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43d California Book Fair Coda: Happy Trails

A mysterious stranger appears at the 43d California International Antiquarian Book Fair and blesses exhibitors left and right by spending over one million dollars on Bibles. Astonishing, a marvel indeed, but not a supernatural event. Or was it?
Published on 22 Feb. 2010
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Stephen J. Gertz


A mysterious stranger appears at the 43d California International Antiquarian Book Fair and blesses exhibitors left and right by spending over one million dollars on Bibles. Astonishing, a marvel indeed, but not a supernatural event. Or was it?

Now word trickles in since yesterday’s report that some dealers are experiencing a post-Fair bounce, with books taken on approval, approved, and books left to think about later at home thought about and bought.

Read last sentence, last clause again. Repeat. Some people who did not buy at the book fair went home, thought, then bought.

This is an anomaly. It rarely occurs in other retail businesses; it never happens in the rare book trade. Dealers talk about how rich they’d be if everyone who thought about buying a book returned and actually bought it.

It is such an unusual occurrence that, given the man with the checkbook from Christ, it is tempting to wonder about divine intervention.

But it would be a mistake, based upon this anecdotal evidence, to make too much of this. It may be just a positive ending to a book fair where anxiety and hope went toe to toe deep in the amygdala and fought to a draw.

Yet, it may be a portent worth taking note of. For these book collectors, the fire remained in the belly, even if moths remained in the wallet. They thought, considered, wrestled and concluded that it was a good time to buy. Money may be tight but, for them, the future looked a little less dim.

Further, in a salute to thrift without sacrifice, these post-Fair buyers, in some cases, asked for terms and made arrangements for installment payments, the pre-credit card method of securing the desired without going into debt.

The object lesson, I think, is that when rare book collectors and rare book dealers are willing to work closely together during this time of market readjustment, books get sold.

A week after the Fair and its sales continue. The 43d California International Book Fair has demonstrated long legs in its aftermath. 2010 is looking up.

The article was posted by Stephen J. Gertz on Book Patrol (Friday, February 19, 2010) and is presented here by permission of the author. Thank you very much.

Picture Gallery (by permission of Pia Glaser of Randall House and Antonella Manganelli of Marninart)

Stephen J. Gertz about 43d California Book Fair and the State of the Trade

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