Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyIt's Only a Paper Moon...

  • Mon, 07 Jan 2013 10:37:58    Permalink

    Not the XL CenterThis is my fourth report on Papermania, the giant ephemera show held annually in Hartford, Connecticut on the first weekend after New Years day.
    My last three reviews have been scathing. The city of Hartford is falling apart; the Papermania venue formerly the Hartford Civic Center, now the XL Center, is a hideous combination of concrete floors, deathray lighting, and a pathetically bad naming idea. Yes, XL may be the sponsoring insurance company, but it only reminds me of overweight people in tee shirts lined up at Cracker Barrel for the high fructose corn syrup special. The world of paper has, to a great extent, devolved into whats-left-over-after-eBay. (One colleague, whos not exhibiting this year, calls it Toiletpapermania.) And both the exhibitors and the clientele are getting long in the tooth. Opening morning at Papermania is eerily reminiscent of Bingo time at Golden Dawn Retirement Center.
    But Im so tired of my own negativity that I have resolved to write a positive review for once. Hence this will be a very short blog entry.
    Only kidding The truth is that I really like Papermania. Yes, its gritty and hard on the feet, but Hartford can be quite fetching in its better moments
    Hartford, AMand, despite the demise of the MacDonalds across the street from the XL Center, there are still some good restaurants in town. I enjoy seeing my colleagues here each year, especially the ones I actually like and like to talk to, but also the ones I havent said a word to in thirty years the ghostly peeling paper people who used to creep me out. Theyve become as benign as Maurice Sendaks monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. My collegues! I might as well be looking in a mirror.

    But more than anything, I like the range of material this show presents. Yes, theres a lot of crap, but there are jewels in that mud. And educational opportunities in abundance. Each year I see things that I never dreamed existed. Sometimes thats a good thing.
    Anyway, here are a few of the purchases that delighted me.
    William Armstrong Fairburn has been known to me for decades as the maniacal compiler of information about wooden merchant sailing vessels. In pre-Internet days, his works reigned supreme as reference sources. I reprinted his Merchant Sail and sold them out in months.  Fairburn made the fortune that allowed him to indulge himself as a historian by turning the failing Diamond Match Company into a going concern. However, I never knew the details until this years Papermania, where I found the history of Fairburn and Diamond Match. Ill probably never sell it, but I dont care. Hes made me plenty of money already. $40

     People responsible for provisioning whale ships had a tough job. Pigs and yams you could always pick up at some island or other, but what if you forgot the harpoons? This item, called an outfit book, was provided by chandlers as a memory aid. It is a printed list of whatever might be needed on a typical whaling voyage. The provisioner checked off the vessels needs, and the quantity of each item required, and often added his own invaluable notes. $450

     How about this gorgeous color lithograph of the private signals of New Bedfords many whaling firms, circa 1857. Measuring 32 x 22 inches, framed, and in magnificent condition? Id seen whale ship signals in New Bedford directories, but never displayed like this. Great stuff! $4500 

    Or this one - TORREYS NARRATIVE: OR, THE LIFE AND ADVENTURES OF WILLIAM TORREY...  Torrey went to sea on a whaler out of New Bedford and served on several whaling, sealing and merchant voyages over 14 years, during which time he was able to try out cannibalism not to his taste. Written by himself. Illustrated by engravings of his own sketching.  $1500 

    Or this print of Jonah getting coughed up by the whale, Evomit Absorptum Caeco de Guttere Coetus. Ca. 1615.  It is signed on the plate Marten de Vos Inventor and is a later adaptation of one of de Voss 1585 series of four engravings illustrating the story of Jonah. I love the image, and I hardly ever get to buy a print with Evomit in the title. $750

     Bottom line, $9000 in, $11,000 out. I was tempted to ascribe this good result to my positive attitude, but quickly rejected the idea.
    Good old Papermania.

    Michael Brown and Jim Arsenault - the Rock Stars of Paper

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