Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2020 Issue

A Survey about Book Fairs

The opinions of buyers will matter

Many thousands of our members are frequent guests at book, manuscript, map and ephemera fairs.  Such events are time-old traditions that increasingly seem to be a step behind the many changes that have remade these fields electronically.  And this is important because the efficient use of time online underlies all assumptions about behavior.


If book fairs are less time efficient this survey considers some changes that will radically re-think and re-organize what book fairs may become.


Please share your opinions.


A Survey


How do you interact with rare book shows and fairs?


How many shows do you visit during an average year?


1 to 24


Your purposes for such visits


To meet dealers to buy material

To find interesting material

To offer to sell material to dealers


Material of interest such as







Material at shows is not consistently organized and sequentially displayed.


Do you find shows to be an efficient use of your time?


If a database of all material offered at a show could be a single search, and be marked as “I’d like to buy this” or “I’m making an expression of interest” would you find this capability useful?


Please note that dealers displaying material rarely offer more than 5% or 1/20th of their entire inventory.  If, displaying dealers offer a “show database” that includes both [1] searches of all inventory on the floor and [2] all material is held by exhibiting dealers, would you to be interested to make purchases?


Would you regularly use such databases?


Would you be more likely buy material if you could systematically search from show dealers.


If the show database was posted 21 days ahead of a fair would you be more likely to buy at a fair?


And if the full stock of participating dealers could be identified before the show are you open to have the displaying dealers to direct ship to you?


We will publish the results of this survey in the April issue of Rare Book Monthly.




Posted On: 2020-03-01 15:21
User Name: zephyrbook

Exhibit at 12-14 shows per year, and attend at least another 4-6.

To sell material, buy material, build client base

Books, Manuscripts, Ephemera, Photography & Objects

I have been exhibiting at Antiquarian Book Fairs and Antique Shows on a consistent basis since I apprenticed in the trade in 1987. And yes, the concentrated amount of time is quite efficient for me, far more than a brick & mortar shop which I operated for 13 1/2 years.

Success at book fairs requires many permutations. I maintain a database of over 4500 names which are continually culled. I send 100s of postcards and letters, emails, and catalogues to potential clients at the respective cities or areas in which I will be attending. I will say that snail mail return rate is far higher than any other medium. As such I physically spoke to, sold to, interacted with, and queried 87 of the 227 customers to which I sent postcards, passes & letters to in Pasadena for the recent show.

I cannot speak for every dealer, but I will tell you that much of the material I bring to a Show is specifically for the Show, and is not listed online, downloaded into an electronic format, and is intended for customers to discover through serendipity. Furthermore, I am often making decisions on what to pack the day before I leave for a show, so preparing a database weeks in advance would offer little appeal, or advantage to me.

Customers who regularly purchase from me, interact with me, and/or make an effort will receive advance email versions of the catalogue and occasionally paper copies.

I attend book fairs and other similar venues for buying when I can actually see, touch, and look at the material. I often buy things which would be very difficult to describe to me in a physical description, and often I am purchasing items for an entirely different purpose than what the dealer, or seller may have intended originally.

Posted On: 2020-03-01 20:52
User Name: johnwindle

This section doesn;t work

Posted On: 2020-03-02 02:18
User Name: wormandcandy

Attend approx. 6-8 book fairs a year. The amount of material is overwhelming yet the rush and anticipation of discovery is exciting. Many ABAA book members already list their material on the discreet ABAA search engine rendering the proposed idea - although thoughtful - redundant. How would the proposal alter in any meaningful way the search sources that already exist? Most of the dealers also have business and promotional material which further directs clients to individual store/dealer websites.

Looking to evolve these traditional fairs in light of current business models is absolutely critical. Yet increasing the magnitude of inventory is less so than a thorough evaluation of the fair structure and format - beginning with the demographics.

The book fair model doesn't need more inventory data bases, it needs a ground-shifting move away from its narrowing, shrinking demographic.

For example, consider the "Printed Matter" fairs. Attendance numbers are astronomical and the demographics of the attendees and exhibitors vast. Prices are modest yet the excitement is palpable. An old ABAA hand - art book and ephemera dealer - attends both and reports sales at Printed Matter fair 3x-4x higher than ABAA fairs. I'm 65+, and the Printed Matter fair is exhilarating - brimming with young as well as mature book people whereas ABAA events (which I enjoy greatly) tend to be demographically limited to a very narrow group of enthusiasts in the upper range of age and affluence.

It would be best to integrate the old and the new into one event - but given institutional traditions, that may take more time. So symbiotic shadow events are a needed first step.
Look to the California Fair in Pasadena on which you have posted 2 reviews. You report that the Shadow Fair had an enthusiastic reception. Had that shadow been geared toward a younger demographic with a variety of book, paper publishers, dealers and their clientele, the energy at the main fair would have had a referential overlap likely providing a healthy, new group of attendees already with a captured interest.

Of course the details of such events need to be carefully analyzed and projected, but unless the traditional book fair promoters (ABAA, etc.) cast their nets wider, e.g. from the shrinking demographic willing to paying $5,000 - let alone collect - a Hemingway first ed., such events will continue the apparent slide in dealer participation, business growth and customer development.

