April 06, 2014

The 54th Annual Antiquarian Book Fair

Some of my readers may know that I got my start in the print world nearly 25 years ago in the field of illustrated books.  While I am no longer directly involved in the book business, it is a mixture of treasure hunt and nostalgia that brings me back to the New York Antiquarian Book Fair, or indeed almost any good book fair, whenever the opportunity presents itself.  This year's edition was bigger and better than ever and I spent several very happy hours exploring the booths and talking with some of my chums from this former life.

The name "book fair" is almost misleading.  While each and every one of the over 200 exhibitors are members of the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America or its international equivalent, the merchandise offered for sale includes all manner of works on paper from maps to autographs to illuminated manuscripts.  Even within the realm of books the variety is staggering - miniatures, first editions, fine bindings, children's books, artists' books, natural history books, bibles, private press and trade catalogues, in every language and on every topic you can imagine.

Here are some highlights.  On the stand of Ursus Books, New York, was a stunning large format album illustrated with 52 chromolithographs commemorating the Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1851.  "Dickinson's Comprehensive Pictures of the Great Exhibition of 1851" is a visual tour of this important international trade show.

Heritage Book Shop, Los Angeles, offered a complete set of first edition James Bond novels in their original cloth bindings and dust jackets.  Published between 1953-1966, the 14 volumes are in beautiful condition with one book, "For Your Eyes Only", signed on the flyleaf by Ian Fleming.

Ian Brabner - Rare Americana, Wilmington, devoted much of his stand to an 800 piece archive of "Roaring 20s" artwork by cartoonist Faith Burrows.  Dating between 1927-1935, this incredible collection features original pen and ink drawings and proof sheets featuring "Flapper Filosofy" a cartoon character epitomizing the chic and sophisticated, free-spirited women of the Art Deco era.

My personal favorite was a first edition, first impression of the beloved Canadian novel "Anne of Green Gables", on the stand of Peter Harrington, London.  This pristine copy of Lucy Maud Montgomery's iconic story of the red headed orphan Anne Shirley, was enhanced with seven illustrations by M.A. and W.A.J. Claus, and was published in Boston in 1908.  Having grown up with "Anne of Green Gables", it was a real pleasure to discover.
Whether you are smitten with Shakespeare or dedicated to Dickens, there is something for everyone with a passion for printed material at the 54th Annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair!

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