Rare Book Monthly

Articles - July - 2008 Issue

In Praise of Book Fairs and One in Particular

The beneficiary: the fair is 1.2 miles away


By Bruce McKinney

On Saturday July 12th, at around 6:00 am, a scouting party of motivated book buyers will prepare to head off for the Friends of the C. H. Booth Library Book Sale in Newtown, Connecticut. Some will have travelled hundreds, a few even a thousand miles, to be here this morning. As book buyers they are fulfilling a necessary and in fact one of the final roles in this centipede-like process that has involved forty library volunteers in preparations for a year and will now incorporate another sixty to complete this annual library book fair over the next five days. On this morning inveterate book buyers, who will number in the hundreds in a few hours and in the thousands before the sale is over, drift in between 7:00 and 9:00 am to plunk down their ten bucks and line up for first crack at what is one of the more interesting book fairs in America. This is the five-day C. H. Booth Library Sale: an event first organized when Richard Nixon was President that continues to prosper into its fourth decade. Here where recently there have been UFO sightings the only moving vehicles attracting attention the first morning will be the expectant vans, pregnant with hope, that soon fill nearby parking spaces in anticipation of victory in the "I search for bargains" sweepstakes that will be underway at 9:00 am sharp. In a year that has seen 365 days, 8,760 hours, 525,600 minutes and 31,536,000 seconds pass by since the 2007 fair ended the opening bell is about to sound on the 2008 event.

Nothing this morning is going to happen by accident. Material has been solicited and collected from several states around. The canvassing, begun as last year's sale ended, has induced material across state borders, over in-state county lines, and from out of inventories, collections, basements and attics in and around Newtown, to arrive for massing, sorting, culling, assigning and allocation. Some lucky books have gained bragging rights born of selection to the rare book room, while others, more pedestrian but possibly simply over-looked, have been shunted off to the gymnasium or cafetorium [the love child of school planners who long ago combined cafeterias and auditoriums]. So much for the old dictum "do not take food into the auditorium."

Years ago it was mostly book dealers who showed up early but increasingly collectors understand the rule: first come first served. When the doors swing open on the 12th the first-in will, by the direction they take, betray their buying preferences. The place is divided into fiction, non-fiction and rare. Eighty-five percent will heed the siren call of Hemingway, Wolfe, Twain and Updike if fiction and Solzhenitsyn, Orwell, Arendt, Frank and Bloom if non. Others will head straight for the coffee. Twenty or so will make a beeline for the rare book room where 500 or more items, culled from the roughly 120,000 pieces collected for the sale, will be available for inspection and purchase. The material they encounter will have been set aside for a variety of reasons under the general umbrella of "rare, collectible and signed" books. The word "expensive" won't be heard much. The word "quirky" and "hard to get" could be. Among this year's material is a collection on weight lifting that is mostly pamphlets, a run of religious tracts that go back to the late 18th century, vintage paperbacks, in particular science fiction and mysteries, and a collection of sheet music. There are of course many other things that will be left undiscussed so that those attending can make discoveries and take home their prizes. To participate you have to be there. This is not an eBay auction. It's more like first day of hunting season.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Gonnelli:
    Auction 50
    Books, Autographs & Manuscripts
    March 6th-7th 2024
    Gonnelli: Cramer, [Picasso, Chagall , Miró], Trente ans d'activité. Starting price 4800€
    Gonnelli: Futurism
    Gonnelli: Avienus, Opera. 1488. Starting price 1200€
    Gonnelli: Vimont, Relation de ce qui s'est passé en la Nouvelle France, en l'année 1642. Starting price 5000€
    Gonnelli: Goedart, Metamorphosis et historia naturalis insectorum. 1662.
    Gonnelli: Il Petrarcha con la spositione di M. Giovanni Andrea Gesualdo.
    Gonnelli: Poblacion, De usu astrolabi compendium.
  • Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] DAVID BURLIUK WITH ORIGINAL DRAWING and Signed twice. David Burliuk Rare ACA Gallery exhibition catalogue, undated. CA$400 – 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] KAWS: COMPANIONSHIP IN THE AGE OF LONELINESS. Text by Margaret Atwood. National Gallery of Victoria, Australia, 2019. $CA400 - 800
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [ART BOOK MONOGRAPH] LAWRENCE WEINER: POSTERS. Nova Scotia College of Art, Canada,1987. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: WILBUR SMITH: THE DARK OF THE SUN. Heinemann, UK, 1965. Signed First edition. CA$800 – 1,200
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: ROBERTSON DAVIES: LEAVEN OF MALICE. SIGNED Clark, Irwin, & Co., Canada. 1954. 1st edition. CA$400 – 600
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [THE NOTABLE TRAILS LIBRARY]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: THE TRIAL OF DR. X; ROE V. WADE; THE GALILEO AFFAIR; THE TRIAL OF BERNHARD GOETZ… CA$300 – 500
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [MILITARY FICTION]. 8 VOLUMES SOLD TOGETHER. INCLUDING: Canada's Royal Military College. REVIEW, THE STONE FRIGATE, A HISTORY OF THE RMC… CA$300 – 400
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: [WW1] CANADIAN (C.S.E.F.) SIBERIA 1918-1919 PHOTO ALBUM. With approximately 303 original official war photographs, postcards, and personal photographs. CA$8,000 – 10,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: HANS BELLMER: THE DOLL. 1995, 1st Ed. CA$150 – 300.
    Toronto Book Auctions
    ART-PHOTO-SIGNED-BOOKS-MILITARY(NON)FICTION
    March 6, 2024
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: FAN HO; HONG KONG YESTERDAY. ModernBooks edition, 2006. First edition. 4to. CA$300 – 600.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: TARYN SIMON: AN AMERICAN INDEX OF THE HIDDEN AND UNFAMILIAR. Hatje Cantz, Germany, 2012. Third edition. CA$600 – 1,000.
    Toronto Book Auctions, Mar. 6: BARBARA KRUGER PICTURE/READINGS. [Self-Published], 1978 First edition. CA$800 – 1,200.
  • 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
    Sotheby’s
    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

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions