Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The York Book and Paper Fair

The Spring ’11 York Book and Paper Fair takes place next weekend and I’m looking forward to poking around a bit. I always seem to find interesting things there.

Our book fair here in York started in the fall of 1984, and has been running continually—twice each year—since then. That makes this the 55th edition. It also makes it one of the longest running book fairs in this part of the country.

Now, it isn’t the largest fair, to the sure. Nor is it star-studded, with lots of big name authors and special presentations from publishers. We don’t have the First Lady involved, like they do in Washington, DC. We don’t give out awards for best novels or for lifetime achievements. There are no roped-off areas or V.I.P. passes required to get into the “special” rooms.

(Although, to be candid, we did try to get Nora Roberts to attend since she doesn’t live too far away. After a number of invites, her people got back to us and told us that Ms. Roberts was aware of our little fair and really liked the idea of it and, if she were ever going to do one, ours would be the one she would do. But. She’s never going to do another one. So that makes us THE Number One Thing That Nora Roberts Is Never Going To Do. And that’s a distinction of sorts, I guess. But, I digress…)

We don’t go in for all that highfalutin celebrity and off-limits stuff here. All that is fine in its place, of course. If they want to do that in New York we invite them to go right ahead. But this isn’t the place; this isn’t New York. This is York. And this is the YORK Book and Paper Fair. It is just us, doing what we like to do: books.

We like to talk about them. We like to discover new authors or forgotten works by favorite authors. We like to sift through the older tomes, admiring bindings and layouts and typographic styles. We like to compare editions and dust jackets. We like the ephemera; the colors and the artwork.

We like to rub shoulders with other bibliophiles as we walk the aisles. We want to see what they’re reading, and we want to admire the treasures they’ve discovered this day; to share their enthusiasm for a new quest. And, frankly, we want to brag and show off a bit with the things we’ve managed to uncover.

We like to talk to the dealers, since they’re the ones who really know. What are they seeing at other fairs? What are the trends? What news from the front lines of the book world? (Not the hype and PR and stuff we get in the papers and online journals, but the real story.) Are e-books really taking over? Will there still be room for us luddites, who prefer reading paper to electrons?

And…what have you got hidden under the table? Anything special for me?

And we like the haggling. (“Well, on a good day and in the right place, that book probably is worth $75. But I’ve got fifty dollars cash money in my hand right now…”)

But most of all, we like the books. We like walking into the dealer display rooms and just standing there for a minute looking around at all the dealers, all the displays. The colors; the embossings; the foxings.

The books! All the books! Hundreds…thousands of them! Some are old friends. Some are new and unknown to us; perhaps destined to be new friends.

And every one of them, it seems, is calling to us.

Leather-bound, from the 18th and 19th centuries. Signed, 1st editions (“Really? Richard Nixon?”). Vintage paperbacks (“How many ways could they show a naked woman without really showing a naked woman?”). Pulp magazines with first appearances of a favorite author’s short stories (“That one’s got H.P. Lovecraft in it!”). Collected works. Obscure works (“Tarzan and the Ant Men! With a dust jacket!”). Limited editions. Spoken word (“Jack Kerouac doing a live reading?”).

Is that a real Steinbeck autograph? Did Erle Stanley Gardner really write that letter? That Jimmi Hendrix record, the first-pressing from Germany, is still in the shrink-wrap! Did you see that neat, old set of bookends down there…must be from the 50s!

Yeah…this is the York Book and Paper Fair. I’ve got my coupon. I can’t wait!

There are a couple of tables that I am looking forward to looking under.


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  5. At last you show a pic of just EACTLY what type of book I look for…. The Panchronicon. Rats! I have it already. But it is great you have something I can point to. Please quote “similar” books, great stamped bindings, weird books mean weird covers, great example 1895 to 1915 there-abouts. No Victorians please. This site helps me to write my papers on this theme. Good luck.

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