Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2013 Issue

A Weekend in Boston

8933c255-8896-46f4-b9df-1757e456e1ec

The Shadow Fair, the shifting emphasis on ephemera

Over the weekend of November 15-17 I was in Boston for the 36th annual ABAA Book Fair and the Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show.  The ABAA fair, held again over three days at the Hynes Auditorium, is the most important book fair in New England every year and a reflection of New England’s storied rare book history.  The Shadow Fair, at the nearby John Hancock Hall reflects a more blue collar rough and tumble rare and used book market where non-ABAA booksellers, with a check, can for a day rent a place to offer their material.  They represent two worlds, both reflective of the of the diverse rare book field in New England.      

 

These days the ABAA fair meets all the requirements for a highly serious fair except perhaps for scale.  Many, even most of the important ABAA and ILAB dealers participate but these days a declining percentage of the rank and file are and the beautiful exhibition area was a little empty reflecting what has been long said about the Boston fair, it often a little bit soft.  Dealers who thought so and stayed away were mistaken.  Whether it was the recovering economy, receding recession, or simply the magic of old paper to incite fresh interest both shows reported a very strong sales.

 

A few blocks away the Shadow Book fair, operating in a congested warren of rooms at the Back Bay Events Center [180 Berkeley St.] was bursting its buttons.  It was a one-day fair and also very busy.  The ABAA fair costs several thousand dollars for a generous 3 day space, the Shadow Fair $450 for a seat in the bleachers for one very busy day.  Both work.  They would both work better if they were in the same building, even the same room.  As it was, they were nearby, eight blocks apart by Google map and as it turned out – a nice walk.

 

The ABAA is very much serving the carriage trade, the wealthiest corner of the market but the future of the field, was in my view, more on display in the crammed rooms of the Shadow Fair where serious dealers, librarians, and collectors crouched and stooped into the corners and deep into boxes to see what they could discover at very reasonable prices.  Such investigations lie at the heart of the collecting experience.

 

The numbers at both fairs are reported to have been very good.  It’s not to say every participant did well.  The shows can bring the crowds but it is the dealers who bring the material and if what’s offered is over-priced, shop worn, common or unimportant the results often aren’t good.  Most, by all accounts, brought fresh material and did well.  It was a very encouraging sign.

 

The 69 exhibitors at the Shadow Fair and 115 at the ABAA together represented one of the largest fairs in North America.  If they were few blocks closer one can only wonder what the synergy would be.

 

As for myself, if one attends one looks.  The outcome was five purchases, a Copake Iron Mines pamphlet, Columbia County, 1864 from DeWolfe and Wood [ABAA fair], James Arsenault [a map of Columbia County New York] who exhibited at both fairs, and three Hiudson Valley ephemera from Peter Masi who exhibited at the Print and Ephemera Fair. 

 

So mark your calendars for next year.    

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions