Published: September 3, 2019
HARTFORD, CONN. – What is more ephemeral than a sun-filled, low humidity day in late August? If your answer is a paper show conducted in the bowels of Hartford’s XL Center, then you are among the rare breed of book and ephemera collectors who know that while beach outings and barbecues beckon, the exhibitors at the summer edition of Papermania Plus will be packed up and gone at the end of the day. It concentrates the mind. So it was on August 24 that co-producers Gary Gipstein and Arlene Shea assembled about 80 exhibitors for the 76th edition of the antique paper show. Last year the decision was made to trim the event by a day, in hopes that a Saturday-only event would better corral both dealers and the buying public on one of the remaining fine summer weekends.
“The show went very well,” said Hillcrest Promotions’ Gary Gipstein. “There was a crowd of seasoned collectors and new folks investigating what Papermania is all about. We saw a lot of transactions on the floor and a lot of interest, especially in our social media presentations on Facebook and Instagram that help generate interest in the show.”
Opinions among the sellers vary as to whether one day or two are more desirable, but one thing is not in dispute, and that is the show’s track record of being one of the best opportunities on the East Coast to find choice additions for one’s collection. Advertising and photography are areas that are seeing increased interest, according to Gipstein. He related how one dealer told him that it is one of the best shows in New England for photography. Offered under the industrial lighting at this show is an encyclopedic sprawl of rare books, ephemera and collectibles – movie star posters, postcards, vernacular and fine photography, vintage cameras, first editions, sheet music, stamps, tins, children’s games, rock posters, vintage valentines, world war ephemera and zodiac signs, to name a few.
No fan of the aforementioned industrial lighting, but very pleased with the results of his first foray at the show was Hopewell, N.J., dealer John M. Leger of Le Bookiniste, a member of ABAA, ILAB and IOBA. “My sales totaled well into four figures, with the most notable sales being rare theatre material. I was also pleased to sell a fabulous poster featuring Paul Robeson as well as some radical ephemera,” said Leger afterwards. “Given these results, I look forward to returning. Gary Gipstein and his crew do a terrific job. Very smooth move-in and move-out.”
Another first-time exhibitor to this show was camera collector Marti Jones, a Manchester, N.H., dealer specializing in the devices and the early photography they produced. Although her collection is prodigious at about 600 cameras, they date mostly from the 1920s-40s. Due to personal commitments, Jones arrived at the show early Saturday morning, but quickly set up an impressive display that included a number of choice examples of handheld cameras, including a Beau Brownie designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, a brown and tan Art Deco example from the 1920s. “I had a lot of fun and sold a few things,” said Jones afterwards. In addition to a subminiature camera from the 1940s-50s, she sold cabinet cards, tintypes, ambrotypes and daguerreotypes. She said she plans to be back in January.
It’s becoming almost axiomatic in the trade nowadays to note that at most shows, dealer participation and customer numbers are down. “There still does seem to be strong continued interest in photography – in all categories – Nineteenth Century, Twentieth Century, vernacular, Civil War, etc, as well as autograph material,” observed Cohoes, N.Y., dealer Dennis Holzman. Proprietor of his eponymous antiques business, Holzman has since 1975 offered traditional antiques and fine art, rare and out-of-print books, printed ephemera, manuscripts and photographs, and he said he remains “optimistic about the future of the trade.”
Pairing a period photograph of American painter, illustrator, sculptor and writer Frederic Remington (1861-1909) with a great two-page letter written just before the Spanish-American War, Holzman presented Remington’s views on “yellow journalism,” which was reaching its prime. William Randolph Hearst had sent Remington to Cuba to document the Spanish cruelty and the Cuban uprising. Apparently, Remington wrote back that “there is no war… request to be recalled” and Hearst replied, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures, I’ll furnish the war.” In this letter to journalist friend Julian Ralph, who was on assignment in London, Remington wrote: “I am a yellow kid journalist…I have been in Cuba – I now compete for preferment with Anna Held [stage performer associate of Ziegfield known for publicity stunts]…this delirium of new journalism can’t last.” One wonders what his thoughts about “fake news” would be.
Signed lower right “Frederick R” and archivally matted with a 13-by-23-inch image, the letter was priced $2,200.
Peter Blackman owns White Fox Rare Books and Antiques in West Windsor, Vt. His offerings at the show included a rare book of botanical drawings – rare because unlike some books, this floral design album by Wilbert Rattray, an artist about whom little is known, was created to inspire furniture designers, basically a teaching aid rather than a straight up botanical album. Brown Brothers, whose name and address is stamped several times in the album, were furniture manufacturers, active in Scotland from the 1880s onwards. This folio, with 96 pages of original botanical or floral artwork mounted onto its pages, devotes most pages to a single subject, generally one flower or plant, with multiple depictions that show the flower, stem and/or leaves from various angles.
“Certainly there was plenty of material of dazzling variety to suit so many micro fields of collecting, and that remains very true,” commented Blackman about the show. “And there were a lot of unique, special items to be found, and many not at high price points.”
“I brought a new selection of prints, including a giant midcentury slate print on wild fabric of George Washington after Gilbert Stuart by the late Pop-era Connecticut artist William Kent, whose provocative prints were featured in a survey by the Mattatuck Museum last fall,” said Southbury, Conn., dealer Marc Chabot.
“I sold an Ernest Roth etching, midcentury woodcut and late in the day sold an appealing pastel of a Florida sunset to a retired Florida couple visiting their daughter, who loves Papermania and brought them along. This is exactly what we need loyal regulars to do, as my usual customers were notably absent. It was a beautiful weekend day with low humidity, late in summer, so that likely tempted many a family to squeeze in one last Saturday at the beach before school begins. Papermania remains a place where one can discover, learn about and buy amazing historic treasures and pop culture artifacts from dealers with years of connoisseurship and sleuthing experience.”
Papermania Plus will return in 2020 with show dates on January 11-12 and August 22.
For additional information, www.papermaniaplus.com or 860-563-9975.
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