Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2020 Issue

A Book Unfair

A book fair at the intersection of obsession and health

Booksellers, institutions and collectors look to New York City as the now and again Mecca for the high end rare book, manuscript, map and ephemera trade.  Rightly thought, given their expectations have been reaffirmed for decades, thousands flew, drove and rode to the Big Apple for the important event, The New York Antiquarian Book Fair at the New York Armory, hovering on the edge of Thursday March 5th, preparing for the opening at 5:00pm to the 4-day event pitched as the best for the very best.


Collectors arriving with comped tickets then needed to present passes to be admitted, creating a wavering line of some of the world’s most significant players gently packed perhaps a foot or two apart, perhaps already recipient of the show’s door-prize, the Coronavirus whose cousins once thinned visitors to New York during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918-1920, killing 50 million worldwide.


For vectors and victims, a reprise seemed unlikely in the deep arches, martial paintings and soft light, bathing the genteel hail-well-met crowd whose interests, successes and occasional world-class net-worth would not shelter or respect them because of their single unifying characteristic:  age, that the incipient Coronavirus prefers weakness in the lungs of aging and aged.


The only questions for these visitors were who will I see and what staggering printed examples may they, noblesse oblige, flick desultory yeses, across the temporary glass cases dividing sellers’ gems from motivated acquirers, so to carry away a treasure or two before the victorious cross Madison Avenue to Daniel that advertises, “never disappoints,” a scant half block to celebrate bibliographical victories over French wine and cuisine.


These folks, the field’s gold standard, stacked like cord-wood at the Armory would become a science experiment to test intelligence, wealth and viewing habits because Fox was at that very moment parading Trump’s bullshit all clear while MSNBC, CNN and just about every medical professional and foreign leader were expressing anxiety that infection was looming large.


As recently as March 24th 7 attendees at the show have developed Coronavirus, some carrying it to England, Italy and elsewhere.  The likely math suggests a hundred or more cases will trace to the book fair within another month or two as these guests and dealers become unintentional vectors to new victims.


As well, Trump’s fact-less blather broadcast both to New York and distant places quickly caused the Federal government and random state and local governments to hesitate to marshal resources, allowing the ignored pandemic precious time to go nuclear to double its body count every 6 days, expecting 300,000 infections by April 1st and 650,000 in the United States by July 1st..  Now long term mortality is projecting across the human cohort worldwide to decline within two years as 100,000 wheeze in agony as 5,000,000 are infected each month.


But not yet satisfied with the damage and destruction, Trump even now repeats that churches should be jammed on Easter April 4th , where most with their crosses and Hail Mary’s are old, declining, aged and vulnerable - to be packed as sardines, while Texas Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, 2016 Chairman of the Trump Campaign in Texas, recently called those of age 70 and above expendable. 


Today infections in the United States are projected to reach above 140 million Americans and visitors in a matter of years even as Trump encourages the Fox faithful to play vector and victim, his new board game.  The vast majority will recover and gain incremental immunity.  Vaccines being hypothesized and alternative medicines may mitigate.  We’ll need both because the average age of those in the line at the New York Antiquarian Book Fair was north of 60 too, that anecdotally is when the possibility of death from the Coronavirus rises from .00001 when the victim is young and healthy, while, above 60 the expectation is 1/100 to 70 to 3/100 to 6/100 in 80.  In other words the greatest advocates of the extraordinary field of collectible paper may too be swept away.  Who knew TV would kill.


While the crisis is cascading, I would like to see a plaque on the Armory walls, both outside and in, honoring these victims, that the voiceless do not go nameless.  They came so recently here with high expectation, in love with the material, and certainly in love with life.  That they were damaged by a lying president they too should demand he too pay at the ballot box.  To do so, at every county, town or on random city corners a plaque on such places may remember they who passed, as was once called Potter’s Hill, those places of random memorial should be called Trump’s Hill, as reminders that stupidity, incompetence and indifference are stealing the human spark that animates life.

