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.