Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2015 Issue

The Like-minded press the flesh and turn the pages

56467e47-5255-4653-a49f-18f54aaf24ff

In Boston recently dealers from throughout New England and across America along with a spattering from Europe came together for a yearly right of passage – the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.  There were in fact two fairs and the feedback from buyers and sellers about both quite positive.

 

The Boston International Antiquarian Fair dates to the mid 1970’s, to the 200th anniversary of the American war of independence, to bell-bottoms, mood rings, pet rocks, Rubik’s Cubes and the release of Jaws.  In other words the fair has been around for a while, while still being essentially a modern affair.  Its companion event, the Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show, also has a history.  It has lurked nearby, changing venues through the years, slowly gathering strength as the book selling community has grown.  These days it's bigger, a primary event in its own right.

 

But if the dealers are the foundation of such fairs it is the active collectors, newbies and all the folks in between for whom the fair is emotionally important that make it, and have now made it for 39 years, a financially viable event.  This is a trade fair with a strong personal component. 

 

While the fresh and vigorous slip in with great agility, perhaps to come once and not again, among them there are some few for whom the books, buzz and community resonate deeply and they will return every year for the rest of their lives.  They find companionship here; in others they see and sense the like-minded.  In time they will pass through all the stages; as innocents, then knowledgeable, in time seasoned and finally anxious - about book fairs in the afterlife.  The book business it turns out is a morality play and every person involved given a variety of roles that change through the years.

 

Toward the end of what for many becomes a life long long march there are fewer books to buy or sell.  For them the fair is about companionship, the “hey how are you?” and “wow, it has been a while,” a reminder they have been part of something measured in decades.  For Leigh Stein now in his mid 80s, who attended almost all of the 39 main fairs and exhibited at many of the shadow fairs, it was enough recently to spend a few hours on Sunday, exchanging hellos with many whose hair, like his, has thinned and whitened with time. 

 

You didn’t have to buy a book to feel you belong here.  Your presence and the presence of so many other kindred spirits simply resonate the animal spirits of collecting.  Some people like movies.  These folks like paper and for them it’s no passing fancy.  It is how they understand life.

 

Interest in old books on both sides of the counter has a deep history in the region and has long made the area fertile territory for those animated by print.  But it is also a field held hostage by the Internet and changing tastes and fear of the unknown is something the interested have had to get past.

 

This was once a gentleman’s game that has been replaced in part by those with keen intellects and a gift for arbitrage because much of what’s offered at shows today leaves no foot or fingerprints.  So a dealer can buy something they are sure they can sell without fear their purchases [and cost] will show up in public searches.  It’s perhaps then fair to say this show and most others were once more retail than they are today.  That was checkers.  Today for many the game is chess and the difference the Internet where access to databases instantly identifies rarity and value.

 

As Eric Caren of the Caren Archive, the exceptional collector recently said when asked about his Boston fair experiences, “I bought at both shows from 25 dealers, never sat down, never stopped.  Marvin Getman’s, the Book & Paper show was the warmer, more open, the ABAA fair the larger and more traditional.  I buy paper Americana, a category that has, in the past, been more in the shadows.  This year the ABAA was well represented, a welcome change in my view.

 

“Knowledge is now the essential factor.  Both sides expect the other to be prepared and interest then quickly converts into negotiated prices.  It’s a wonderful time to be a collector because the material is so appealing.  With clarity about value easily obtained it’s then just a matter of price.”

 

Nina Berger, who manages the ABAA show’s publicity, reminded me to not forget the young.  “We believe about 15% of those attending were under 35.  They sat in on our various public presentations and seemed particularly taken with Saturday’s Typewriter Rodeo where Texas poets created instant poetry based on terms and themes provided by those queuing for some personalized poetry.”

 

Will Monie, of ABAA exhibitor Will Monie Books, called the fair “a good outing and well worth the 4 hour drive to Boston.  I understand that most dealers did well.  We need fairs and apparently so do collectors.”  If Eric Caren and Will Monie are any gauge both sides did well.


