Published: June 15, 2021
Review and Photos by Rick Russack
CONCORD, N.H. – It’s not an exaggeration to say that whatever your interests in printed items or early manuscripts, you probably could have found it at Richard Mori’s Northern New England Bookfair on June 5 and 6 at the Douglas N. Everett Arena. It was probably the first “live” in-person bookfair in the country since March of 2020 and buyers and sellers were ready.
The fascinating thing about book fairs is that history is for sale and in every price range. You could have bought a postcard for 50 cents, perhaps of your hometown, or an archive of mining and geological material for $22,000. You could have bought a handwritten bill-of-sale for a slave or an arrest warrant relating to the Salem Witch Trials. You could have bought movie posters, early maps, children’s books, books on local history, plenty of titles pertaining to the White Mountains, and more. You could have found ephemeral items on just about every subject imaginable. In most cases, booksellers have researched their offerings well. Many items have long printed descriptions and the dealers are willing to discuss the significance of their items. It probably goes without saying that booksellers love books. Ben Koenig, owner of the Country Bookshop in Plainfield, Vt., had a printed hand-out in his booth: “We sell only old-fashioned books – made with actual paper – held together with either hard or soft bindings. Accept No Substitutes.”
Mori, along with some of the dealers, said the crowds could have been larger but all agreed that the “right” buyers were there: other dealers, institutional buyers, serious collectors, etc. One dealer said he had only sold about $50 worth of stuff on Saturday, but another said his sales ran into five figures. Almost all agreed that they had bought well from other dealers. Richard Mori has been in the book business for more than 35 years. This show was his second at the facility, but the show has been running over 30 years under the moniker of the Concord Antiquarian Book Fair.
Local history material on offer spanned more than 300 years. George Sutton, Jamestown, Penn., brought a manuscript order to raise troops for General Jeffery Amherst’s campaigns during the French and Indian War, 1754-63. Amherst, a British baronet, was Commander-in-Chief of British Forces during that war and under his command, they captured Louisbourg, Montreal and Quebec. Sutton priced the manuscript at $2,000. Amherst’s legacy is complicated by the fact that, in addition to his significant military achievements, he advocated the use of biological warfare, spreading smallpox against Indian tribes during Pontiac’s Rebellion of 1763-66. Sutton also had an arrest warrant relating to the Salem Witch Trials, signed by Samuel Sewall, who presided over those trials. The 1687 manuscript was priced $2,500. A letter signed by Sam Adams, concerning a business dispute of his father’s, was priced $2,500. At the other end of the 300-year time spectrum might have been a book like Railway To The Moon, the history of Sylvester Marsh and the building of the Cog railway up Mount Washington. Written by Glen Kidder, published in 1969. Books End Bookstore, Syracuse, N.Y., priced it $225. Several dealers had wide selections of New England county and town histories. And there were postcards.
Three postcard dealers spread over 50 linear feet of table space and estimated that, between them, they had more than 200,000 postcards, including about 35,000 depicting New Hampshire towns and cities. Prices ranged from 50 cents to $50 and the level of organization was impressive. Buyers did not have to waste time browsing through subjects they did not care about; they could go directly to what interested them, be it views of specific towns, national parks, sporting subjects, holiday greetings and on and on. All said they did well on the opening day of the show.
If your tastes run to mid-Twentieth Century mysteries and science fiction, you would have liked browsing through the booth of Andrew Dangelas, Borderland Books. He said, “I really like mystery and fantasy books and I’ve been collecting them for over 40 years.” He had more than 200 paperback mysteries, many with lurid covers, from the mid-to-late Twentieth Century, priced between $2 and $25. He also had dozens of science fiction paperbacks of the same era, and said this was just a tiny portion of his inventory. His early copy of Wind in the Willows was priced $125.
Tim Stevenson, Carlson and Stevenson Antiques and Fine Arts, Manchester Center, Vt., is known for stocking original artwork for book and magazine illustrations, comic strips and cartoons, early folk art drawings and Nineteenth Century valentines. He has a great “eye” for early graphics and, at this show, offered three colorful theatrical and travel posters from the 1930s, published by Wombwell Yorks in London. They were done by unknown artists but used bright colors and eye-catching graphics. His “Aladdin” poster was priced $175, as were the others. He also had the original artwork by Paul Fierlinger (b 1936) for the alphabet letter D, used on Sesame Street. It was priced $750. The artist did a large body of work for Sesame Street and PBS, winning numerous awards and an Academy Award nomination. Stevenson complimented Richard Mori on the organization of the show and his smooth management. He said it had been a good show but questioned the need for it to be a two-day event.
Peter Luke is a fixture at book fairs and had, as always, a double booth and a huge selection of ephemera on subjects as diverse as advertising, the circus, military broadsides, brochures relating to architecture, and far more. When a customer asks for items on a specific subject, Luke knows exactly where it is. Prices start at just a few dollars and go up from there, depending on the rarity of the item. Barbara Loe, Cardtique, Osprey, Fla., also had a large selection of paper items: early, handmade valentines, trade cards, mechanical cards, and all neatly arranged by subject.
Since both the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) show, usually held at the Hynes Auditorium, and Marv Getman’s Boston Book Fair have stated that their November shows this year will be virtual, not live, that may leave a large hole in the “live” book fair calendar for this region. When asked, Mori said that he was thinking about whether he wanted to produce a “live” show later this year. He said that he was considering whether that made sense for him and he is also considering where such a show might be held. The ABAA has moved their New York show to September this year, which might affect Mori’s decision.
After the show, Mori said, “Many people – dealers and collectors – told me they were really grateful that we had been able to hold the show.” When asked about the generally high quality of the offerings, his comment was, “I’m not surprised at that. We [exhibitors] have all been busy buying over the last year and this is the first time that we’ve had the opportunity to offer the stuff we had been accumulating. Most dealers told me they had a good show this weekend and will participate in the show next year. The facility is large so we can add more dealers. Some have said they like the two-day format, while others have said they’d prefer a one-day show. I’ll be discussing that with the dealers before deciding which way to go.”
For additional information, call Richard Mori at 603-801-7176.
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