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Rare Books and the Rare Book Trade

From the Vault

A sneak peek in our archives

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Glub

In the week leading up to this year's New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, and its two "shadow" fairs, I'd been in a state of preternatural excitement. Two promoters - Marvin Getman of Impact Events Group and John and Tina Bruno of Flamingo Eventz – were going head to head for supremacy in the satellite book fair market. First Getman crashed the Bruno's turf by scheduling a rival New York shadow show, then the Brunos trumped Getman by moving their shadow show to a new location just across Lexington Ave. from the big show at the Park Avenue Armory. Cold war ensued. It began to get nasty, and I became increasingly excited by the steady stream of blog fodder. There could not be two more different promoters – in terms of personality, management style, and business practices – than Getman and the Brunos. By last Friday night I'd half convinced myself that their collision would result in a black hole of such magnitude that the entire trade would be sucked behind an unbreachable event horizon, allowing us all to go home and rake our lawns. But something else happened. Or maybe I should say nothing happened.
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22nd Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair - 2nd to 3rd November 2012

The hugely popular 22nd Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair opens on Friday, November 2 and Saturday, November 3, 2012 in the stunning Chelsea Old Town Hall, King's Road (opposite Sydney Street). Over 80 exhibitors will be taking part, both local and from around the UK and abroad, who specialise in all types of books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera.
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The Alec Guiness Archive at the British Library

The British Library has acquired the personal archive of Sir Alec Guinness. The archive includes more than 900 of his letters to family and friends and over 100 volumes of diaries from the late 1930s to his death in the year 2000. The letters and diaries of the award winning British actor enrich the British Library's collection of archives of great 20th century artists along with those of Laurence Olivier, John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson.
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Rare Books in the Press: Bibliophilia for Beginners

"You may think that no gift could be safer or tamer than a book. Rare books, however, are a different beast—if you're planning to buy one for a friend, or to treat yourself, remember the advice that is always given about dogs: They are not just for Christmas. In Arturo Pérez-Reverte's thriller "The Dumas Club," the satanic book dealer Varo Borja declares: "Becoming a book collector is like joining a religion: It's for life." All collecting is a disease, but lusting after rare books often strikes those without the bug as deranged. Unlike paintings or fine furniture, say, books are intrinsically mass-produced objects. What's more, you can look at a watercolor or a piece of porcelain without doing it any damage, but—according to the memoirs of the writer and collector John Baxter—a rare book loses $5 in value every time you open it."
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Collecting Rare Books and First Editions: John Kennedy Toole

Toole's story is well-known, but if you don't already know it, he killed himself in despair when he couldn't get A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) published. His mother haunted publishers until, with the help of Walker Percy, she managed to get LSU to publish the book, the first work of fiction from that publisher. To everyone's surprise, the book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. The boards of the book seem to warp or splay pretty easily, but copies with just a little splaying probably shouldn't be rejected out of hand, unless you really want to be a stickler. The jacket is uncoated, and primarily black, so its hard to find copies that don't have at least some rubbing.
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Booksellers

Rummage in Curzon Street

Off to Mayfair again today to take a look at two rather different bookshops perched either side of Curzon Street. On the south side, at no. 46, is the retail showroom of Shepherds, incorporating of course the famous old Sangorski & Sutcliffe bookbinding business. As you might expect, all the emphasis is on fine bindings – new and not so new. Rob Shepherd, incidentally doing a fine job as the new ABA treasurer, and his colleague Kim Pooley, bemoan the fact that the stock is looking a little thin – they simply sold so many books in the run-up to Christmas and the bindery is already at full stretch. Nice problems to have, in a sense, but there are plans to move a lot of the gorgeous stationery, bookbinding accessories and so on, over to their new premises in Gillingham Street at Victoria and to concentrate on books here in Curzon Street.
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