Friday, March 6, 2020

The 60th Anniversary New York International Antiquarian Book Fair


Yesterday, Marianne and I made a quick jaunt to the Big Apple (do people still call NYC that?) for the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair. One of those half-for-business, half-for-fun things one does.

I won't pretend that we managed to see it all. A quick pass around the perimeter, with pauses to chat with people we know, was pretty much it. Nor did I take notes, so there won't be a full-scale article about it. Still, the Park Avenue Armory (this was a big event) was chock-a-block with nifty stuff any book lover would want.

Just two examples: A miniature book of a biography of Robert Godard, bound between two boards of meteoric iron--acid-washed, of course, to bring out the Widmanst├Ątten patterns. And a quite beautiful artist book, one of four, made from a first edition of Finnegans Wake, with each page torn into strips and woven into a new page, then bound together. It was an audacious thing to do and I have to admire the artist (sorry, I don't have her name; as I said, I took no notes) for the nerve she displayed there.

I was of course daydreaming about items I'd love to own, had I only the shelf- or wall-space for them. Marianne, meanwhile, was making mental notes for future Dragonstairs Press projects.

Oh, and the book above? One dealer had a set of cheap shelves ("Everything $400 or Less!") and there on it was one of Gardner Dozois's best of the year volumes. Signed by Gardner and Gene Wolfe, and only $175. I had no idea such a thing existed. Gardner didn't talk much about his own accomplishments.

Also, and I realize the irony of this, special limited editions and spectacular leather bindings meant nothing whatsoever to the man. He was all about the words rather than the objects. When I interviewed him over the space of several years for Being Gardner Dozois, I discovered that he hadn't even kept copies of all of his own stories.

I'm sure Gardner would have thought the artist-book of James Joyce's most daunting work was a waste of a good reading copy.


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