Sunday, February 11, 2024

antiquarian book fair

I was wondering what to do on Super Bowl Sunday. It's a good time to go out, because I have no interest in the game but it occupies other people, leaving it quiet and uncongested out there.

Then I read in File 770 an item linking to an NPR news story that the dealer who bought the original Leo and Diane Dillon painting that formed the cover for the first edition of Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness would be displaying it at the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco.

So I thought, OK, I'll go. I've been to the Book Fair before a couple times. I like books but I'm not much of a collector, certainly not of antique nor expensive ones, and the offerings are no more than pleasant to browse through. But at least "antiquarian books" include modern classics, and more and more those classics are apt to include ones that I've read.

So it was this time. It was not very crowded and there was very little sports talk. I headed first for Mark Funke's booth where the painting was indeed on display, with a price tag of (IIRC) $20,000. The most striking difference from the reproduction was the acrylic three-dimensional relief on the little white circles that decorate the painting. I talked with Mr Funke a bit about what the book has meant to us, and then passed on to other things.

I kept my eye out for Tolkien. One dealer had a semi-first edition of The Lord of the Rings for $25,500. It was the first printing of volumes 2 and 3, plus a second printing of volume 1, whose first printing was a shorter run and hence considerably rarer. Another dealer had the same mixed copy for $51,000. But a third dealer had a genuine first all the way through for $42,500. I pulled volume one down and checked: it was indeed a first; it didn't have the typos which entered in the second printing and infected the book for decades. I asked them if they knew how lucky they were to have the true first: they were, but they hadn't known about the typos in the reprints.

There were some more things. A first American Hobbit for $35,000. A first of Farmer Giles for $1200. Some of the same dealers had some early Gnome Press editions of Isaac Asimov. Asimov seems more popular than Heinlein, Bradbury, or Clarke. One of the same dealers had a Shakespeare Fourth Folio for some large amount of money. Popular children's books included Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (no mention of how the early editions differ from the later ones) and - this slightly surprised me - Bridge to Terabithia.

The fair was in a two-story event hall located oddly enough on a cruise ship docking pier on the waterfront. There was something of a glitch getting there because BART was down for some reason so I took a bus all the way to the Embarcadero before transferring to the other bus that went past the right pier. Returning was less stressful.

No comments:

Post a Comment