By Wilfrid M. de Freitas
By most accounts, the change of venue for the 2013 Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair (TIABF) to the Frank Gehry designed Art Gallery of Ontario (known locally as the AGO) was a resounding success (I say most and not all, only because I didn't speak to every exhibitor).
UK exhibitors included Paul Foster and Lucius Books, with Kelmscott Books, Jeffrey Marks and Tom Goldwasser from the US and Rodolphe Chamonal from France, most of whom were en route to the Boston fair the following weekend. The natural lighting from two glass walls in the Baillie Court on the third floor of the AGO was a huge plus, and the original paintings on the other two walls provided a unique backdrop for the thirty-two exhibitors, who pulled out all the stops and brought a stunning array of books, maps prints and ephemera.
Sales were brisk on all three days, with good attendance (and buying) by both the public and Special Collections librarians from across Canada. The 1,400 visitor attendance was way up from previous years at the Toronto Convention Centre. Of course, the "David Bowie is" exhibition at the AGO (straight from London's Victoria & Albert Museum) pulled in huge crowds, and their tickets allowed them free entry not only to the AGO's world class collections, but also to the Book Fair. It was a treat to see so many young(er) people not only pointing at some of the treasures on offer, but often pulling out their credit cards once they realized that everything was for sale!
A personal observation here: for many, this was their first exposure to a book fair and while a $50 purchase this time might have seemed unplanned and somewhat extravagant, everyone we spoke to seemed delighted and said they'd be back next year. These are the customers of the future!
Of course there were some kinks which need to be ironed out, such as loading in and out, and improving the public address system, but these are minor and easily resolved next time - now that both sides know what's required.
We'd welcome some more overseas and cross-border participation next year and if you'd like to be put on the exhibitor mailing list, just send me a note!