Rare Book Week is a big deal in New York City, where density is your friend. Three simultaneous book fairs, plus auctions, exhibits (like InsideOUT, for a very brief visit at Bonhams), and events the entire week. It’s a destination week in a destination city.
I showed my books at the Manhattan Book Fair on April 11th at the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, across the street from the four day long ABAA book fair.
The book fair was fun and exhausting. My booth was constantly full of people eager to see and learn more about contemporary fine art bookbinding. I made quite a few new friends and saw some of my favorite regulars:
It takes more effort than you might think to create a small display like this:
The day before the fair, my temporary assistant, Michelle McCarthy, and I packed up all of my books and gear, and transported them 20 blocks to the Church of St. Vincent Ferrer. Then we began the really hard work.
Here we are mostly unpacked and have put on my table cover (required but not provided). Michelle is sorting books. Please note that the display case is how we found it: filthy, no shelves, oddly placed brackets, and a temporary electrical hook-up. All normal. Not to worry.
Thanks to team Red Queen, we had plenty of paper towels and glass cleaner. Ooops! I forgot all about that. I didn’t need them at Codex. While Michelle cleaned the showcase, I mentally mapped the book layout, including shelf placement. We deployed the tape measure, adjusted the brackets, and locked them down properly (a critical step to be repeated frequently). Then we carefully installed the glass shelves, well away from the slightly warm overhead fluorescent lights.
We start to place the books.
More books, and I change my mind.
Am I laughing because almost all of the books are in the display case?
Not shown: MACslipcase by Sonya Sheats; TORby Timothy Ely, Oscar Gillespie, and Robert Rowe; and L’ombre d’un cribound by Christine Giard. Those three are strategically placed in the display cases of Red Queen Book Arts.
Last week (March 31-April 6) was Rare Book Week in Manhattan.
New York is always the greatest book city in the world (I’m biased), but Rare Book Week is really something special. Living in Manhattan, and working for a local antiquarian bookseller, I have advantages and disadvantages during this time:
I’ve already seen some of the exhibits at NYPL, Morgan, and Grolier Club, but if I haven’t yet, I’m still here and so are they
I get paid to go to the book fairs, look at the books, and read as many dealer catalogs as I can get my hands on in advance
I already know many of the dealers and they are a fun bunch
I get to set up our booth at the ABAA fair the day before it opens, which means that I have extra time to see the goodies
I can sleep in my own bed and sometimes see my family
I’m working, not playing, so I have to keep to an agenda and timetable
I work a six day week (lucky it wasn’t 7 this year), and some of those days are 12 hours or more
I staff the store some days during the week, limiting my ability to chase after bookish novelties
I have to squeeze in personal book interests after my professional duties are fulfilled
I don’t get to spend nearly enough time hanging out with my dealer friends who I see only 2-4 times per year
The week was awesome, if exhausting. There was one event I wish I hadn’t bothered to go to (title of event withheld to protect the well-intentioned), and another, the Fine Press Book Fair, which deserved way more time than I had.
But what about the bindings, you may ask? The ABAA fair was full of them. I barely scratched the surface.
The award for Best in Show was independently awarded, both by me and Richard Minsky. We kept going back to visit it. I showed it to whomever I thought might care. Those guys at Chez Les Libraires Associés (Paris) were bemused, baffled, and finally, resigned to the attention. It’s a first edition, first issue of Camus’ L’etranger bound by Pierre-Lucien Martin, who was widely considered to be the successor to Bonet, in the 1950s. It stole the show.
I also saw some great North American bindings.
Robert Wu‘s miniature “On a Favorite Cat” by Thomas Gray is a jewel. It really wanted to come home with me, but my bank balance forbade it. Bromer’s had that Wu, as well as a full size Michael Wilcox with a matching mini. Take a look at Bromer’s Facebook page for images of their booth. The Wilcox is on the upper left. That’s a Silvia Rennie on the bottom shelf in the middle. The collection of miniatures the Bromers commissioned for the book fair is arrayed in the front case. I’d like to point out that, as far as I could tell, all but one book in this group was bound by either a fellow or licentiate of Designer Bookbinders (UK). Robert Wu is a Canadian practicing in Canada (yay Americas!) and therefore not eligible for DB.
I saw a pair of Tini Miura quartos (Barbier, George and Georges LePape–Louys, Pierre. Aphrodite. Paris: Les Bibliophiles de L’Amerique Latine, 1954) at Sims-Reed which were not on display because they had already been sold. They were very nice and showed them to me twice. I suppose it helps that I have known them for more than a decade. Priscilla Juvelis had a new Donald Glaister that I didn’t have a chance to get a close look at, but she promised me some pictures. I’m so grateful to Priscilla. I finally got a chance to sit down with her and talk about design binding and other book arts. She is so kind and generous. I can’t wait to speak with her again.
At the Fine Press Association fair, I saw some of the books that have been bound for the Contemporary Bindings of Fine Press Books exhibit and had a great conversation with Graham Moss of Incline Press. Nine binders chose books from his press to bind for the exhibit. I can’t wait to see the results. Also at the Fine Press fair, I met and spoke briefly with Coleen Curry who is not only beautiful and delightful, but also a fantastic binder. She has lots of pictures on her website which is a must see. I also met the elusive Lang Ingalls, binder and fine printer. Erin Fletcher recently wrote a month-long feature on Lang on her blog A Flash of the Hand, which shows more of Lang’s bindings in one place than I have ever managed to ferret out (that’s why I said elusive — I’m sure I could have simply asked for pictures). Definitely take a look.