Antiquarian Book Fairs and Collecting

I’m a book person. I am surrounded by books and book related businesses. This has led me to become a casual collector of antiquarian books. Casual meaning I am not seeking to aquire every book in my chosen subjects. I buy a book when I come across one that I want and can afford.  So with that freestyle collecting method, I go to antiquarian book fairs with some trepidation and become quickly overwhelmed when faced with a sea of beautiful covers, lush printing and the opportunity to touch and possibly own another book.

Book collecting books
A selection of my books on book collecting.

I become a little neurotic, competitive, and a completist when faced with all the acquirement possibilities. I start out with the strategy of “seeing it all” in search of the perfect thing, but there are only so many hours you can be at a fair and I really want to leave with something. I sound like a dream customer, right?

So this year, I’ve made a plan for myself for the upcoming  San Francisco Antiquarian Book, Print, and Paper Fair . It’s a good fair to go to if you are just starting to collect books. It’s not too big and has a mix of antiquarian and contemporary books, ephemera, fine prints and anything else you can think of that utilizes printing and paper. I hope my game plan is helpful to other book collectors.

SF 2018 Antiquarian Book Print and Paper Fair

My plan:

  1. Narrow my search to two topics. I’ve tried searching for all my interests and that’s like searching for many needles in many haystacks.
  2. Research the dealers before attending the event, find those who match my topics, and mark their booths on a printed map available on the fair website. Start with those booths and then peruse the others.
  3. Set a budget ahead of time. Of course if there’s something amazing, I can be flexible and spend a little over. And yes, people do very politely talk price at these book fairs. Be nice and be a serious buyer if you are going to ask for any change of price. You may not get much of a price change with your first sale, but it’s all about forming a relationship with the dealer.
  4. Enjoy myself and don’t be afraid to touch books that I am seriously considering. I use two factors in deciding if I should slide that little tome out. First, is the title attracting me, and second, is the binding attracting me? If yes to both, I proceed carefully with handling the book. You will know when you should be asking for assistance. Those white gloves come out pretty quickly.

    Three books on being a lady.
    I love little books that fit into the palm of your hand and look like people have read over and over again.

If you want more Antiquarian Book fun, the The 51st California International Antiquarian Book Fair will be held in Pasadena, California, February 9-11, 2018. This fair is larger and has many more international booksellers.

Ca. International Antiquarian Book Fair

Thanks for reading!

Empress Norma





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