounded more sanguine. They’ve been doing this fair, after all, since 1996, and unlike Koch (who leans heavily on his wife and two part-time staffers), they can spread the work (or blame) around onto 12 permanent staff, in addition to the 40 recruits who work at the fair itself. I asked Lynne Winslow, president, to describe the challenge of bringing 240 exhibitors into a space and organizing events for them.

“At first we were shocked by how opinionated everyone in the book world was,” she said, “but then we realized—well, of course, they’re readers, they’re critics, opinions are what make books valuable.” The other thing that puzzled Winslow at first, she said, was “why everyone was in such a hurry to set up, why they were rushing around before the opening of the show.” She soon learned the reason: dealers selling to other dealers. “We find them very entertaining,” she said, of the booksellers. “They’re quirky personalities.”

I asked Neil Figurelli, one of several long-time fair managers at Winslow & Associates, whether such personalities required any special handling. “No, never,” he said, laughing. Evidently, the past placement of booths generated some accusations of preferential treatment. Now, a lottery decides all. Even so, lest past suspicions flare, “there are two entrances,” and neither entrance shall ever, ever be named the front entrance. Mr. Figurelli wants to be very clear on that point.

I will be sorry to miss the Miami fair this year, but I’m planning to sneak out of the office to attend both California fairs. I haven’t been to San Francisco since the early 1970s, when I ran away to Haight Ashbury to look for hippies. I lasted about four hours before placing an emergency call to my mother.

I hear the Bay Area is different now….something to do with computers?

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