Do you believe in magic - in New York?
- by Bruce E. McKinney
There is nothing quite so interesting as a book fair of the best dealers with their best material. And each year that ‘best’ event is in New York in April, this year April 9 to 12, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. This year’s fair is one of three New York events over the same weekend, the ABAA fair the largest by every metric. However, rigorous and time consuming requirements for ABAA membership create opportunities for others to organize events that cater to the thousands of dealers that live outside the ABAA and ILAB worlds. For collectors and institutions these other fairs are more of a very good thing. They are all worth seeing.
The ABAA event sets the table for the week – April 9 to 12th acting as catalyst for bibliographic events, auction previews and sales, as well as the “what’s my book worth” free appraisals on Sunday noon to 3:00 pm. ABAA fair events are organized to entice and educate the public to the virtues of collecting books, manuscripts, maps, and ephemera. Attendance for the serious is required, for the neophyte highly recommended.
Here is how the show describes itself; “Over 200 American and international dealers will exhibit at The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, bringing a vast selection of rare books, maps, manuscripts, illuminated manuscripts and ephemera.”
Here are their location and hours for the visiting public:
643 Park Avenue at 67th Street
New York, New York 10065
Thursday 5-9 pm
Friday noon to 8:00 pm
Sat noon to 7:00 pm
Sun noon to 5:00 pm
Preview pass $50
Daily admission $25
Run of show: $40
And on Sunday - Discovery Day April 12th from noon until 3 pm
Here is how the show’s promoters describe this event.
Each year on the Sunday of the fair, exhibitors offer their expertise to attendees. Discovery Day allows visitors to bring up to five items to discuss with experts. While formal appraisals are not given, dealers will discuss authenticity and condition, giving informal appraisals. Past Discovery Days have yielded some breathtaking discoveries including part of a Shakespeare second folio of Richard III! A first edition of Curious George with dust jacket was appraised at $3000. Also unearthed were original photographs of Louis Comfort Tiffany’s designs for stained glass. A first edition of the classic Beat novel, On the Road, was valued at $5000-$7000. Maritime history buffs were thrilled to discover their edition of Cook’s Voyages and Atlas were valued at $30,000. Exhibitors can examine items in most specialties, periods, and languages.
So if you have something in the attic you have always wondered about here is your chance.
And then there are the other two shows, between them a nice 20-minute walk or 5-minute taxi ride from the ABAA fair.
These shows are:
The New York City Book and Ephemera Fair
Wallace Hall at St. Ignatius Loyola
980 Park Avenue [at 83rd]
New York, New York 10028
Saturday Only 8:00 am to 4:00 pm
The Manhattan Vintage Book & Ephemera Fair / The Fine Press Book Fair
The Church of St. Vincent Ferrer
869 Lexington Avenue at 66th Street
New York, New York 10065
Saturday Only 8:00 am to 5:00 pm
The ABAA fair opens Thursday afternoon at 5:00 pm for 4 hours and on Friday at noon for eight hours. The other fairs are Saturday only and open at 8:00 am. Therefore the sweet spot for these alternative fairs is usually Saturday morning when they are the only game for the collectible paper enthusiast.
The ABAA fair continues on Saturday beginning at noon [for 7 hours] and then on Sunday from noon to 5:00 pm
The ABAA fair will be heavy on exceptional material, much of it expensive. The alternative fairs will focus more on ephemera and other less expensive material. Because the shadow fairs are a single day rapid negotiation is the norm.
What now follows are links to each of the show sites. The ABAA link connects to a long scroll down page. Everything you want to know is there. It is very well laid out.
The other two fairs also have home pages and I have provided links to them as well.
As is often and increasingly said, with the epidemic of store and shop closures in the rare paper field the best and sometimes only answer to the questions how do I meet dealers and see their material, the best way increasingly is to attend shows when they occur nearby. Only about one in a thousand people seriously collects. If you find your heart though, as you read this article, skipping a few beats you may be one of the lucky ones, they who understand the world through its printed and manuscript history. If so these fairs are exceptional, not to be missed, events.
On a sad, and hopefully not permanent note, the Professional Autograph Dealers Association [PADA] spring show, usually staged the same weekend as the ABAA fair, is not going to happen this year. We look forward to their return next year.