Monday, November 19, 2012

Exciting Visit to the Boston Antiquarian Book Fair

A few weeks ago, we sold some books to a used book seller, Derringer Books. He gave us tickets to the book fair in Boston. Didn’t know of such a thing but it sounded cool. We attended yesterday.

It’s a three day event, much like Anime Boston that Erin goes to every year. And located in the same place, Hynes Convention Center.

We drove in, taking the requisite wrong turns for what should a fairly direct journey. Parking, ugh, the city sinks with its parked cars. We squeezed into the Prudential’s parking hell, with the forecast of formidable cost. But wait, buy 10 dollars worth of stuff at the mall and your parking cost shrinks.

Anyway, we walked into the Hynes, where a long line stood waiting to have books appraised. Passing that, we found that we had to check our coats—for free—to block theft. Just a gesture to make people feel good. At the door there were several official looking people, none of whom asked for our tickets. We immediately discovered Alan of Derringer Books.

As with most of the sellers, he features an eclectic selection, tho he focuses on poetry. He had several books by Jack Gilbert, for instance. Alan had already gathered together what he planned to offer before Gilbert’s death. Lunch Poems by Frank O’Hara was on display for around $500 dollars. Maybe I still have my copy, because I like the size of City Lights books, but I may have gotten rid of it when I got the superseding selected poems. And so it goes.

I do not collect books. That is to say, I may well get rid of collections if I find selected or collected editions. Further, I write in books, put coffee cups on them, and otherwise reduce their value as objets. And further furthermore, storage is a concern. I’ve sifted thru my books numerous times to retain what will fit on the shelves. Anyway, I don’t even know if my copy of Lunch Poems is 1st edition or not, which I assume Derringer’s is.

Copies of Fuck You A Journal of the Arts were available. Always thought that was about the best title for a poetry journal.

I once attended a baseball card convention. I stopped getting baseball cards when I was about 11. I liked the information on the card. Supposedly every card was issued in equal numbers. In the sense of rarity, Willie Mays was just as valuable as Eddie Bressoud, but I wasn’t buying that type of logic. I whooped when I got Mays. Eddie Bressoud, at best, was just more stats to pore over.

In the same way, I got excited to see At Swim-Two-Birds, some early hardback edition. I don’t know its value as a collectible. It’s the novel itself that matters. Even signed wouldn’t increase its value to me. Two David McCullough books that I haven’t read yet were available, but signed 1st editions aren’t important to me.

Still, it’s fascinating to see the different cover art of familiar books. There were sellers from other countries (England, Germany, France, Sweden). Myriad editions of Lord the Rings, for instance.

Many dealers offered rarities going to the 15th century, at least. One was the apparently first cookbook, an imposing German book in uncipherable gothic print. Another was a sketchbook of a ship builder with delicate pencil drawings of ships. Nature books of the Audubon ilk. the first facsimile of the Declaration of Independence.

A magnificent book was displayed in a case. It was a large book, and when its pages were unfolded, they were at least 3’ long and more than 1’ tall. On the displayed page was an impressive engraving of a church construction in Rome. It was meant to simply show the work being done—one apart of the building was cut away to reveal the inside of the already constructed part—but the mob of people doing individual things brought to mind Hieronymous Bosch or Dante’s Inferno. As Beth and I clucked over it, the dealer offered to bring it out for inspection but we refused. Just didn’t seem right to handle something so exquisite that we had no intention of buying.

There were maps to overflowing, which delighted both of us. And papers. Beth was impressed by a note written by Lincoln. I was taken by a check for $69 signed by George Herman Ruth.

A tv newsperson and the person who ran the camera interviewed a few of the dealers. I watched that a little, it’s a fatuous process. The reporter somehow looked manufactured as a reporter. She looked crisp, sounded crisp, and of course it is just the same old thing. Earlier, just walking along, I moved into the camera’s line of fire. I thought then that it was just a tourist with a fancy camera, and I apologized. I think he was just getting ambiance shots.

Some of the dealers were crusty dusty old guys, members of a weird little cabal of interest. Others were just dealers in the sense of dealers. There were a few cases where questions could not be posed because the dealer was schmoozing with a likely captive. I don’t suppose the really expensive stuff (6 digits) are actually dealt right there. Alan says that he would like to offer less expensive items but the cost of the booth and a hotel room makes that impossible. It was a fun event tho tiring. It would be nice to go all three days, and not feel obliged to race around. As we left, a guard asked to peek into Beth’s handbag.

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