The pendulum of the Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association of America is swinging in its northern arc, reaching its invisible apex directly above the Concourse Convention Center in San Francisco over the weekend of February 15th to 17th. This is the ABAA’s largest show and by their calculation the largest book fair in the world. For those with at least a curiosity about old and rare books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera this three-day event is the increasingly rare opportunity to see first hand what fervor for the printed word is all about. A trip from any distance is justified.
Every other year the show comes to San Francisco. In alternative years it’s in southern California, most recently in Pasadena.
The show functions at many levels. For dealers it’s the opportunity to display a significant quantity of important, and often recently acquired, printed objects. For collectors it’s the chance to find them before they disappear into library archives or private collections. For the many non-profits that the ABAA supports by providing free display space, its their chance to interact with the select portion of the public that, in being interested in books and collecting, is probably also receptive to what they provide. Taken together, the show is a strongly positive event for the entire category.
For the educated, interested and aware the ABAA also provides seminars:
On Saturday at 1:00 pm noted Galileo expert Nick Wilding will give a presentation on the recent spate of forgeries relating to his celestial hero. The audience is expected to be divided between those interested to learn if their gems are real and those interested to learn if they will be caught. Forgeries have been around for a long time. The ABAA encourages this type of discussion because it suggests that the field is not for the innocent on their own. One must be guided if in uncertain waters and many members of the ABAA have the knowledge to help in this capacity.
At 3:00 pm the C. V. Starr East Asian Library at the University of California at Berkeley will present a seminar by Yuming He on the Ming Dynasty and related matters. If this subject is of interest opportunities to learn about the field are uncommon.
On Sunday there will be three more seminars. The first at noon is titled Book Collecting 101. To become a collector of the printed word you can learn the easy or the hard way. This is the easy way in part because the presenters believe they can deliver the news in 45 minutes.
This lecture is to be immediately followed by a seminar on “What’s my book worth? Take Valium with you for you are about to find out that, beyond all other variables, it chiefly depends on whether you are buying or selling. But if you don’t already know this you have probably already spent too much time singing the Loving Spoonful anthem, “Do you believe in magic?”
At 1:30 Sunday the final event of the show begins. This is the seminar called Discovery Day. You have Grand Dad’s comic books and he always said they are worth their weight in gold. Today you’ll find out if its 18 carat or pyrite.
Taken altogether the event is great fun. If you are reading about this you are invariably in the 10% of the population that loves the printed word. This show will be your chance to be under one roof with several thousand others that share your passion. You thought you were alone. You are not and you are lucky.
The 46th California Book Fair site
Concourse Exhibition Center
635 8th Street at Brannan Street
San Francisco, California 94103