ABAA New York Book Fair Has Treasures In All Price Ranges
There are not many places you can see a dozen first edition copies of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn. That is unless you are visiting the Park Avenue Armory this weekend.
Over 200 book dealers from around the globe have set up at the Armory (Park Avenue between 66th & 67th Streets) to display and sell their treasures and rarities. For sale are original manuscripts, maps, autographs, illuminated texts and of course, books. Lots and lots of books.
The book show had a preview opening Thursday, April 7 and presents a fascinating feast not only for bibliophiles, but for anyone wishing to see works that could be in a private library or museum, yet are available for purchase.
The exhibitors have brought a range of objects with them, from one of a kind rarities to books from highly collected stalwart authors like Hemingway, Verne, Dickens, Joyce, Wells, Faulkner, and Melville. And then of course there is Mark Twain and those multiple copies of Huckleberry Finn first editions.
Twain remains popular and Huckleberry Finn, being an American classic is always valued among collectors. A wide price range exists for Huckleberry Finn and is based mainly on the condition of the book. The same can be said of Ayn Rand’s two blockbusters The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, with many dealers having copies of one or both for sale.
If you are looking for something truly unique you could consider purchasing movie studio head Jack Warner of Warner Bros.’ inscribed copy of The Fountainhead for $125,000.
It seems that books with movie tie-ins remain a popular collecting category with many dealers featuring them
When dealers are deciding what books to bring to the show from their stock there are several factors to consider. But there is one prime factor for all the dealers in what they carry to the show.
According to Dan Whitmore of Whitmore Rare Books, Altadena CA, “The New York show represents the highest level of rare book dealing. We bring our best material.'”
Hopefully by doing so the dealers have far fewer books to carry back with them when the show is over.
Specializing in cartography and maps, Barry Lawrence Ruderman Rare Maps, La Jolla, CA had a spectacular 1680 wall map of the world offered at $350,000. It’s not the sort of purchase one would make on a whim. But this show does tend to veer towards the sophisticated collector.
Where do the dealers get this sort of high end material? In the case of Ruderman, auctions, private sales and the occasional estate sale or attic find, provide quality items.
“Also a lot of people know to contact me when they have something good to sell,” says Ruderman.
Though some books may seem pricey to an average person coming to this type of book show, I spotted quite a few New York related books that were priced fairly. A nice copy of famed New York news photographer Weegee’s second publication Weegee’s People in dustjacket was $250. Spread among the six figure rarities were many items priced under $100.
Dan Whitmore believes the ABAA show is inspiring to young collectors. Whitmore said, “This is an excellent opportunity for younger people to learn about fine and good books. They can learn why several copies of what appear to be the same book can vary widely in price from dealer to dealer. Collectors have to understand that a slight difference in condition, especially of a dustjacket, can make a huge difference in the price.”
What authors are popular to collect now? That can change as quickly as the weather. But for the moment, speaking with a number of dealers who specialize in modern literature the names that came up were, Patricia Highsmith, Cormac McCarthy, Jack Kerouac, Ayn Rand and John Wyndham.
With the continued talk of the death of the book, at least in printed form, it is somewhat reassuring to see hundreds of people not just attending a book show, but buying books.
Speaking with dealers at the show you get different opinions, but one overwhelming feeling is that there are still a large segment of people who eschew electronic books in favor of the traditional printing of books.
May that sentiment continue.
The ABAA New York Antiquarian Book Fair is running today April 8 and continues through Sunday April 10.