Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2015 Issue

The Like-minded press the flesh and turn the pages

56467e47-5255-4653-a49f-18f54aaf24ff

In Boston recently dealers from throughout New England and across America along with a spattering from Europe came together for a yearly right of passage – the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.  There were in fact two fairs and the feedback from buyers and sellers about both quite positive.

 

The Boston International Antiquarian Fair dates to the mid 1970’s, to the 200th anniversary of the American war of independence, to bell-bottoms, mood rings, pet rocks, Rubik’s Cubes and the release of Jaws.  In other words the fair has been around for a while, while still being essentially a modern affair.  Its companion event, the Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show, also has a history.  It has lurked nearby, changing venues through the years, slowly gathering strength as the book selling community has grown.  These days it's bigger, a primary event in its own right.

 

But if the dealers are the foundation of such fairs it is the active collectors, newbies and all the folks in between for whom the fair is emotionally important that make it, and have now made it for 39 years, a financially viable event.  This is a trade fair with a strong personal component. 

 

While the fresh and vigorous slip in with great agility, perhaps to come once and not again, among them there are some few for whom the books, buzz and community resonate deeply and they will return every year for the rest of their lives.  They find companionship here; in others they see and sense the like-minded.  In time they will pass through all the stages; as innocents, then knowledgeable, in time seasoned and finally anxious - about book fairs in the afterlife.  The book business it turns out is a morality play and every person involved given a variety of roles that change through the years.

 

Toward the end of what for many becomes a life long long march there are fewer books to buy or sell.  For them the fair is about companionship, the “hey how are you?” and “wow, it has been a while,” a reminder they have been part of something measured in decades.  For Leigh Stein now in his mid 80s, who attended almost all of the 39 main fairs and exhibited at many of the shadow fairs, it was enough recently to spend a few hours on Sunday, exchanging hellos with many whose hair, like his, has thinned and whitened with time. 

 

You didn’t have to buy a book to feel you belong here.  Your presence and the presence of so many other kindred spirits simply resonate the animal spirits of collecting.  Some people like movies.  These folks like paper and for them it’s no passing fancy.  It is how they understand life.

 

Interest in old books on both sides of the counter has a deep history in the region and has long made the area fertile territory for those animated by print.  But it is also a field held hostage by the Internet and changing tastes and fear of the unknown is something the interested have had to get past.

 

This was once a gentleman’s game that has been replaced in part by those with keen intellects and a gift for arbitrage because much of what’s offered at shows today leaves no foot or fingerprints.  So a dealer can buy something they are sure they can sell without fear their purchases [and cost] will show up in public searches.  It’s perhaps then fair to say this show and most others were once more retail than they are today.  That was checkers.  Today for many the game is chess and the difference the Internet where access to databases instantly identifies rarity and value.

 

As Eric Caren of the Caren Archive, the exceptional collector recently said when asked about his Boston fair experiences, “I bought at both shows from 25 dealers, never sat down, never stopped.  Marvin Getman’s, the Book & Paper show was the warmer, more open, the ABAA fair the larger and more traditional.  I buy paper Americana, a category that has, in the past, been more in the shadows.  This year the ABAA was well represented, a welcome change in my view.

 

“Knowledge is now the essential factor.  Both sides expect the other to be prepared and interest then quickly converts into negotiated prices.  It’s a wonderful time to be a collector because the material is so appealing.  With clarity about value easily obtained it’s then just a matter of price.”

 

Nina Berger, who manages the ABAA show’s publicity, reminded me to not forget the young.  “We believe about 15% of those attending were under 35.  They sat in on our various public presentations and seemed particularly taken with Saturday’s Typewriter Rodeo where Texas poets created instant poetry based on terms and themes provided by those queuing for some personalized poetry.”

 

Will Monie, of ABAA exhibitor Will Monie Books, called the fair “a good outing and well worth the 4 hour drive to Boston.  I understand that most dealers did well.  We need fairs and apparently so do collectors.”  If Eric Caren and Will Monie are any gauge both sides did well.


Posted On: 2015-12-08 00:07
User Name: Fattrad1

Bruce,

As I explained to you in San Francisco, Abe and Ebay are the modern stock (book) price valuation systems. Your quote "This was once a gentleman’s game that has been replaced in part by those with keen intellects and a gift for arbitrage because much of what’s offered at shows today leaves no foot or fingerprints. So a dealer can buy something they are sure they can sell without fear their purchases [and cost] will show up in public searches. " seems to require an auction. Not all auction results are indicative of "fair" pricing.


Posted On: 2015-12-12 19:49
User Name: MiRIAMGREEN

Dear Bruce
as a troglodyte dealer who refuses to enter the 'real world' of smart phones, does not sell on the net, and remains a brick and mortar shop, your overview of Boston brought back many memories. Have not attended that venue since the early 1990s when the poster was designed by now deceased and much missed genius Edward Gorey, Your description had me once again walking the aisles and greeting old friends meeting new dealers and collectors who now are stars. Thank you for some very sharp and pleasant sounds, smells, and conversations remembered and treasured. Susan Alon Miriam Green Antiquarian


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <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.
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Used to Write "A Moveable Feast", Impeccable Provenance From His Biographer A. E. Hotchner. $50,000 to $100,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Samuel Colt, "The Gun that Won the West": 3 Signed Patent Items for "Revolving Cylinder Guns". $40,000 to $50,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Jack Kerouac's Own Typewriter From His Estate Used to Write His Very Last Book. $18,000 to $20,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Rare Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence Printed in 1848. $15,000 to $18,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Superb Tchaikovsky ALS to Napravnik, 4pp on "Mazeppa". $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Wounded Knee Massacre Same Day Eyewitness Account by Participant, "the 7th needn't be ashamed of today's record". $10,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> F. Scott Fitzgerald Signed Gordon Bryant Portrait -- Finest Known. $8,000 to $9,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Neil Armstrong ALS on NASA Letterhead Regarding His X-15 Flights. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> "Damn the torpedoes!" Riveting 24pp ALS of Admiral Farragut's Steward Describing the "Battle of Mobile Bay”. $6,000 to $7,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Order to Suspend Execution. $5,000 to $6,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions