Monday, October 20, 2014

The Albany Antiquarian Book Fair - 40th Edition, October 19, 2014

With a new venue, the Albany Institute of History and Art (AIHA) , the 40th annual Albany Antiquarian Book Fair was held yesterday under crisp autumn skies. There were twenty-seven booksellers from New York, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Vermont, Connecticut, Ontario and Quebec with tables brimming over with displays of books, manuscripts, letters, ephemera and maps strategically nestled among three floors at the museum.

Cameo sculpture by Erastus Dow Palmer at AIHA

Old Saratoga Books was there with a selection of children's books, science, history, art and assorted titles. My hot sellers were local history and art titles, sleazy vintage paperbacks and ephemera, including a bookplate from the Sesame Reading Club of Albany, which went to an AIHA volunteer who is excited to hunt down the history of this private reading group, a Victorian mourning card and some railroad stock certificates. I was pleased to see many of my in-store customers in attendance and there was a pleasant buzz of bookish conversations and purchases throughout the day, especially during the first two hours. 

Old Saratoga Books booth displays
My book booth neighbors, Ann Brockschmidt of Carnegie Hill Books and Richard Mori of Mori Books, had both stayed overnight with Dan and me before the Fair, so we had the benefit of a lot of great book conversation the night before to charge us all up. A new bookseller friend, John Spencer of Riverow Bookshop, completed our corner of museum floor 2A, and while the scary clown poster went back home with him,

 I did witness John making lots of book and postcard sales, as well as the sale of the elaborate wooden bible stand pictured above. Riverow Bookshop wins the distinction of having the book title which most amused me at the Fair, "Practical Dope on the Big Bores".

 Dan Gaeta of John Bale Book Company and Will Monie of Willis Monie Books anchored the adjacent hallway. Dan had brought an eclectic assortment of ephemera, photographs, and oddball language dictionaries, while Will's shelves held notebooks of historical ephemera and books about antiques. I picked up a Thornton Burgess bibliography for myself and an illustrated 19th century blacksmithing book for the bookshop from Will and I know Ann raided Will's shelves for several other decorative arts books, so he was a popular destination for other booksellers.

Dan Gaeta and Will Monie, Bookmen
Montreal bookseller Wilfrid M. de Freitas had a most impressive booth display, crowned with an 1801 land grant document and wax seal granted by King George III.  Both Mr. de Freitas and Susan Ravdin graciously showed me some of the highlights of their booth as they were setting up, and it was a treat to look over their collection of Winston Churchill writings, Booker Prize novels (and to discuss our mutual admiration for Julian Barnes) and unusual books about hat making, mah johngg,  phrenology and finger rings.

Susan Ravdin of Wilfrid de Freitas, Bookseller

Another highlight of the Albany Book Fair was meeting Buffalo book legend Ron Cozzi of Old Editions. He and his compadre Jeffrey Bergman had honored us with their presence at our dinner table a few days before the Fair and it was an privilege and a delight to make their acquaintanceship. Dan and I got the benefit of many years of bookselling advice and booking-on-the-road advice from Ron and Jeff, and their advice is helping us enormously as we plan our transition from used bookstore owners to antiquarian booksellers.

Ron Cozzi of Old Editions Book Shop

The 40th Edition of the Albany Book Fair was great fun and a great education. I made some book sales, I made new bookseller friends and contacts, I bought some good store stock (especially at the AIHA silent auction room), and most importantly, I saw what my colleagues display, buy and do at an impressively appointed regional book fair, so I came away very happy, if very tired, from "Book Fair week" in my neck of the woods. Kudos to Biblio impresario Garry Austin for promoting and organizing another impressive Book Fair and to AIHA Director Tammis Groft and her flotilla of staff and volunteers for hosting us at the Museum. Can't wait until next year....but first, a long and well-deserved nap!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Mighty Rain Dampens the 2014 Brattleboro Book Fair

A jewel box location, glittering book offerings, autumn leaves nearly at peak and a tie-in with a four-day literary festival were a powerful combination, but not enough to overcome torrential rains at the Vermont Fall Book Fair this past Saturday at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center.

Jeff Bergman was there with a stellar selection of modern firsts, signed books and photographs and a great collection of books about books and bookseller memoirs, (though he told me the "really great stuff" doesn't go on the road with him. Can only imagine those biblio treasures.) I couldn't resist a shot of "The Bankrupt Bookseller" (the orange jacketed book) and the troika of the Lone Ranger, Roger Maris and Hillary Clinton.

My fellow 2014 Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar buddy Charles Schmieg of Black Paw Books came to Fair. He ended up with an interesting inscribed chess book and since we were both still buzzing with book energy from our CABS experience, we talked about the book business and our plans for quite some time. Charles is the taller one.

Patricia McWilliams of Hermit Hill Books in Poultney, Vermont had a terrific display of fine bindings and interesting titles. Her shop is just across the New York border from Granville, the "Slate Capital of the World" and is worth a trip if you are in our neck of the woods. Patricia reported great sales this summer and let's hope the trend continues.  That's Patricia on the right mulling over her final display, with Lizz Young on the left. Lizz is a specialist bookseller who sells books about food, drink and the domestic arts, and her stylish display is shown below. She really utilizes height and unusual shelving accents to punch up her book displays and I will be trying to incorporate these aspects in my own configurations for future book fairs. Lizz also has one of the most interesting and erudite book blogs, so be sure to check that out.

On the subject of effective book fair displays, my book booth neighbor John Hess of Catamount Books in East Arlington, VT, has had great success with his self-constructed shelves that allow for the more attractive bindings and jacket art to be faced out. John reports that since he started using these shelves, he brings fewer boxes of books but sells more! Now that's something any bookseller's back and shoulders can appreciate. I forgot to capture an image of the shelves in all their book-loaded glory during the Fair (and you would have seen the spaces where books had been sold), but here's a fuzzy photo of them just before John packed them up.

New Hampshire bookseller Michael Daum was busy pricing up some of his stock when I strolled by his booth, so I didn't disturb him, but he is one of the most approachable bookseller colleagues I have met at the Vermont and Albany book fairs. Michael also has one of the best bookseller voices in the business: a rumbling, smoky-toned baritone with lots of New England Yankee inflections. And then there's his beautiful books...

My own book wares, a colorful mix of colorful older children's books, New England history, art, antiques and a few of my better books, were designed to appeal more to the walk-in crowd than my fellow book dealers. Unfortunately, the unzippering of the clouds with two months of long overdue rain timed to drench the world directly after the Brattleboro Fair opened took care of those crowds and the book fair attendance was quite thin. I still consider the Fair a success, because I did buy and sell from some of my colleagues, and I learned quite a bit from chatting with them and observing what kinds of books they brought, but here's hoping the Albany Antiquarian Book Fair on Sunday, October 19th at the Albany Institute of History and Art will be a less soggy af-FAIR.