Sunday, April 10, 2011

Report from the Fair: NY ABAA 2011

Yesterday I had a good but much too short trip to New York for the 51st Annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair, held at the Park Avenue Armory. While there was much else going on, including a book auction at Heritage Auction Galleries and the "shadow show" downtown (more on this at the Fine Books blog), I decided I'd better focus on the main event since I had only about five hours on the ground in New York.

Having only been to the Boston ABAA fair before, it was interesting to compare the two shows. There were quite a few more European dealers in New York, including many Italian, French and German dealers we don't see in Boston every year (and who had some pretty amazing things in their booths, too). While it's only anecdotal, I think it very likely that the average price for an item at the New York fair was significantly higher than in Boston (a few dealers were guessing the total retail value of all the stock in the room; all agreed that it was well into the hundreds of millions).

There were wonderful and fascinating things, from a copy of the first recorded English book auction catalog (for the 1676 sale of clergyman Lazarus Seaman's library) to Thomas Jefferson's copy of William Neilson's Greek Exercises to a delightful faux-scholarly treatise on the human turd (from Brian Cassidy). A book from Roger Williams' library, some beautiful early American bindings ... great stuff all around.

It was also lovely to see old friends and meet some longtime correspondents for the first time, including Rebecca Rego Barry (editor of FB&C), as well as the magazine's publisher. Always nice to put faces to email addresses! And of course there was something of a Rare Book School reunion going on all around, since staff, students and faculty were wonderfully (and strongly) represented on the fair floor.

For more on the fair, see the dispatches from Ian Kahn of Lux Mentis, who may be voiceless and broken-toed, but remains utterly indomitable; and Rebecca Rego Barry's reports on the Fine Books Blog. Next year, I'm going to make sure I can make a weekend of it and do more while I'm in town; if you can make it too, please do! It's a wonderful way to meet dealers, see and handle some amazing books, and spend time with like-minded biblio-folks.