Notes on the Recent San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print & Paper Fair
By Bruce McKinney
Book collectors have come to expect at least one book fair in San Francisco during the January-February period. Every two years the ABAA brings its west coast show to San Francisco during this period but this is the off-year. Their tents this month are pitched in Los Angeles. Fortunately there is a San Francisco book fair that is put on every year. It is the San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print & Paper Fair and it recently was held at Fort Mason along the water off of Lombard Street Saturday and Sunday January 31st and February 1st. It’s a good show because it is open to all interested exhibitors. It has no association requirements and attracts an interesting variety of dealers.
The venue, one of the old airplane hanger sized wharf-warehouses that is now a convention and show center, provided ample room for 165 dealers to display a variety of interesting materials including books, maps and ephemera as well as some art. Free parking was ample and paid parking also available for the locationally-challenged. For those who ventured in there was much to consider: firsts, literature, fine books, bindings and printed art; history and Americana in all its forms including maps and ephemera; philosophy and science, sci-fi, and mystery. And of course there was more. Basically every category of books had some coverage. The ABAA shows that run three days and this Larsen show which this year ran two both have more success in attracting audiences on Saturday. Sundays have, for a while, been problematic. Compounding this issue this year February 1st was, in addition to being the second day of the show, also Super Bowl Sunday, a fact that every dealer I spoke to dismissed with a “I don’t even know when it starts.” Collectors seemed to know about the Super Bowl however and most were home in front of their televisions by 3:15 pm with their garbage bags of nachos waiting for the kick-off and the parade of commercials. This event conflict was unfortunate for collectors because this really was an interesting show and they are going to have to wait a while for another opportunity to see so many dealers together under one roof. The football game, and of course the half-time show, can also be see in reruns. The book fair won’t be back for 365.
I spoke with John Wong of Moe’s Books who exhibited at the fair and mentioned liking the location. He indicated that while they don’t regularly do shows, this one was reasonably good. “The bottom line: we made some money.”
William Maxwell of Maxwell’s Bookmark said, “Pretty good show. I’ve done San Francisco shows for the past 5-6 years and this is the first time at Fort Mason. I liked the venue. Overall I was happy and I’ll be doing it again.”
Jeff Carr, another exhibitor and an ephemera dealer for 30 years, said, “The show was very good. I met many new customers.”