The 2011 Baltimore Summer Antiques Show

September 9, 2011
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What was the name, dates, and place of fair?

Antiquarian Book Fair within the Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, August 25-28, 2011 (Thursday – Sunday) at the Baltimore Convention Center – Inner Harbor.

Did you attend as a buyer or as an exhibitor?

Buyer

What seemed to be the mood among buyers?

I was there on Thursday and Friday, under somewhat difficult circumstances; the week had begun with an earthquake, and was ending with Hurricane Irene headed for the area. Sandbags were being filled outside the venue as I left on Friday. This uncertainty affected buyers. On the positive side, those who were there seemed to be pretty motivated.

Among dealers?

The same uncertainty infected the dealers, complicated by the need, after the show closed on Thursday night, for half of the dealers to relocate their booths, due to a risk of leaks in the original location. After that, it was still an open question as to whether the show would be able to stay open until Sunday, and if it did, would anyone attend?

How was attendance?

Seemed low, and also seemed a pretty homogeneous crowd – the ‘average attendee’ seemed to be male, white, and at least 50+ This is in contrast to my recent observations in Boston and New York, where there were a number of young and less traditional attendees. This may have been skewed by my attendance on weekdays.

Most interesting item(s) you saw?

I was cheered to see a number of contemporary fine press and artist’s books exhibited by Kelmscott and Lux Mentis. There is some very exciting work happening now.

Most interesting item(s) you purchased?

I made two purchases – an absolutely gorgeous set of art nouveau bookends, and an Enigma. The Enigma is an early 19th century British album, which I expect will give me hours of researching pleasure as I try to answer the many questions that it poses.

Any other details you’d like to include?

This show is unlike most others – it is part of an art and antiques fair. There is a lot of competition for the eye, as indicated by my purchase of bookends. I think that booksellers need to adapt to the aesthetic of a show dedicated to the decorative arts, and that booths need to be ‘curated’ as exhibits. It is always a bit of a mystery to me that so many book dealers see it as almost a moral failing, an ethical lapse, to show anything but the unadorned ‘Book’. This show is an especially good opportunity to move beyond that attitude, that the book must sell as Book alone. Don’t neglect the narrative – and tell the story in presentation as well. The best example that I saw of this approach was at the Lux Mentis booth, where display was carefully considered to enhance carefully collected stock. The towering glass case of miniature books worked especially well in this context, and echoed the many jewel cases elsewhere on the floor.

[Editor's note: For another excellent account of the Baltimore Fair, see fellow IOBA-n Greg Gibson's account "No Fighting, No Biting."]

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