Walt Whitman & James Bond At The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair 2019Customers at Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair 2019

While rare books abound at the Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, you can spend as little as $10 for something very readable and collectable.

Or you can plunk down as much as $85,000 and walk away happy with your purchase. The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair, going six years strong, is currently at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint, 72 Noble Street.

Greenpoint – Franklin Avenue

Greenpoint, if you haven’t been there recently, is worth the trip alone. It is hip and revitalized with many unique shops and trendy restaurants filled with customers. The pubs in the area lure you with sweet aromas of barley and hops with their Brooklyn craft beers. Flea markets are nearby and you have great views from the waterfront.

Getting back to the fair, I didn’t spend $85,000 which was the asking price of a magnificent first edition copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass.

Leaves of Grass 1st edition

Leaves of Grass 1st edition

Leaves of Grass

Title page Leaves of Grass

Daniel Whitmore of Whitmore Rare Books Pasadena, CA, noted that the first edition was originally printed with endpapers so thick, that they quickly led to damaging the hinges and spine of the book. Since only 300 copies were printed by Whitman in the first run, he was able to adjust the next printing so this would not occur again.

Leaves of Grass went through many printings during Whitman’s lifetime as he kept revising and expanding its text.

I asked Mr. Whitmore, “about how many first edition copies survive today?”  I guessed that maybe around 100 copies were still in existence. Mr. Whitmore believed that figure to be somewhere in the ballpark.

Leaves of Grass updated 32 new poems

Leaves of Grass with 32 new poems

Now if you couldn’t afford an $85,000 copy of Leaves of Grass, there was a copy with a later publishing date at William Reese Company of New Haven, CT for a fraction of the price at $11,500. For this specific edition, Whitman added 32 new poems. More poems, less money.

All kidding aside, while many people cannot afford either copy, there are people who do spend those amounts at a show like this.

Metropolis book Fritz Lang


There are a number of dealers who specialize only in expensive, rare books. But many dealers had prices that ranged from twenty five to a few thousand dollars, with most falling in the $100 – $1,000 range. I was able to make small purchases cumulatively adding up to under $100.

The best thing about this show is its growing popularity. At noon, the show floor was the most crowded I have seen at a general book show like this in 20 years. Fortunately it remained that way until I departed at 3:00 p.m..

The best thing about the attendees is that dozens of people were in their twenties and thirties. Younger patrons are finding this “book collecting thing” to be fun and exciting.

To paraphrase Mark Twain when asked about his own death, the reports of the demise of the printed book are greatly exaggerated. The buying and selling of great books is enjoying a revival.

Melrose Books &  Art featuring not only books, but handbags and an array of pop culture items

And as usual there were not just books, but posters, postcards, photographs and all sorts of collections of stuff, not always related to books. One dealer had a selection of candid photographs of Paul Newman on the set of Cool Hand Luke.

B & B Rare Books with a pristine 1st edition of Goldfinger – $1,250

Film related books are in abundance.  James Bond is always in style and to this day Goldfinger remains among the best of the Bond movies. Of course there were copies of that and other Bond books available. Author Ian Fleming’s first sale of the film rights to any of his Bond books was in 1955. The sale price for the right to produce Casino Royale, the first Bond book, netted Fleming only $6,000. Currently a fine in dust-jacket, first edition copy of Casino Royale can fetch ten times that amount! A film version of Casino Royale was not made until 1967 and it didn’t star Sean Connery as Bond. David Niven played 007 in this satirical film version.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the moon landing. To conspiracy theorists who weren’t born yet- yes we REALLY did go to the moon. Capricorn One was a bad movie and everything you read on the internet questioning the moon landing is ridiculous.

For sale was this set of newspapers, reminders of a giant leap for mankind and one of the greatest accomplishments in human history.

The Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair runs through Sunday, September 8 from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m

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