Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2007 Issue

Book Fairs: An Endangered Species?

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A very nice affair


By Bruce McKinney

Two hours north of San Francisco, on a recent beautiful May day, John and Susie Hardy, for the 7th year hosted the Gold Rush Book Fair at the Nevada County Fairgrounds in Grass Valley. It was a trip well worth making. It was also a melancholy adventure for it provided a measure of the drought that plagues the world of rare and collectible books these days. Those selling, 50 dealers in all, were mostly from California with the occasional otherlander thrown in. They brought their best material, met many dedicated collectors and yet did not encounter the next generation of collectors. The day's visitors tended to be local and older. The show was publicized in various trade publications and exhibitors were encouraged to circularize the show to their clienteles. Nevertheless, attendance was thin. It should not have been.

We filmed the proceedings and provide here high resolution, and low resolution versions, and at the end of this 1,074 word article another set of film links.

The true believers came and were easily identified by their grey tending to white hair that ran in all directions from here to Sunday. They brought money for books, their combs at home safe for another occasion. Limps were visible as were a few walkers and portable seats. Many in the crowd knew the Second World War first hand, a few Lincoln. It had the feeling of a reunion. Younger people collect books but apparently do not spend their Saturdays browsing book sellers' revival meetings. From what you saw at this fair you could believe there are no new collectors, but we know they're out there. We saw several thousand fledglings at the Anarchist's Book Fair in February and know they closely mirror the world of online book buyers. They are typically in their 20s, buy books to read, reread the good ones, and save them all as adopted pets to be carried into middle age as talisman of broadening perspective. They buy books for their content, not their covers, the edition mattering not-at-all. Many of those purchasing at the Gold Rush fair mentioned they too were looking for "readable content." It just wasn't what these sellers wanted to sell.

Those visitors who described themselves as collectors, to a person, said they buy online. They all mentioned Google as the search engine they use. Yahoo too came up a few times. Amazon, Alibris, Abebooks and eBay came up as sites where they buy and AE Monthly was mentioned by fully half of those we spoke to. The last time [2003] we did this show AE was a blip on the radar. The world is changing.

By a casual census the average age of visitors was north of 60. Many who attended were enthusiastic but the enthusiasm was not contagious. Conversations with those attending indicated real pleasure. You really can't make this stuff up. You feel it or you don't and those we spoke with had what the Righteous Brothers called "that lovin' feeling." The feelings are genuine.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Eric Carle, <i>The Very Hungry Caterpillar,</i> hand-painted collage. Sold for a record $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Charles Addams, <i>Couple passing a giant bird house,</i> watercolor cartoon for <i>The New Yorker,</i> 1948. Sold for $16,250.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Miriam Troop, <i>Rain on Laundry Day,</i> oil on canvas, cover for <i>The Saturday Evening Post,</i> 1940. Sold for $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Rockwell Kent, <i>To All Fascists,</i> ink broadside for The League of American Writers, circa 1937. Sold for $6,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Jo Mielziner, <i>Pet Shop Drop,</i> backdrop design for <i>Pal Joey</i> on Broadway, 1940. Sold for a record $55,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Lee Brown Coye, acrylic cover illustration for the 25th anniversary of <i>Weird Tales,</i> 1944. Sold for $18,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Virgil Finlay, <i>The Outsider & Others,</i> pen & ink dust jacket illustration for H.P. Lovecraft's book, 1939. Sold for $5,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Al Hirschfeld, <i>Paul Robeson as Othello,</i> illustration for <i>The New York Times,</i> 1942. Sold for $68,750
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Illustration Art:</b> Frederic Remington, pen & ink illustration for <i>A Scout with the Buffalo Soldiers</i> in <i>The Century</i> magazine, 1889. Sold for $17,500.
  • <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> EARLY AVIATION PHOTOGRAPHY ARCHIVE. Chronicling 20th century aviation from the earliest Wright Brothers images through commercial and military applications. $50,000 to $70,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> FIRST TELEPHONE CALL TO THE MOON. Partial transcription signed by Apollo 11 astronauts and President Nixon. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> SPUTNIK-1 EMC/EMI LAB MODEL, 1957. Full scale vintage test model of the Sputnik-1 satellite, Moscow, [February, 1957]. $400,000 to $600,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> Apollo 11 Beta cloth crew emblem, SIGNED BY THE ENTIRE APOLLO 11 CREW. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Sep. 17:</b> GEMINI 1/8 SCALE MODEL. Rarely seen large-scale contractor's model. $3,000 to $5,000
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> SMITH, CHRISTOPHER WEBB. 1793-1871. <i>Indian Ornithology.</i> [Patna, India]: 1828. $50,000 to $80,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DUPRÉ, LOUIS. 1789-1837. <i>Voyage à Athènes et à Constantinople, ou Collection de portraits, vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.</i> Paris: Dondey-Dupré, 1825. $60,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> ADAMS, JOHN. Autograph Letter Signed ("J Adams"), [to Dr. Perkins?] while recovering from his small pox inoculation, [late-April, 1764]. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUSTEN, JANE. Autograph Letter Signed ("J. Austen"), to her sister Cassandra, 4 pp, "Thursday – after dinner," [September 16, 1813,] Henrietta St. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> AUDUBON, JOHN JAMES. 1785-1851. <i>The Birds of America, from Drawings Made in the United States and Their Territories.</i> New York & Philadelphia: J.J. Audubon & J.B. Chevalier, 1840-1844. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> DODWELL, EDWARD. 1767-1832. <i>Views in Greece.</i> London: Rodwell and Martin, 1821. $20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Oct. 23:</b> JAMES, JESSE. Autograph Letter Signed ("Jesse W. James"), to Mr. Flood demanding Flood retract spurious accusations, 3 pp, June 5, 1875. $200,000 to $300,000.

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