Whatever caution dealers posses re customer respect, the "Printed Matter" attendees do not damage, drop, deface or destroy the material at those events. They posses great regard and respect as you'd expect from the traditional customer.. Such events are not "the future" of the trade, they are the present. New York, Boston and SF/LA need to take heed.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Salvador Dalí, Lewis Carroll. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Finely Bound and Signed Limited Edition. 15,000 USD
    Modern First Editions
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    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ian Fleming. Live and Let Die. First Edition. 9,500 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: J.K. Rowling. Harry Potter Series. Finely Bound First Printing Set of Complete Series. 5,650 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Ernest Hemingway. A Farewell to Arms. First Edition, First Printing. 4,200 USD
  • Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Potter (Beatrix). Complete set of four original illustrations for the nursery rhyme, 'This pig went to market', 1890s. £60,000 to £80,000.
    Forum, May 30: Dante Alighieri.- Lactantius (Lucius Coelius Firmianus). Opera, second edition, Rome, 1468. £40,000 to £60,000.
    Forum, May 30: Distilling.- Brunschwig (Hieronymus). Liber de arte Distillandi de Compositis, first edition of the so-called 'Grosses Destillierbuch', Strassburg, 1512. £22,000 to £28,000.
    Forum, May 30: Eliot (T.S.), W. H. Auden, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Robert Lowell, Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, & others. A Personal Anthology for Eric Walter White, 60 autograph poems. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum, May 30: Cornerstone of French Enlightenment Philosophy.- Helvetius (Claude Adrien). De l'Esprit, true first issue "A" of the suppressed first edition, Paris, 1758. £20,000 to £30,000.
    Forum Auctions
    Fine Books, Manuscripts and Works on Paper
    30th May 2024
    Forum, May 30: Szyk (Arthur). The Haggadah, one of 125 copies, this out-of-series, Beaconsfield Press, 1940. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Fleming (Ian). Casino Royale, first edition, first impression, 1953. £15,000 to £20,000.
    Forum, May 30: Japan.- Ryusui (Katsuma). Umi no Sachi [Wealth of the Sea], 2 vol., Tokyo, 1762. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Computing.- Operating and maintenance manual for the BINAC binary automatic computer built for Northrop Aircraft Corporation 1949, Philadelphia, 1949. £8,000 to £12,000.
    Forum, May 30: Burmese School (probably circa 1870s). Folding manuscript, or parabaik, from the Court Workshop at the Royal Court at Manadaly, Burma, [c.1870s]. £8,000 to £12,000.
  • Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Marx, Das Kapital,1867. Dedication copy. Est: € 120,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Latin and French Book of Hours, around 1380. Est: € 25,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Theodor de Bry, Indiae Orientalis, 1598-1625. Est: € 80,000
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    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviary, Latin manuscript, around 1450-75. Est: € 10,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    G. B. Piranesi, Vedute di Roma, 1748-69. Est: € 60,000
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    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
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    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
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    C. J. Trew, Plantae selectae, 1750-73. Est: € 28,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    M. Beckmann, Apokalypse, 1943. Est: € 50,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Ulrich von Richenthal, Das Concilium, 1536. Est: € 9,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    I. Kant, Critik der reinen Vernunft, 1781. Est: €12,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Arbeiter-Illustrierte Zeitung (AIZ) / Die Volks-Illustrierte (VI), 1932-38. Est: €8,000
  • ALDE, May 28: KIPLING (RUDYARD). Le Livre de la Jungle. – Le IIe livre de la Jungle. Paris, Sagittaire, Simon Kra, 1924-1925. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: NOAILLES (ANNA DE). Les Climats. Paris, Société du Livre contemporain, 1924. €50,000 to €60,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MILTON (JOHN). Paradis perdu. Quatrième chant. S.l., Les Bibliophiles de l'Automobile-Club de France, 1974. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LEBEDEV (VLADIMIR). Russian Placards - Placard Russe 1917-1922. Saint-Petersbourg, Sterletz, 1923. €1,000 to €1,200.
    ALDE, May 28: MARDRUS (JOSEPH-CHARLES). Histoire charmante de l'adolescente sucre d'amour. Paris, F.-L. Schmied, 1927. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: TABLEAUX DE PARIS. Paris, Émile-Paul Frères, 1927. €2,000 to €3,000.
    ALDE, May 28: LA FONTAINE (JEAN DE). Les Fables illustrées par Paul Jouve. S.l. [Lausanne], Gonin & Cie, 1929. €4,000 to €5,000.
    ALDE, May 28: SARTRE (JEAN-PAUL). Vingt-deux dessins sur le thème du désir. Paris, Fernand Mourlot, 1961. €1,500 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: [BRAQUE (GEORGES)]. 13 mai 1962. Alès, PAB, 1962. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MIRÓ (JOAN). Je travaille comme un jardinier. Avant-propos d'Yvon Taillandier. Paris, Société intenationale d'art XXe siècle, 1963. €1,000 to €2,000.
    ALDE, May 28: MAGNAN (JEAN-MARIE). Taureaux. Paris, Michèle Trinckvel, 1965. €3,000 to €4,000.
    ALDE, May 28: PICASSO (PABLO). Dans l'atelier de Picasso. 1960. €15,000 to €20,000.

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