Member Blogs > ten pound island book company"The report of my death was an exaggeration"

  • Mon, 16 Sep 2013 10:40:11    Permalink
    Peter Blackman spreads his waresSeems hard to believe that, just a year ago, I was writing the obituary of the New Hampshire Antiquarian Bookseller Association Book Fair. This event, one of the longest running in the trade, had just been cancelled owing to lack of response from New Hampshire dealers.

    It was a sad state of affairs. Id been attending the show since the late 1970s, back when it was the big event of the fall and the air in the function hall (I think the venue was called the Highway Hotel) crackled with excitement. Who bore the responsibility for last years cancellation? If your budget was so tight that even a few hundred dollars for a booth was too much, well certainly no one could blame you for not signing up. Especially for a fair attended by the same 100 people who never buy from you. And how could anyone expect the NHABA book fair committee to make the multi-thousand dollar financial commitment of renting the space when only 16 dealers had paid deposits?
    I thought it was the last wed see of the grand old New Hampshire Book Fair.
    But then, Phoenix-like, the event rose from the ashes, found a convenient  and comfortable venue in a mega-motel just south of Nashua NH, and got all of 33 dealers to commit to being there on Sunday. And just like that, the 39th annual NHABA Book Fair was back in business. Except it wasnt just like that. This event took a lot of planning and hard work, and a good bit of risk, as well. Most of it was undertaken by NHABA Vice President Gary Crooker of Crooks Books.
    He says he advertised in half a dozen print journals including the Nashua Telegraph and the Manchester Union Leader. He also sent emails via couple of internet blasts and mailed information and free tickets to over 100 public libraries. The result was a lively crowd of nearly 250, most of whom stayed late into the afternoon. Yes, those same 100 regulars who never buy anything from me were there, but there were new faces too. Even I - who really and truly often never sell anything - was surprised to see a couple of my mailing list customers from Cambridge and Boston, both of whom wrote checks to Ten Pound Island!Its hard to say what the architects had in mind when they designed the building which presents itself as something between a castle and an orphanage. Our venue was a ballroom housed behind the armory, second moat from the left. Curbside load-in was a snap, and the six acre parking lot in the fields below (formerly worked by serfs) provided plenty of convenient and free parking.
    I thought there was a good mix of material on the floor. As one old timer pointed out to me, You wouldnt have seen material like this in the New Hampshire book fair thirty years ago. Back then, it was just books. Now look at all the stuff weve got. Books, maps, ephemera, manuscripts, prints He had a point. Maybe there was a lot more energy and anticipation in the old days, but at modern shows the material tends to be much better. All the crap accumulates on the Internet, and dealers know that if they want to sell anything theyd better bring the best theyve got.David Meikle consults with Bill Hutchison during setupFor me the buying was excellent. But I know thats just a matter of chance. You show up for work regularly enough and sooner or later youre going to have a good day. Others reported only mediocre buying. Sales seemed to range from sort of okay to not very okay. But, given the recent history of this event, expectations were low across the board. It seemed to me everyone was pretty happy with the venue and the crowd.
    Cheryl Needle, slipping into darkness?The lone negative factor and it is a huge one was the terrible lighting. Dan Siegel's got it figured out!Despite Gary Crookers repeated attempts, building maintenance people could not get the lights in the ballroom above a dull glow. Very romantic for slow-dancing at the end of a junior prom, but lousy for looking at fine print. People kept having to go out to the brightly illuminated hallway to examine the goods. Maybe next year Gary can rent space in the front hallway rather than the ballroom.Oh, yes, I nearly forgot. The bar, located next to my booth, was splendid. Fifteen large screen TVs showing three football games. The burgers were good and the beer was cold. Thanks, Gary. For everything.26 photos of Tasmania - $2000Arctic whaling and sealing, 1777. Immaculate copy $1500

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