Thursday, October 15, 2009

Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair

I'm back in Portland recovering from the 2009 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair where Old Imprints exhibited last weekend.  Under the management of Louis Collins and David Gregor this is always a stimulating and enjoyable event - thank you, Louis and David, for all your hard work!  In fact, after several years of my not participating, it was a bit of a shock to be reminded of how much work is involved on everyone's part (which goes a way to explaining my silence)!  Oddly, it seemed more difficult than preparing for the Hong Kong Antiquarian Book Fair (coming up at the beginning of December) or the Miami International Map Fair (at the end of January 2009), but I think that there are probably several reasons for that, including that I didn't start early enough on the planning and that I took a lot more books (for the other fairs I basically fill a suitcase or two of somewhat lighter-weight ephemera or maps, or send items ahead:  this show involved a Suburban-full of hefty boxes which my husband and I hauled down and then up the ramp into the building).  That said, it was worth the effort and a pleasure to be one of a most impressive slate of exhibitors.  Fortunately, with 100 dealers (of whom over half were members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America / International League of Antiquarian Booksellers)  there was an interesting diversity of stock, with price points from less than 10 to the 100s of 1000s of dollars.  During quiet moments, I enjoyed the stunning stock and charming company of my neighbors, the Ahearns of Quill and Brush of Maryland in the next door booth and Dennis and Dennis of First Folio, Alabama across the aisle.  We are so fortunate in the Pacific Northwest to have a fair that attracts such talent from across the country, and I certainly hope that these dealers find good reasons to return! 

A good attendance on the first day of the fair was most encouraging, with many buyers carrying multiple purchases, although I felt that in general people were weighing their purchases, and choosing perhaps one item out of several that interested them.  The general opinion from those who have done the fair for several years seemed to be that sales were good after the battering taken last year at what was a very impropitious time as the economic sky fell in.   The majority of my sales were to dealers, a fact that probably reflects the continued reticence on the part of the general public to indulge in "luxury" purchases (after all we dealers are able to enjoy the pleasures of shopping under the classification of "business decision" rather than "personal indulgence"), and also the fact of occupying a lower position on the food chain of dealers present!

Slower traffic on Sunday (might as well look on the bright side here!) allowed us to enjoy the collegiality of dealers present, including Jeff Weber of Jeff Weber Rare Books who graciously shared information on the example of  fore-edge painting we had on display.  We'll share his comments on this in our next entry - and look forward to his forthcoming book on this fascinating area of book collecting (yes, I am incorrigibly interested in the graphics!)   Other snippets of information also surfaced over the weekend, for example, a customer admiring a beautiful leather bound set of the essays and plays of Maeterlinck that we have for sale, was overheard remarking that interest in Maeterlinck is at a low point... Unfortunately I was otherwise occupied and unable to ask him why - is this just the ebb and flow of interest, or perhaps related to the plagiarist origins of Maeterlinck's work on termites???

For me, with my interest in all things map-related, a high point of the weekend was The Book Club of Washington dinner, held at the elegant and art-filled Rainier Club.  The speaker was Derek Hayes, author of many excellent books on historical maps, which are distinguished by their inviting presentation and wide ranging coverage.  He talked about some of the 600 maps featured in his new book Historical Atlas of the American West.  Since my interest in mapping tends to the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, areas which have received little attention until recently, I expressed my appreciation to the author for including maps of this period in his books.  Interestingly, he pointed out the difficulty of identifying and obtaining copyright permission for these as a reason that they are not more widely published.  I have been dipping into this thick, copiously illustrated volume since coming back from the show, and highly recommend it to anyone interested in maps or history.

The 2010 Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair is slated for October 9 and 10, 2010: mark the date in your diaries now!