Posted On: 2020-04-01 11:07
User Name: heas8994

Bruce, Your last sentence is quite right and we can only hope the American voter can
see through the smoke and mirrors. The lies and distortions.


Posted On: 2020-04-01 14:02
User Name: baggett

Dear Bruce,
Evidently you are a far left loon, your article is devoid of facts, it only shows your'e deep political bias . You should be thinking God and Fox news, not blasting them.
Below just a sampling of how your beloved fellow leftist have mislead the nation,

late Jan. WHO Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV)
Late Feb,
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made a visit to San Francisco’s Chinatown on Monday to assuage concerns about the coronavirus as tourism to the city’s famed neighborhood has

March 5th Mayor of NYC "We want New Yorkers to go about their everyday lives — use the subway, take the bus, etc.," city Health Commissioner Dr. Oxiris Barbot said, explaining that COVID-19 "is not an illness that can be easily spread through casual contact."
declined in recent weeks.
March Gov of NYC "In this situation, the facts defeat fear. Because the reality is reassuring. It is deep-breath time," Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
Biden March 13th
Former Vice President Joe Biden (D) is refusing to listen to the advice of the nation’s leading medical experts, continuing his opposition to travel bans in order to stop the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Posted On: 2020-04-01 14:08
User Name: dustybooks

The stupidity, incompetence and indifference are yours my friend - not Donald Trumps. Your hatred and venom are dripping within this article. You are only stoking the fires of division
in America with your ad hominem attacks. We also now know the virus attacks all age groups - not just the elderly.
Donald Trump did not create this virus; and he has obviously done all within his power to halt its ravages across the land. His positive attitude is often misunderstood, distorted and maligned by those filled with hatred and negativity - such as is obvious in this case. People were, and are, contracting the virus nearly everywhere - not just at a book fair.
This is not the proper venue for you to spew forth your caustic political views. This is supposed to be a refuge and source of information for those who love the world of rare books. We come here to get away from the political acid pool - not to be thrown into it.

Posted On: 2020-04-01 17:09
User Name: Bkwoman

Hey Bruce,
Though your rhetoric was a bit on the flowery side, your comments were very true and those who still walk around with their heads up their posteriors obviously are those who are responsible for putting the worst president in history into the White House. We have had our bookstore closed 3 weeks today and it is tough. Anyone who thinks this terrible virus can't be human-to-human transmitted it just not paying attention to facts and is probably going to get it and wonder why.

Posted On: 2020-04-02 02:42
User Name: bukowski

bagget and dusty books: Are you aware of the irony here? You are defending a president who does NOT read ANY books and values money over knowledge. He also doesn’t understand antiques and why older, original furniture has more value than cheap reproductions. He absolutely doesn’t get it. And as for Fox News, it has a right-wing bias, the bias of its owner, a right-wing Australian. Fox News viewers are also NOT readers. They don’t even read “that thar” Bible. They subscribe to ludicrous conspiracy theories and vote against their own interests. They hate health insurance. They hate themselves and want all Americans to be as miserable as they are. They are angry Whites, who don’t understand the world and this hate it. By the way, Trump hates you!

Posted On: 2020-04-02 02:48
User Name: bukowski

Trump hates book dealers and books. Why would anyone here support him? Be honest! He hates absolutely book dealers and you people still support him? Why? He can’t even say which Bible verses he likes the best. He doesn’t get it.

He inherited his money and hates poor people. He cheats his employees and contractors. He hires illegal immigrants. He mocked a disabled reporter. And yet you still support him because you are racist White people who can’t accept that Whitey White dominated America is coming to an end. Where will you go? The Voortrekker Age is behind us.

Posted On: 2020-04-02 15:09
User Name: lordbalfour

Is there an option for separating the political from my rare book news, please?

