What do you think of when you hear the term "rare book"?
Actually, it's almost a trick question because there is no complete and correct answer as visitors to this weekend's 47th annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair will discover. Nearly 200 book dealers from around the world have brought their finest examples of precious books to tempt the book-lover in all of us.
From ancient bibles like the Coverdale Bible published in 1535 at Estates of Mind, to contemporary private press books at Priscilla Juvelis, there is something from every era, every subject, every author and every edition available for sale. Historical manuscripts, maps, autographed letters, leather bound sets of classics, children's literature, modern first editions, illustrated livres d'artistes, photography books, architecture books, cookbooks - it's all here!
The sheer volume of material made it hard to pick a favorite, but let me give you a few highlights. The earliest example of color printing is on display at Ursus Books, New York. Jacques Gautier d'Agoty's "Anatomie générale des visceres" was printed in Paris in 1752 and features large fold-out color plates of the human anatomy in graphic detail. Not particularly pretty to look at, but fascinating from a historical and scientific viewpoint, this book is priced at $85,000. On the stand of Bernard Shapero, London, is a complete set of the Art Nouveau masterpiece "Les Maitres de l'Affiche (The Masters of the Poster)". Published in 5 volumes between 1896-1900, this is a compilation of 256 small format versions of posters by such graphic icons as Cheret, Toulouse-Lautrec, Mucha and Steinlen. Seldom found in such perfect condition, in the deluxe Berthon bindings, this is almost a bargain at $90,000. And finally, on the stand of Librairie Quentin-Molènes, Geneva, is the ultimate travel book. Maxime DuCamp's "Egypte, Nubie, Palestine et Syrie" comprises 125 salt print photographs taken while he accompanied Gustave Flaubert on a trip through the Middle East from 1849-51. This is considered the first major French book to be illustrated with photographs and priced in the half million dollar range.
So grab your reading glasses and head over to the Seventh Regiment Armory for this year's edition of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair!