Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2008 Issue

Book Fairs: Lights, Camera, Action

3.generations

3 generations, no one under 40


By Bruce McKinney

On two successive recent weekends, first in San Francisco and then LA, the San Francisco Book, Manuscript and Ephemera Fair and then the ABAA annual west coast Book Fair offered California book collectors a chance to buy interesting and collectible printed material. For the serious collector it was the venti-double-cappichino of show me, tempt me, sell me and for dealers a double hand of "dare" to invest to be present. As in poker, you have to ante up to play. Between the two shows almost 360 dealers exhibited, about 40 of them at both fairs.

The traffic at both shows was acceptable if not consistently strong and for most dealers the investment paid off. Randomly some dealers did exceptionally well and as randomly some were disappointed. As often happens the alchemy of shows is a brew of material brought, buyers attending, floor chemistry and national sentiment. The book business has always been more a souffle than a cakemix. When emotions are positive, books and collectibles generally sell well. When they are not watch out.

The San Francisco fair was held at the Concourse at 7th and Brannon, an aging building designed for railcar repair and maintenance that became a convention center in the 1970s, an era when trust was the rule, not the exception, so the building's perimeter is a series of doors. These days most are sealed. The cow barn ceiling may once have seemed a 7th wonder, today it's city-rustic: the place a "tweener", that book not yet old and valuable but no longer new. But never mind, no one comes here to buy the real estate. They are here to trade dollars for works on paper. For exhibitors it's the chance to sell; for collectors the opportunity to acquire. It is very large and organizer Walter Larsen sets booth rents low by closing off the 8th Street side to minimize access, security and manpower issues. Booth rents come in at and under $500, an attractive price that entices more than 200 exhibitors to rent every square inch. Mr. Larsen has told me he focuses on efficient shows and delivers.

When the lights come on Saturday morning February 10 attendance is comfortable, the audience interested if not zealous. Compared to the ABAA Fair to follow, the mix of material is eclectic, books more in the middle price range with plenty of posters, ephemera and collectibles. There will be no hard numbers for total sales and average transaction by vendor for either show but anecdotal comments later suggest mild disappointment in San Francisco, a sentiment that carries over to LA the next weekend. Both shows will succeed but LA will do better although it's unclear what participants net after expenses. If there are any calls home to say "I won the lottery" it will be buyers more than sellers making the calls.

Forty exhibitors in San Francisco also exhibit in LA and the same material, in the two settings, has a remarkably different feel. In San Francisco bluejeans and sneakers feel right in the unheated air and cement floor in a space large enough to dock the Graph Zepplin. In LA, Gucci loafers, Dolce & Gabbana sports jackets and Cartier watches are more appropriate. The Los Angeles Hyatt Regency Century Plaza on Avenue of the Stars, the show site and resting place for most out-of-town participants, provides an elegant setting that makes both booksellers and book buyers feel they are, at least for a few days, part of a special universe of the highly intelligent, the mensa of books afficienados. Dealers who do both shows later indicate they do better in LA although they don't necessarily do well at either event. In hindsight the local fair is blue collar, the LA fair white glove.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>The Sportsman's Portfolio of American Field Sports.</i> 1855. Est: $600 to $900
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Bishop's Birds. Etchings of Water-Fowl and Upland Game Birds.</i> 1936. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting Big Game in Far Northwest British Columbia</i>. 1904. Est: $500 to $800
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Mananaland. Adventuring with Camera and Rifle Through California in Mexico.</i> 1929. Est: $400 to $600
    <b>Doyle: Hunting Books from the Collection of Arnold "Jake” Johnson. Online only auction Aug 3-14</b>
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Grand Canyon Trails.</i> 1924. Est: $300 to $500
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>A Sporting Trip through Abyssinia. A Narrative of a nine months’ journey..</i> 1902. Est: $200 to $300
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hunting in Tanzania [...in Zimbabwe; ...the Sudan; ...in Botswana; ...in Ethiopia; ...in Zambia; ...in South Africa; ...in Kenya]</i>. 1991-2000. Est: $800 to $1200
    <b>Doyle, Online only auction Aug 3-14:</b> <i>Hounds and Hunting through the Ages ... with an Introduction by the Earl of Lonsdale</i>. 1928. Est: $600 to $900
  • <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>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Luis de Lucena, <i>Arte de Ajedres,</i> first edition of the earliest extant manual on modern chess, Salamanca, circa 1496-97. Sold for $68,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Carte-de-visite album with 83 images of prominent African Americans & abolitionists, circa 1860s. Sold for $47,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Gustav Klimt, <i>Das Werk,</i> Vienna & Leipzig, 1918. Sold for $106,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Man Ray, <i>[London Transport] – Keeps London Going,</i> 1938. Sold for $149,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Thomas Jefferson, Letter Signed, to Major-General Nathanael Greene, promising reinforcements against Cornwallis, 1781. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Nicolas de Fer, <i>L’Amerique Divisee Selon Letendue de ses Principales Parties,</i> Paris, 1713. Sold for $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Russell H. Tandy, <i>The Secret in the Old Attic,</i> watercolor, pencil & ink, 1944. Sold for $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ernest Hemingway, <i>Three Stories & Ten Poems,</i> first edition of the author's first book, Paris, 1923. Sold for $23,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Walker Evans, <i>River Rouge Plant,</i> silver print, 1947. Sold for $57,500.
  • <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Ernst, Max. <i>Mr. Knife and Miss Fork</i>. Paris, 1932. DELUXE EDITION. Sold for $15,625
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Cage, John. Autograph musical leaf from his Concert for Piano and Orchestra, NY, 1958. Sold for $18,750
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Einstein, Albert. Signed Passport Photo for his US citizenship application. Bermuda, 1935. Sold for $17,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Verard, Antoine. Illuminated printed Book of Hours. Paris, 1507. Sold for $7,500
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Wetterkurzschlussel. German Weather Report Codebook - for Enigma use. Berlin, 1942. Sold for $225,000
    <b>Bonhams: September 25, New York</b>
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Morelos y Pavon, Jose Maria. Autograph letter signed to El Virrey Venegas, February 5, 1812. Sold for $6,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Milne, A.A. Complete set of <i>Winnie-the-Pooh</i> books. 4 volumes. All first issue points. London, 1924-1928. Sold for $5,250
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> A 48-star American Flag, battle worn flown at Guadalcanal and Peleliu, 1942-1944. Sold for $35,000
    <b>Bonhams, June 12 results:</b> Locke, John. Autograph Letter Signed mourning the death of his friend, William Molyneaux, 2 pp, October 27, 1698. Sold for $20,000

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