On the Road to Damascus

- by Bruce E. McKinney

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The ABAA Book Fair Homepage

For someone who will visit a book fair it may be an act of premeditation or whim.  Plans will be made and unmade, commitments adjusted, weather and health considered.  Some collectors will fly across the country and others take a subway.  Once inside the Park Avenue Armory at 67th in New York they will become part of a sprawling mass of enthusiasms that leap to life as thousands of the faithful and addicted make their way in.  For collectors the New York Antiquarian Book Fair is a measure of their year.  Made money, sold some investments?  The fair is a place to reap tangible rewards converting money into satisfaction.  All the better if they find something long wanted.  For those who hope to acquire the fair is a long anticipated moment.

For participating dealers it is months of anticipation culminating in five days of intense set-up, watchful waiting, discussions and negotiations.  For some dealers, a quarter of their annual sales will occur at this and other fairs.  Shows for dealers are everything from interesting to important.

Exhibitors come from around the world although most at this show call the United States or Canada home.  They will treat the New York Fair with varying degrees of significance although most hope to do well and all have heard the long told stories of the rich and famous spending several hundred thousand dollars with noblesse oblige flair.  This fair has a lottery ticket feeling and many dealers are wont to say “you never know.”

Preparations for this year’s fair began last year as the 2010 event was ending.  Many said and thought sales were good, enthusiasm high and prospects for this year appealing.  “See you next year if not before.  Are you going to do Boston?”  New York is everyone’s one first choice, Boston a year-to-year uncertainty, and the west coast fair, be it LA or San Francisco, a calculation.