Member Blogs > ten pound island book companyReport from Murderer's Row

  • Sun, 10 Mar 2013 11:17:21    Permalink

    The cold weather followed John Thomson, Lin Respess and me south from last week's Rosslyn book fair. Blinding flurries in Virginia, night time temperatures in the 20s in Alabama, and worrisome showers in the panhandle. Transitioning, finally, to sunny skies in Bradenton, Florida, just in time for the Pirates Tampa Bay spring training ballgame on Thursday. By Friday we were thawed out and ready to go back to work.
    Maybe its because so many people have been doing this show for so long, or maybe the fine weather combs everybodys nerve hairs back, but setup at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair seems to get smoother every year. No yelling, no fistfights, not many dealers searching for their booths. However, more than a few souls apparently got lost on the way to the fair, because there were a number of booths whose owners never showed up. Promoter Sarah Smith described this year as a perfect storm of minor disasters for the dozen or so who had to change plans at the last minute. Thats why fairs keep waiting lists. And thats why, by the opening bell, most of the booths were filled.A few minutes earlier Joachim Koch of Books Tell You Why had opened his bar and started pouring. By 7:30 it was Booze Tells You Why.Shortly thereafter Tom Congalton came on strong as The Worlds Most Interesting Book Dealer I dont always buy books, but when I do, I buy them responsibly. All this taking place against the backdrop of a Genetically Modified crowd. Floridais a wonderful place. Just a little scary sometimes. There was a good humored mob at the door on Friday night. But once the people got in they seemed to evaporate - especially up at the far end of the hall where Bartleby, Respess, Bauman, Ten Pound, Davis, Stern, and Between the Covers were lined up. Murderers Row! Unfortunately, Bartleby, Respess, Ten Pound, Davis and Stern were the only ones getting killed. Between the Covers, I am told, sold a book.
    The aisles were crowded all day Saturday, with plenty of official bookfair plastic bags in evidence. Judging by the requests I fielded, this crowd was interested in, and knowledgeable about, local history. Ephemeral items such as development prospectuses, travel brochures, and vintage photographs were much in demand. Not having sold anything I didnt get any personal sense of price levels, but my careful dealer survey indicated a sweet spot of $25-$250. Lots of midrange fiction, popular culture, huntin & fishin and childrens books walked out of this fair.
    Yes, I pitched another no-hitter. Sales = O, sigh. But that was no big deal. The bad part was that I found very little to buy. And it wasnt just me. Thomson and Respess came up short, too. Bauman Rare Books, on the other hand, bought like a fleet of rampaging vacuum cleaners. I'd guess they contributed a substantial percentage of total sales at this fair.Lack of commerce is always a hardship, but hell, this fair is fun! A well organized and inexpensive event, in a wonderful venue filled with potentially new customers and book dealers I only get to see on this southern trip Long walks in the morning sun (thinking about the blizzard back home),pleasant lunches and dinners with colleagues and friends I can take a hit every now and then, as long as it occurs under such pleasant circumstances.  Peter Stern calls it Spring break for book dealers. (Stern, by the way, has tossed his hat in the ring for the forthcoming Papal election. He figures to be something of a longshot, but were calling him Your Eminence just in case. Lotsa dupes in the Vatican Library!)
    In summary, many dealers had excellent shows, while for some the 32nd Florida Antiquarian Book Fair seemed to be on the same gentle but remorseless glide path shared by so many provincial fairs. Will my Job-like trials continue? Are they just a blip in an otherwise healthy and enjoyable career?
    Tune in next year.
    Better yet, tune in next week for a report on the Ephemera Society show in Greenwich, ConnecticutHeres the highlight of this years slim pickings. Its a set of six color lithographed cards depicting scenes from Arctic exploration. Printed by Bufford, dated 1882. $350

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