The Boston Book Fairs: November 13-15
- by Bruce E. McKinney
Over the weekend of November 13-15 the Annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair returns to America’s cradle of democracy. The venue is the Hines Convention Center. Nearby Marvin Getman’s Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show will set up at the Back Bay Events Center to host 63 dealers on Saturday the 14th. The ABAA fair will include more than 100 dealers. Outside of New York on the east coast the Boston fair is a big deal and has been for years.
The ABAA fair is both is both a traditional selling event and a call to arms for would-be collectors, dealers and institutions. They come to trade but also to raise hope and interest in collecting the printed word and images. Rare books are an extraordinary field confronting aging demographics and changing tastes and neither dealers nor collectors will “go gentle into that good night.” So they will be back in beantown to renew their commitments and encourage newbies into the extraordinarily interesting world they long ago embraced.
The ABAA fair does a very good job providing opportunities for the interested to hear discussions on subjects relating to their field. The collecting of old and rare material is and has long been the convergence of the esthetic and scholarly and book fairs strive to attract both audiences. Serious collectors are often that special species of mankind that sees collectible print through both lenses. With that perspective a collector develops ambition. The ABAA works hard to illuminate these two views that is both obvious to the serious and initially obscure to the neophyte.
There are two book fairs in the same city over the same weekend because there are two separate communities that seek the same customers at different stages in their collecting lives. The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America is the storied, long dominant association of many of the best-known and long established dealers. The Satellite Fair, as it is colloquially called, offers the world of non-ABAA dealers the opportunity to exhibit and sell in a nearby venue. The non-ABAA community is probably 7 or 8 times the size of the ABAA’s 450 members. Both do well. The ABAA dominates the sales and the non-ABAA dealers the growth. Both are essential as the market shifts from a reliance on rare books to manuscripts, maps and printed-paper. The Getman fair is less expensive for exhibitors, making it possible to offer the less costly material that increasingly looms large as the emerging class of intensive narrow collecting takes hold. Institutions and collectors today grasp the scale of choices and are being transformed.
The ABAA fair dominates the important and exotic material that the premiere collectors pursue while the next generation of important collectors may be a few blocks away at the Satellite Fair sorting through the eclectic debris of future ABAA dealers who have spent months parsing possibilities looking for material they casually invested in that can, with glitter and splash, become incandescent sparks that pay bills and illuminate the path to at least the next show. Bookselling is at its most basic level the sale of dreams that collectors come to buy. At their best book fairs are intellectually complex, their public encounters evidence of what is for most collectors, mostly a private affair.
So at both fairs expect the rare and exceptional, both behind the counters and in front. Knowledge, wealth and commitment will for a few hours make Boston the place to be. It turns out book fairs are about hope. So go there and be hopeful.
Antiques Roadshow: 20 Seasons of Book Appraisals!
Saturday, November 14, 12:30pm
Executive Producer Marsha Bemko gives a behind-the-scenes look at PBS’s most-watched ongoing series, and reveals stories of rare books discovered—those that made it on camera and those that didn’t.
Saturday, November 14, 2:00-5:00pm
The Typewriter Rodeo poets will be on hand to write an original poem for you on any topic you choose on their eclectic collection of vintage typewriters.
DISCOVERY: Starting Your Own Collection
Saturday, November 14, 2:30pm
Panel Discussion - A rare opportunity to ask the experts the best way to start your own collection. Afterwards, shop the Fair and visit our “Discovery” exhibitors for items $100 and under to help you begin your collection.
Political Americana: Ticknor Society Roundtable
Saturday, November 14, 4:00pm
This 14th annual collectors’ roundtable will focus on Political Americana: trends in collecting, how to shop for your collection, and you’ll also see two personal collections from top collectors!
The Invention of the Modern Dictionary
Sunday, November 15, 12:30pm
Peter Sokolowski, Editor at Large, Merriam-Webster - Commonly referred to as the Unabridged, and edited during the turmoil of the American Civil War, the 1864 edition was the first comprehensive revision of Noah Webster’s famous dictionary. Learn more about the real history of this traditional American brand.
FREE Expert Appraisals!
Sunday, November 15, 1:00 - 3:00pm
Bring your books & ephemera to get expert free appraisals. You might find you have a valuable treasure!
Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair
Hynes Convention Center
900 Boyleston Street
Friday 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
Saturday Noon to 7:00 pm
Sunday Noon to 5:00 pm
Boston Book Print and Ephemera Show
Back Bay Convention Center
180 Berkeley St. [at Stuart St.]
Saturday 8:00 am to 4:00 pm