Published: November 24, 2020
Review by Madelia Hickman Ring, Photos Courtesy Virtual Boston Book Fair
ONLINE – The 44th annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair was held virtually November 12-14 and featured more than 9,000 items offered by 184 dealers from around the world. Spanning 15 categories from Americana to travel, the event showcased books, manuscripts, autographs, ephemera, maps, photographs, fine and decorative prints and more. The fair reported sales totaling $1.1 million, with 14,115 unique visitors and 21,588 sessions. The virtual event made it possible for more exhibitors and potential buyers to participate – the 2019 edition hosted 132 booksellers and about 5,000 attendees. Webinars presented by Boston-area libraries were scheduled during the fair to further attract interest and covered topics ranging from Julia Child’s archives, the work of a Nineteenth Century Boston black woman author, a panel discussion and virtual happy hour discussing favorite cocktail books and historical artifacts of the Women’s Voting Rights Movement.
“We are pleased with the results and are looking ahead to the next virtual fair,” said Susan Benne, executive director of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America. For those eager to save the date, the 45th edition is presently scheduled to take place Friday-Sunday, November 12-14.
Buyers could sort the website by category, exhibitor or price; on this last point, the fair offered works in a broad range, from the most expensive posted price of $525,000 for “an unmatchable collection,” of the works of Alexandre Dumas that was offered by Biblioctopus in Century City, Calif., down to $12 asked by Richard C. Ramer Old & Rare Books, New York City, for the first and only edition, published in 1972, of A Critical Edition with Introduction and Notes of Gil Vicente’s Floresta de enganos. In an attempt to engage less well-heeled shoppers, dealers were encouraged to list items priced at $100 or less; these were well-marked and easily spotted.
Chicago-based Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Inc., was located at the top of the website and one of the first booths upon entering the show site. Since 1938, Abraham Lincoln Book Shop, Inc. has specialized in autographs, books – rare, out-of-print, and signed – documents, ephemera, manuscripts, paintings, photographs, prints, sculpture and other material culture related to Abraham Lincoln, the American Civil War and American Presidents. Their sales included the Shoulder Strap Collection, a set of books by and about Union generals. The ten-volume collection was published between 1885-1892 by Charles Webster Co., Mark Twain’s publisher.
An interesting volume for art-loving armchair travelers was Longworth Powers’ Photographic Trade Catalogue of American Photographer in Florence, circa 1870. The son of American sculptor Hiram Powers, Longworth (1835-1904) had a career as a commercial photographer in Florence, where he also worked in his father’s studio. Copies of this catalog can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the American Antiquarian Society, the Winterthur Museum and the University of Delaware, but it is an otherwise rare volume. The book, which was referred to as “an interesting artifact of the American art circle in Italy and the culture of the Grand Tour,” was with Archway Books of Dover, N.H., who specializes in Central Asia, China, Eastern Europe, Japan, Middle East, Photography, Religion, Russia, Southeast Asia.
“We were quite pleased with the fair,” said Richmond, Va., bookseller Nicholas Cooke of Black Swan Books. He had nearly a dozen sales, largely to trade buyers but gained a new private client and also a new institutional buyer, a college library with a Special Collections department. One of his sales included a three-volume set of the works of Alexander Hamilton so we asked him if the popularity of Hamilton The Musical has translated into increased interest in his works. “My personal opinion is that it has a had a very positive impact on the sale of Hamilton’s books – or Hamilton-related books – and that it continues to do so.”
With recent cultural and social rights movements, such as Black Lives Matter and LGBTQ+ issues, Tomberg Rare Books has their finger on the pulse. A dynamic offering with them, and priced at $750, was an original movie poster from the 1972 movie I Want What I Want…to be a Woman, a story about a young man who transitions into the woman he was meant to be.
Several sales were noticed on a random gambol around the book fair’s website a few hours before it closed. Noted sold works were Declaration of Rights of the Women of the United States by the National Woman Suffrage Association by Susan B. Anthony, Lucretia Mott and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, et al., which was sold by Whitmore Rare Books of Pasadena, Calif. Vagabond Books, also of Pasadena, Calif., had marked as sold the complete six-volume set of The Lithographs of Chagall, the first American edition, which was published by George Braziller in New York in 1986. Paul Foster Books in London found a new home for a 1914 rare bibliographical variant and second separate English edition of Rudyard Kipling’s If. Elena Gallego Rare Books, LLC, in San Antonio closed the deal on a beautiful album of 28 original watercolor drawings of Mexican flora and fruits, which Luis Murillo painted in 1904 for his Atlas botánico.
Halfway through the show, Houston-based William Allison Books, specializing in Western Americana, Texas, Wild West and Railroads, had wrangled 15 sales, slightly more than the dozen titles written up by Thomaston, Maine, bookseller Sandra L. Hoekstra. Hoekstra, who specializes in antiquarian illustrated books, maps, prints, children’s books, travel and adventure, sold a German picture book, a schoolgirl sewing journal, a needlework book, the memoirs of Mrs Pilkington (Mary Susanne nee Hopkins) and Joseph Taylor’s General Character of the dog.
Not all listings in the show were books or manuscripts. Adam Weinberger of New York City, who was showing nine sales during the show, was asking $1,100 for a Pennsylvania document box dated 1787.
For additional information, www.bostonbookfair.com.
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