Posted On: 2015-12-08 00:07
User Name: Fattrad1

Bruce,

As I explained to you in San Francisco, Abe and Ebay are the modern stock (book) price valuation systems. Your quote "This was once a gentleman’s game that has been replaced in part by those with keen intellects and a gift for arbitrage because much of what’s offered at shows today leaves no foot or fingerprints. So a dealer can buy something they are sure they can sell without fear their purchases [and cost] will show up in public searches. " seems to require an auction. Not all auction results are indicative of "fair" pricing.


Posted On: 2015-12-12 19:49
User Name: MiRIAMGREEN

Dear Bruce
as a troglodyte dealer who refuses to enter the 'real world' of smart phones, does not sell on the net, and remains a brick and mortar shop, your overview of Boston brought back many memories. Have not attended that venue since the early 1990s when the poster was designed by now deceased and much missed genius Edward Gorey, Your description had me once again walking the aisles and greeting old friends meeting new dealers and collectors who now are stars. Thank you for some very sharp and pleasant sounds, smells, and conversations remembered and treasured. Susan Alon Miriam Green Antiquarian


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Caius Julius Hyginus, <i>Poeticon Astronomicon,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1482. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Giovanni Botero, <i>Le Relationi Universali... divise in Sette Parti</i>, Venice, 1618. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> <i>L'Escole des Filles</i>, likely third edition of the first work of pornographic fiction in French, 1676. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Illuminated Book of Hours in Latin on vellum, Flanders, early 16th century. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes Regiomontanus, <i>Calendarium,</i> Venice, 1485. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Pedro de Medina, <i>Libro d[e] gra[n]dezas y cosas memorables de España,</i> Alcalá de Henares, 1566. $3,000 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:<br>Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b><br>Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> Salamanca, circa 1496-97. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Andrés Serrano, <i>Los Siete Principes de los Ángeles, válidos de Rey del Cielo,</i> Spain, 1707. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 8:</b> Johannes de Sacrobosco, <i>Sphaera mundi,</i> first illustrated edition, Venice, 1478. $15,000 to $20,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. $80,000 to $120,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. $100,000 to $150,000
    <b>Bonhams: Fine Books and Manuscripts. March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. $10,000 to $15,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. $200,000 to 300,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. $80,000 to $120,000
  • <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Copper Printing Plate for "Marshall's Household Engraving of Washington." $500 to $1000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Important Documentary Painting Showing Baseball Great Ty Cobb in Cuba. $1,000 to $2,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> <i>Alcoholics Anonymous Comes of Age</i>, Inscribed by Bill Wilson. $500 to $1,000
    <b>Leland Little: Important Spring Auction. March 3, 2018</b>
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Joan Miró (Spanish, 1893-1983), <i>Prise à l'hameçon.</i> $3,000 to $6,000
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> Maurice Dufrène (French, 1876-1955), <i>Rayon des Soieries</i>. $400 to $800
    <b>Leland Little, Mar. 3:</b> William Pope.L (American, b. 1955), <i>Intimacy Project</i>. $2,000 to $4,000
  • <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Collection of 131 Herbert Ponting gelatin silver contact prints of Antartica, £6000-8000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of several lots of Henri Cartier-Bresson gelatin silver prints, £200-300
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Vintage gelatin silver print of Diego Rivera by Leonard McCombe, £300-500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Julia Margaret Cameron of Sir John Herschel (April, 1867), £30,000-50,000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Julia Margaret Cameron, Love, 1864 (from the Norman album), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print by Lewis Carroll of Twyford School Eleven (Summer Term, 1859), £1000-1500
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Albumen print portrait by Lewis Carroll of Xie Kitchin as 'Dane' (Oxford, 1873), £500-800
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Calotype print (c1845) by Hill & Adamson of Lady Elizabeth (Rigby) Eastlake, £3000-4000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Group of 12 waxed paper negatives of Scottish scenes by Thomas Keith, mid-1850s, £3000-5000
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> One of 15 lots of Roger Fenton salt prints of his work in the Crimea, mid-1850s, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Quarter plate ambrotype (c.1860s) with ethnographic portrait of a woman seated at a table, £400-600
    <b>Dominic Winter, March 9:</b> Rare whole plate thermoplastic union case of the Landing of Columbus (c.1858),part of the John Hannavy collection, £1500-2000
  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions