Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair

This past week, Jack and I were in Boston.  It just so happened that while we were there, the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was also there.  I used to go to this all the time when we lived in Boston.  I had friends who worked at Brattle Book Shop and often manned their both at the fair.

The fair seemed smaller this year, but there were still 140 dealers, enough to keep anyone occupied for an afternoon or more.  There were dealers from all over the country and from England, Russia, Germany, France, Canada, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, and Denmark.  Books and manuscripts ranged from children's books, books from the Aldine press, mysteries, letters, modern first editions, and just about anything made of paper.

Coincidentally, I started reading Castle Richmond by Anthony Trollope a few weeks ago and one of the items for sale was a page from that book in the author's hand!  I forget how much they were asking for it, but too much for my pocketbook.  Besides, I've decided I don't want the responsibility for caring for important or valuable things.  I have my pretty books that I've collected over the years, most not worth more than $20 each at the most, and we can live together happily.

Another thing I like about the fair is all the free book catalogs.  Here's a sample of my collection from the show.  It's fun to look at the descriptions, to see what makes a book or a manuscript important and what the seller deems the value to be.

I think I may subscribe to the magazine in the first photo, Fine Books & Collections.  It's hard to find good magazines about books, especially old books.  This is a glossy magazine with photos and  articles about old books and manuscripts.  They're offering a one year subscription (4 issues) for $19.98 and a two year subscription (8 issues) for $28.80.  Seems like a good deal to me.  Their web site is:  WWW.FINEBOOKSMAGAZINE.COM.

Hint:  I was given or offered free passes to the fair at two used book stores.  I was buying books at each shop and accepted one free pass to the fair.  I imagine this would happen in any city, but it saved me $10.00  -  which I promptly used to purchase a book!

I had fun visiting almost every booth, but I didn't see anything I couldn't live without.  I did find out that my Baedeker travel guides are worth more than I thought they were and that my A & C Black travel books may not be worth as much as they were a few years ago.  I also think I have a first edition of a Hemingway, but the dust jacket is chipped and worn, so it may not be worth enough to buy that condo we looked at in Boston!


  1. I'm a book fan...I especially like used book stores. I've never been to a gathering like the one you describe here. Thanks for writing about it.

    1. I love used book stores, too. I've always wanted to know everything there is to know, to know what people in different places and in different times were thinking.

      The book fair was fun, all those old books and manuscripts, letters from George Washington, President Kennedy, Ken Kesey, etc. I'm always amazed at all the things that survive the years despite being delicate. I guess that's why they're called 'ephemera'.

  2. How fun! We have an antiquarian bookfair here in June with sellers from across the midwest and no and them from Canada. It's fun to go to but the price tag on most things is far beyond me. I saw a first edition of Fahrenheit 451 there a number of years ago and they were asking several thousand for it. It is still fun to look though and sometimes I come how with a book or two I could actually afford.

    1. I know. I rarely buy anything at the fairs either, but it's fun to look. I do agree that the prices on some books / manuscripts seem outrageously high. Do people really buy these things? Where do people get all their money? Even if I had the money, I don't think I could bring myself to spend it on books! I'm a cheapo and would rather send my extra money to Doctors Without Borders, Farm Sanctuary, Animal Legal Defense Fund, or some other organization that helps animals or people.