Posted On: 2020-04-07 18:12
User Name: mbook

Very good, as a English Book dealer who loves politics, but hates political parties. It is refreshing to read such a good article about Trump and the virus. He is what we used to call a great con artist, Very good talker but not interested in facts when fiction sounds much better. Most likely very well educated but logically stupid, We had Tony Blair who was very similar, who led us to a war which led to destruction and hatred that is still with us today. Regards M

Posted On: 2020-04-11 15:10
User Name: jaysnider

Bruce I am disappointed that you have injected politics into your wonderful site and service.

Posted On: 2020-04-18 12:38
User Name: traffordbooks

Your assertion that "The vast majority wil recover and gain incremental immunity" is pure speculation. There is no evidence yet to corroborate that. The Covid-19 virus is part of a group of viruses similar to the common cold. Suffering from the common cold during the winter does not imply that you won't get it again. So until we get a vaccine we are potentially exposed to the possibility of catching the Covid-19 virus again & again, particularly as it is so contagious. As of today 111 Covid-19 discharged patients in South Korea have been re-admitted to hospital having been re-infected in the community !
Trafford Books
Manchester, UK

Posted On: 2020-04-20 02:43
User Name: 19531953

For all of the myopic Trumpites who attacked Bruce; This, Bud is for you! Bruce didn't insert politics into his piece. He injected pragmatic humanity into it. While nobody knows how bad the Virus will be; the FACT is that Trump was warned about this back in January. To support Collectors and Collecting, one must first keep alive collectors who then can pursue collecting and other passions like breathing without a respirator.

Are some of you brain dead, misanthropic, goose stepping, elitist, Sociopathic, ignoramuses [Rhetorical] ?

I have been in the field for 55 of my 60 years. Just because you take an interest in books and paper, doesn't mean that you are an intellectual!

To those Trumpite sheep who commented here about bringing "Politics" into the article; Well, what do you know [nothing] ? You injected your politics on this site, as well.

I spoke to Trump's kindergarten teacher years ago. I asked her how she could remember one student out of thousands. Her response was "You never forget a kid like Donnie Trump". We spoke for 45 minutes and here follows a summary of what.she said:

1) He stole all of her money from her pocketbook and Mrs. Trump was the one to alert her to the little bad seed that was her son.

2) He couldn't be paired up with anyone and he particularly bullied other little boys

3) She termed him below average intelligence (obvious every time he opens his mouth.

If you don't like Bruce's article, then go spend a fortune and create a database of your own, which takes thousands of hours.

Eric C. Caren
The Caren Archive

Please do not bid in my 8th auction! The pieces belong to those whom have COMPASSION, NOT JUST PASSION!

Bruce's piece

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s
    Modern First Editions
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: Winston Churchill. The Second World War. Set of First-Edition Volumes. 6,000 USD
    Sotheby’s, Available Now: A.A. Milne, Ernest H. Shepard. A Collection of The Pooh Books. Set of First-Editions. 18,600 USD
    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
    Available for Immediate Purchase
    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
  • Manuscript Masterpieces from the Schøyen Collection
    London auction, 11 June
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Holkham Hebrew Bible. In Hebrew, decorated manuscript on vellum [Toledo, 2nd quarter 13th century]. £1,500,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Crosby-Schøyen Codex. In Coptic, manuscript on papyrus [Upper Egypt, middle 3rd century / 4th century]. £2,000,000–3,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The Geraardsbergen Bible. In Latin, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Southern Netherlands, late 12th century]. £700,000–1,000,000
    Christie’s, Explore now : Jean de Courcy (fl. 1420). The Chronique de la Bouquechardiere. In French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1480]. £200,000–300,000
    Christie’s, Explore now: The ‘Catherine de Medici’ Hours. In Latin and French, illuminated manuscript on vellum [Paris, c.1485]. £120,000–180,000
  • 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:
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    Ketterer Rare Books
    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
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    K. Schmidt-Rottluff, Arbeiter, 1921. Orig. watercolour on postcard. Est: € 18,000
    Ketterer Rare Books
    Auction May 27th
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    Breviarium Romanum, Latin manuscript, 1474. Est: € 20,000
    Ketterer Rare Books, May 27:
    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

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