Monday, November 15, 2010

Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair

This weekend I attended the Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, which ran from Friday to Sunday at the Hynes Convention Center in downtown Boston. What a bookish lovefest! Dealers from all over the world lined the aisles, displaying their wares, chatting with customers and fellow dealers, while collectors of all stripes roamed the floor in search of a great deal or a great treasure.

I have two main collections- Booker Prize winners and vintage editions of Jane Eyre. The kind of Jane Eyres I typically buy are inexpensive and not particularly valuable; therefore, there was not going to be anything for me at this fair, full of high-end and pricey books. There were many Booker Prize first editions (and lots of modern first editions generally) but I didn't end up buying anything despite being tempted by more than one delectable-looking literary morsel. I saw first edition copies of favorites like The English Patient, The White Tiger and The Remains of the Day, all very tempting but none of which were really in my price range.

That's the thing- going to a show like this is like visiting a museum, and unless you come with a fat wallet, it's mostly just about the lollygagging. But there were some pretty impressive treasures. I saw a first edition of Lolita from Olympia Press offered at $1,000, a first edition of Jane Eyre for a whopping $50,000 and lots of rare and collectible science fiction and literature. Some of the other titles I saw for sale include Rebecca, Animal Farm, lots of Ian Fleming, The Time Machine, and more. The fair also had a lot of old children's books on offer, like old editions of Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, The Little Prince and other favorites.

On Sunday afternoon two used-book experts set up shop as appraisers for customers' own books. My husband and I brought in two rare science fiction first editions he found at local used bookstores and while the valuations were not what we had hoped, we walked away with some new information about our books, which we will treasure nonetheless.

And that's another thing- even without a formal appraisal session, fairs offer a great opportunity to talk to booksellers and get your questions answered. If you're interested in collecting, you probably have questions about whether you should be looking for this over that, or what makes a book collectible, what difference a signature makes, etc. My question for this session was about book club editions; one dealer was selling a book club edition of a favorite Nabokov so I asked how collectible they were. Not very, turned out to be the answer, which explained the relatively low price of this item. And that's just one question. Booksellers are usually very friendly and happy to chat with you and you can really learn a lot.

Overall we had a great time. I love bookhounding any time but the chance to see a world-class selection of truly rare and precious books is an opportunity not to be missed!



FTC Disclosure: I received two complimentary tickets to the show in return for a promise to write up my experience at the event.

11 comments:

mominsanity said...

I love The Little Prince too!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Hi BB I was thinking these are the places where books must be made less pricey so people could afford to buy, well I have learnt here.

My question is this: What makes a book costing US$50,000 different from that same book costing US$10? Is it the text, the print, or what? Does the story changes? I have autographed copies of certain authors, does the signature alone changes things...?

Zibilee said...

It sounds as though it was a fun way to spend the weekend, even if you didn't take home any books. I think I would love to go to an event like this and check things out. I am not really a collector of expensive and rare books, but any place where books are revered and exclaimed over is a place I need to visit. Glad that you had a nice time!

Fibro Witch said...

There are lots of different reasons why one version of a book is more valuable than another.

With first printings there is usually a smaller print run. Having a first edition is kind of like being the first person in junior high to get a cell phone. It says you knew this book was great before any one else. Even if you bought the first addition several years later. It still says you have a rare version of the book.

As far as autographs go, it depends on how hard it (is/was) to get the autograph. A dead author will not be signing any more books so any thing signed by that author will be more valuable than some thing signed by a living author. A signed copy of a book by an author that signs every thing is worth less than an autograph by a author who hates signing books. So the Katherine Hepburn book "ME" not signed is not worth a whole lot. Get a signed copy, well that is two points, she did not like to sign books, and she has passed away. That book is worth 2,000 dollars.

Well worth 2,000 if the person selling the book gets 2,000 for the book.

Does that help Nana??

Marie said...

Nana, also in the case of a classic like Jane Eyre, the first edition goes for $50,000 because it's old, rare, highly prized, sought after and a classic. There were only a few of the first edition (relatively few) printed, and at over 100 years old (close to 200) there aren't many left. And it's going to be a big prize to have that rare copy. A $10 version may have the same story but it's going to be a cheap paperback available anywhere.

Annie @ButteryBooks said...

I love book fairs, but have never attended an antiquarian book fair. It sounds wonderful!

Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

thanks BB...

Kathleen said...

This sounds delightful. I have a lot of old books from my parents' library and would love to go to a fair like this to get an idea if I have anything worth anything!

Erin said...

There is something about old books like these that connect me to a book's past. I can know that a book has been around for x number of years, but until I see a first edition in person, all those years don't really sink in.

It sounds like you enjoyed your experience, even if all you got to do was window shop! It must have been like a museum of books.

Coffee and a Book Chick said...

I can only imagine how much fun this was to attend! It's always been a dream of mine to be involved in this part of the business of it all, so I'm thinking I might need to check out what fairs and festivals there are in the Florida area. Although I visit Boston 3 to 4 times a year to see family, so maybe I'll just plan one of my visits around next year's Antiquarian Book Fair event! Now, I'm off to check to see what's in my area of the country...

iubookgirl said...

I'm so jealous! I love going to book fairs and have always thought this would be a great one. I'm happy you enjoyed it.