The Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair is Going Virtual This Year

- by Michael Stillman


It will come as no surprise that the annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair will not be held at the Hynes Convention Center, nor anyplace else in Boston this year. Like all book fairs, it is going virtual. You won't have to pay for transportation, hotel rooms, or even admission, though the camaraderie won't be quite as intense. There are trade-offs. It should still be exciting and certainly different.


In describing what will be available, the organizers said, “something for every taste and budget—books on art, politics, travel, gastronomy, and science to sport, natural history, literature, fashion, music, and children’s books—all appealing to a range of bibliophiles and browsers. From the historic and academic, to the religious and spiritual, from the exotic to everyday—the Fair has offerings in every conceivable genre and subject.” They also note that the selections will not be limited to just books, but include “illuminated manuscripts, autographs, ephemera, political and historic documents, maps, atlases, photographs, fine and decorative prints.”


ABAA book fairs are noted for offering some of the finest material on the planet, “rare and historic museum quality items.” Of course, this alone might limit potential patrons to well-established and well-heeled collectors. That won't do if the field is to remain vibrant in the years ahead. New blood is always needed if book collecting is to be meaningful for future generations. Therefore, dealers will be offering what are labeled “Discovery” items, that is, items that are priced at $100 or less. Beginners will be able to start a pursuit that will last a lifetime at the fair.


The virtual fair will be arranged so attendees can visit their favorite booksellers or simply walk the aisles, so to speak. Alternatively, you can browse by category or conduct keyword searches. Each exhibitor will be able to display as many as 50 pieces. Descriptions, including condition and price, will be provided. Dealers will be able to restock their shelves as items are sold.


The fair will run from Friday November 12 – Sunday, November 14. Friday's hours range from 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m., but as a caution, that is the “Patron Preview” and it will require your patronage, specifically, a $50 ticket. After that, the show is free. It will reopen at 11:00 a.m. Saturday and remain open continuously until Sunday evening at 7:00 p.m.