Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2010 Issue

A Letter from New York

Abaa-ny

The ABAA NY Book Fair


By Bruce McKinney

Book fairs serve many purposes. They are site, catalyst and barometer, a place for booksellers and book buyers to cross paths, find material, exchange ideas, and access the changing playing field. The recent ABAA book fair in New York was all of this and more, many of the leading dealers and collectors meeting at the storied 7th Regiment Armory at 643 Park to see old friends and old books and explore new possibilities. The world of printed material is rapidly changing but for a few days it felt like life as it has been even as it becomes life as it will be.

Two hundred and three members of the ABAA, the American Antiquarian Bookseller's Association, and ILAB, the umbrella organization that encompasses the ABAA and various international bookseller groups, spent four days in April exhibiting their best and most interesting material to their best and most interesting clients and would-be clients. The well-lit space, built in 1861 in response to President Lincoln's call for troops to suppress rebellion, provided an appropriate setting for antiquarians to contemplate the bloodless revolution now over-taking the field. For these few days the dogs of war were at bay even if the sounds of gun-fire are everywhere about. This show is not only America's finest book fair, it is also catalyst for many other events; this year nine book, manuscript, ephemera and photography auctions as well as another fair, the New York City Shadow Show. In the week leading up to, and for a few days after, New York City became world capital of the antiquarian book field. For those in love with collectible works on paper it's an extraordinary opportunity. For those who feel isolated with their passion fair week is the chance to feel included, so many odd ducks all flying in the same direction, reconfirmed in their passion.

It also had the feeling of Paris in 1939.

Outside the world has been changing. New York, once home to hundreds of great old and rare bookstores now counts down toward the single digits, the Google search for rare book dealers in New York City, open shops by one count, now fifteen. Many more dealers remain and others regularly enter the field but today they sell on line. Few open stores, instead they open emails.

What once most separated dealers from collectors was information and that too has been changing. Twenty years ago, herculean memory, connections and extensive records gave dealers an unbridgeable advantage over collectors and institutions. Today databases amass information into searches and sorts that instantly calibrate rarity, relevance and price. Dealers who were once the gatekeepers of antiquarian knowledge now find themselves less aware of specifics than many collectors. It turns out that collecting subjects have always been deeper and more complex than bibliographies suggested. Today this complexity is accessible to those who understand that breathtakingly focused collections are the potential sum of what emerges day by day, not just what's available at shows, in catalogues and online. It is a world more different, exhilarating, exciting and frightening than anyone imagined: the man in a canoe confronting a title wave, a world in which the ability to collect efficiently soars while the men and women who sell books in traditional ways are forced to relentlessly adjust as old formulas fail and untested possibilities emerge, many of them mirages to the thirsty. The truth is that traditional book selling declines and the faceless, nameless reality that replaces it, although hardly visible, suggests acres of wild flowers as an alternative to the vase of prize tulips dealers now provide.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Newton. <i>Philosophiae naturalis principia mathematica</i>. London, 1687.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Josephus. <i>De antiquitate Judaica.</i> Lubeck, 1475-76.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Carlerius. <i>Sporta fragmentorum, Sportula fragmentorum</i>. Brussels, 1478-79.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Fridolin. <i>Der Schatzbehalter</i>. Nuremberg, 1491.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Pinder. <i>Der beschlossen gart des rosenkrantz marie</i>. Nuremberg, 1505.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Isidorus Hispalensis. <i>Synonyma de Homine</i>. Nuremberg, 1470-71.
    <b>Bonhams, inviting consignments for Sep 27:</b> Durer. Sammelband including <i>Underweysung der messing</i>. Nuremberg, 1525-29.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 19: 19th & 20th Century Prints & Drawings</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Sep 28: Printed & Manuscript Americana</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 5: African-American Fine Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 17: Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 19:<br>Art & Storytelling: Photographs & Photobooks</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Oct 26: Rare & Important Travel Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 2:<br>Old Master Through Modern Prints</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 7: Autographs</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 14: 19th & 20th Century Literature</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries: Fall 2017 Auction Schedule</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Nov 16: Contemporary Art</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 5:<br>Maps & Atlases, Natural History & Color Plate Books</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Dec 14: Illustration Art</b>
  • <b>Announcing a new Books for Sale platform hosted by Biblio</b>
    <b>List your books simultaneously on Rare Book Hub and Biblio</b>
  • <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Exodus 10:10 to 16:15. Complete Biblical scroll sheet in Hebrew, a Torah scroll panel. Middle East, ca. 10th or 11th century.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Copernicus Refuted. (Astronomy.). Scientific manuscript of a course of studies at Collège de la Trinité, Lyon. 1660s.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Israel’s War of Independence and the Early Days of the IDF. 58 photographs presented to Israel Ber, IDF officer and later convicted spy.
    <b>19th Century Shop’s Catalog 170 Great Books and Photos. Please inquire for a copy.</b>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Early Unpublished Darwin letter on the races of man. Autograph Letter Signed [to Henry Denny]. Down, Kent, June 1, [1844].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Classic Image of American Slavery. Kimball, M. H. <i>Emancipated Slaves</i>. New York: George Hanks, 1863.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> (Underground Railroad.) Scaggs, Isaac. Important Runaway Slave Poster: $500 Reward Ran away, or decoyed from the subscriber…

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