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report from the front – lindgren

I exhibited again this year at the Greenwich Village Antiquarian Book Fair and had a great time and a very good fair sales wise. This small, collegial, neighborhood fair has become one of the better fairs of the year for me. Sales were strong on Friday night and Sunday, and I met a few interesting people on Saturday. Most of sales were squarely in the avant-gardes, with books and ephemera by Andy Warhol, Alan Kaprow, Ed Ruscha and John Cage. A few pieces of modern lit. went to dealer friends of mine, including books by Kerouac, Ray Bradbury and Tennesee Williams.

I bought well, returning with two bags of books which included a nearly unique book sculpture from 1969, the rare catalogue/box for Paolo Soleri’s exhibition at the Corocaran Gallery in 1970, an additional copy of the Schwarz/Duchamp Readymades catalogue (I was protecting my price), Waverly Root’s Food of Italy, inscribed by the designer Warren Chappel, and a nice clean copy of Joseph Mitchell’s ‘The Bottom of the Harbor’. In short, something in every category in which I buy.

Other dealers had various reactions – which in my experience is the way this works. It can never be predicatable, and efforts to “understand” sales from fair to fair are pretty futile efforts. Books I brought specially for a particular customer sat in the case, while other things I may have easily left at home sold. There were several new dealers (or first time exhibitors) this year, and they seemed happy enough. I didn’t hear anyone say they were not returning except Bill Boyer, who has done this fair longer than anyone else, and says, as we all do, that it’s harder to find good books these

I will try the April NYC satellite fair this year (called the Carriage House Fair), and cross my fingers for entry into the ABAA next year. Then I’ll hop on the waiting list for the New York ABAA fair, which is certainly the fair most worth doing in the states. The fall Armory fair remains useful for me, although there is a lot of complaining about the rising prices and falling crowds. In my opinion the falling crowds are the bigger problem, partially due to the boring neighborhood where the downtown armory is located. The Greenwich Village fair benefits greatly from being in a neighborhood traditionally interested in literature and the arts, and one which now has lots of well-heeled folks willing to drop in to browse, whereas no one goes to the Lexington Avenue Armory who is not already highly motivated.

I did not attend LA this year, but many dealer friends of mine did. The word I heard was that it was OK to good, although the art related dealers didn’t do well. The LA fair remains fairly narrow and unsophisticated to my taste: modern lit., film related books, Americana, etc. (not that these fields are
unsophisticated, just that there are not so many other diverse fields well-represented).

Contrary to some of the words on book blogs these days, book fairs are not dead, they’ve just changed, like the rest of bookselling.

report from the front – peterson

27 February 2006

I went to NY to buy books. The Greenwich Village Fair was part of that equation.

The dealers at the Fair were very diverse… as were the prices.
It was a wonderful collection of books and dealers.

I did buy at the Fair. With one exception, I bought from dealers that I know…. who always seem to have material that I want for my stock or my own collection. I think that may be the case with people who go to fairs to buy…. that they gravitate to the people they know.

The one exception I mention had a bound volume of “The American Museum Journal” that I purchased for its content to read. I hope to do more with this dealer as he told me he had material back at his shop that might interest me…. for my personal reading and my stock. That brings into account the “residual effect” that buying or selling at a book fair can have. One can not always measure a fair by how much you sell at that venue…. or how much you are able to purchase. The “real measure” is in the relationships you start with “new people” and what happens in the days, weeks and months following the event.

It is my hope [or dream] that book fairs return to being a place where book people come together for buying and selling. A place where I can touch and feel and maybe read a few lines from the book I want. And.. a place where you can do the same with the books I bring. And… a place where we can talk about books.

ABE and Amazon… whether they join or continue to be separate… are doing their best to ruin the collectible book market. They let everyone in the door to sell…. and “let the buyer beware”… As we all know…not all books are created equal…. whether they be rare, out-of-print, or just collectible for the content.

Best to all and regards,

Charlie Peterson – Candlestick Books

report from the front – england/silverman

Something happened recently that gave me a nervous breakdown. Some say it was a panic attack, but maybe it was months of built up tension and stress finally exploding.

