Rare Book Monthly

Book Catalogue Reviews - July - 2007 Issue

World's Fairs and Expositions from Marc Selvaggio

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World's Fairs and Expositions from Marc Selvaggio.


By Michael Stillman

This month we have our first review for Marc Selvaggio, Bookseller. The Berkeley, California, bookseller starts us out with an exciting collection of fair books, World's Fairs and Expositions, 1851-1940. Nothing can generate excitement like a world's fair, and Selvaggio has over 500 pamphlets and other pieces pertaining to a century's worth of them. Here is a chance to relive the thrills.

The most represented fairs are: 1851 London, 1876 Philadelphia, 1888 Barcelona, 1889 Paris, 1893 Chicago, 1901 Buffalo, 1904 St. Louis, 1915 San Francisco, 1929 Barcelona, 1933-34 Chicago, 1937 Paris, 1939-40 San Francisco, and 1939-40 New York. However, smaller exhibitions are also represented, including ones held in Denver, Cincinnati, Brooklyn, New Orleans, Portland (Oregon), Seattle, Omaha, Ottumwa (Iowa), San Diego, Vienna, Moscow, Madrid, Stockholm, Brussels, and even the Philadelphia Sanitary Commission Fair held during the midst of the Civil War. Here are a few samples.

Item 31 is an album containing 212 photographs and captions (in English) from the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris. This fair produced the most famous of fair buildings, the eyesore that came to be beloved by Parisians, the Eiffel Tower. It is shown in one of those pictures. Priced at $400.

Also from that Paris Fair comes Le Kansas en 1889. The copy was written by Emile Fermin, a French immigrant who helped settle Florence, Kansas. No, this wasn't Dorothy's Le Kansas. Item 29. $200.

Item 5 is a notebook prepared for America's centennial celebration in Philadelphia in 1876. The notebook points out that while there will be many printed reports on the centennial, "a diary or personal narrative of one's own observations and impressions may be made a most interesting souvenir." No one ever made this souvenir "interesting" as the pages are blank. You could still fill them in, but we would know you didn't really attend. $65.

Item 356 is the third volume of a three-volume set, Participations etrangers, covering foreign participants at the 1937 Paris International Exposition. This volume includes the German pavilion, designed by Hitler's personal architect Albert Speer. The Germans would return a few years later under much less welcoming conditions. $450.

By the time of the Golden Gate International Expo in San Francisco of 1940, war had broken out in Europe. Under the circumstances, the fair's theme of "Fun in the Forties" was a bit ironic. Item 364 is a four-page brochure marking Czechoslovak Day. Saturday, July 6, 1940. Czechoslovakia had been the first to fall to the German onslaught, and so this exhibit, first planned by the "Fallen Republic," was maintained by the "Committee for the Czechoslovak Cause." $20.

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