Boston Book Collector Weekend

Yesterday was Boston’s Book Collector’s weekend. There were two shows, the bigger one being the 36th Annual International Antiquarian Book Fair and the other was the Boston Book, Print and Ephemera Show. I spent a little time at both.

The Antiquarian Book Fair is more for serious collectors; way out of my price range but it was quite fun to look around and ogle at the beautiful things money can buy. Dealers were there from Europe as well as all over the US.  Out of curiosity I sought out the English dealers. I am a HUGE fan of Baroness Orczy’s The Scarlet Pimpernel. Many people know of the book and have had to read it at some point in their school career but few realize it is actually the first in a 20-some book series. Only the first one ever made it into print in the U.S. For years I have been scouring used book sales for copies (Yes I could buy them offline but it’s not as fun). Sure enough, the third English dealer I found had two of the books in his class case. I was ecstatic until I learned that 800-some English pounds was almost 1000 U.S. dollars. While talking to the owner he explained that because they were first editions and still had their slipcovers intact they were worth a lot. I explained that I didn’t want them from a rare book perspective, just to read. According to him I had never thought to bring the less expensive reprint copies to an antiquarian book fair, they are everywhere in the U.K. So my search continues…

The Antiquarian Book Fair was mostly books as the name implies but every so often there was a booth that was different. One such one was The University Archives. The glass case up front displayed items signed by certain individuals and such oddities as a piece of computer hardware that purported to be part of a device that the FBI used to eavesdrop on Whitey Bulger and Ernest Hemingway’s typewriter. How can you authenticate that? I have no idea but I was seriously confused at first. What was an archives doing selling off its stuff? It’s not an archives but a company from Connecticut with a very ambiguous name. Not sure how I feel about that.

The Expo was a bit more laid back (Though the other wasn’t too stuffy. A man had his movie star photos in a binder labeled "A Binder of Women"). Instead of class cases and men in suits it was more like a huge yard sale (though still with some very expensive pieces) and many other things other than books including posters, newspapers, pamphlets, just about anything paper based. Looking through a box labeled “Mid Atlantic States” I found someone’s 1953 photography thesis that featured a street I used to drive down every day when I lived in New Jersey! It sure made my day! The picture (which I took with my dying cellphone) is on the left and the right is the Google maps street view of it today. It actually looks like it thrived more in the 1950s.

After seeing this 60 minutes clip about the FBI/NARA scoping such fairs for lost National Archives treasures I really wanted to spot the Feds and perhaps get a word with them  and network (As an archives student currently in a federal job) but alas, either they weren’t there, I missed them or they were “undercover.”  However I did overhear a man who said he was an Antiques Road Show appraiser (and boasting about being recognized by middle aged ladies on airplanes, funny because I can’t match his picture to any on the Antiques Road Show website) chatting about appraising the IRA archives for the U.S. Government.  Doesn’t sound like something you should be chatting about in a public place but I lingered nearby to listen. ;)

I love Boston.

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