A dealer we know wanted to buy a whole bunch of our books. We needed the money because we were in tight financial spot. Of course we said yes to the deal as it was good deal for both parties. He bought walls of books and we didn’t have to get into a serious legal fight to pay off a big debt. Everyone was happy.

I started breathing hard when my partner and I went upstairs to discuss it. He said, “Honey; you’ve got to stop breathing like that.” I tried but I felt like I’d been hit by a bus. I kept telling myself, we have to do it, if I want to keep doing this, I have to let these books go. I had a complete meltdown. I sank into the cushy chair on the second floor and cried, and then I cried again, and after that I cried some more. I cried for about three or four hours, I’m not even sure, I lost track of time.

I couldn’t move out the chair. I had used up a whole box of tissues. The bookseller’s wife came up and held my hand. Richard came up and gave me several hugs. I called my boyfriend on the phone and he was no help, he’s too damn practical. David, one of my best friends, who’s been acting as our clerk, came up and tried to crack jokes with me. David called another one of our friends, Paul, a mortician, adept at a handling the grief-stricken (as I certainly was) in his job. He came upstairs after he got off work and made me take some Tylenol. I had cried so hard and so much that I had given myself a stress headache.

Eventually, The bookseller and his wife left, and David had to go home, and Paul and Richard took me up the street to the local pub for dinner. I knew I was supposed to be happy, but I was heartbroken and very sad and frustrated about selling these books.

Isn’t always what we booksellers joke about when we’re at fairs? That we’d be glad to sell the whole set up and not have anything to take home but the books that we’ve purchased at the fair? If that really happened (I only know one dealer who actually really did this at the Akron Bookfair) We’re supposed to be happy that we now have ‘a pocket full of money’ – as someone said to me when I told them about this experience. Another friend, a retailer who owns the ladies clothing shop up the street said “isn’t that what you have the books for? to sell?” “Well, yes,” I said “but somehow it’s easier when they go in small stacks and not complete walls all at once.” how would we react?

from Aimee England @ Volume I Books

Collectors have anxiety attacks, too.

Aimee, I feel your pain. And I’d have added this as a comment to your post except that my circumstance is sorta’ different and has its own unique considerations.

For those who haven’t been paying attention, I collect oriental rug books (and magazines and auction catalogs and the occasional tasty bit of ephemera) – probably about 1,000 of them. I’ve had special bookcases with glass door and extra-sturdy shelves to bear the weight of these big, dense things – five, so far. I’ve even used the e-mail address “” for the past decade to remind people of my collecting obsession. This is all by way of testifying to how seriously I’ve taken my collecting.

That said, a couple months ago I stumbled on a newspaper story about a very successful local rug dealer who just bought an old mansion in the Prairie Avenue historic district here in Chicago. Prairie Avenue was where the rich people (Armours, McCormicks, and the like) lived in Victorian times before the migration to the near north side/Gold Coast neighborhood. Apparently he really did a great job at restoring it and was now living in it.

I know the guy pretty well, having done some advertising and p.r. for him in the past. One of the things I know about him is that he has made tentative efforts toward accumulating a library of rug books. I’ve even helped him find a thing or two. But he still doesn’t have anywhere near what he (or any of the people he’d hope to impress with them) might consider a “library”.

That’s when the thought occurred to me to offer to sell my collection to him. I mean, he’s got the interest and the space and the money. And I’m semi-retired and could use a big influx of cash to put in the retirement portfolio…not that it’s really necessary.

And that’s when the hyperventilating started. What would I do with all the vacant space? Where would I go to look up stuff? The books are in my office where I spend about 10 hours a day surrounded by them: what would I look at when I stared off? Oh, yeah, and there’s that issue of what would be left to define myself if “rug book collector” were suddenly subtracted from my resume?

{{pause until I resume normal breathing}}

See? Even the rhetorical questions get me panicky.

So I decided I’d put off making the offer for a while. I’ll let his relatively empty library weigh on him for a year or two, let his desperation build, wait until he’s frantic. Then, maybe, just maybe, I’ll be ready.



Jerry Silverman, Chicago, IL

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