The Carriage House Antiquarian Book Fair, New York City

By: Douglas Diesenhaus
Photography by: Lindy Settevendemie

“The shuttle bus to the Park Avenue Armory will be leaving in five minutes!”

That was one of the first things I heard when I ducked in from the rain through the 15 foot-high mahogany and glass doors of the Altman building, the site of the Carriage House Antiquarian Book Fair on Friday, April 11, 2003 in New York City. The show was held simultaneously with the ABAA show at the Armory, and the free shuttle service, rather than detracting from the Carriage House fair, provided a convenient and efficient mode of transport allowing visitors and dealers to move between the two shows.

“We arranged the shuttle and underwrote a 32 passenger motor coach,” said Gary Austin, co-organizer of the show. “We did this to simplify the logistics for patrons who wanted to visit both shows, but had concerns about getting across town and parking.”

Riverow’s movie posters from 1929 and 1930, with original artwork painted on cloth. Priced at $3,500

Planning the Carriage House fair to overlap with the ABAA show is a concept the organizers call a “shadow show,” and it’s a strategy that gives non-ABAA collectors and dealers a chance to participate. “It’s a smaller show that tries to create a synergy with the larger, more prominent event,” said Austin, owner of Austin’s Antiquarian Books in Wilmington, Vermont. “Our goal was to provide an atmosphere where the ABAA dealer gets to buy from an enlarged market. Our business is defined as selling books, but the life-blood of the business is buying books.”

Riverow’s Uncle Bernac: A Memory of the Empire, Arthur Conan Doyle’s own edition of his book, with nine corrections by the author. Priced at $5,000

Comparing the energy of the two shows to similar multiple-venue fairs in Boston and the UK, John D. Spencer, of Riverow Books in Oswego, New York, saw value in the idea. “I like to see something like the London Book fair week, where there’s a lot of shows and activity and a lot of interest in books developed.” Spencer’s display ranged from huge movie posters from the infancy of talking movies ($3,500), to Arthur Conan Doyle’s own edition of his book Uncle Bernac: A Memory of the Empire, complemented with nine corrections in the author’s hand ($5,000). “I felt this was a good idea, just one-day in and out of the city.”

Sue Gryzb, of On The Road Bookshop in Canton, Connecticut, another of the 37 vendors, was particular happy with the ease of the show. “The booth rent was very reasonable ($375 for two tables, among other sizes) and Bruce and Gary were very helpful and nice.” In addition, Gryzb, who featured an exhibition catalogue of original lithographs by artists connected to Ediciones Polígrafa, including Henry Moore and Joan Miró ($250), commented on the convenience of the porters, who helped with loading, and the cost efficiency of a one-day fair. A quick show reduced hotel, dining, and booth costs, an important factor for smaller dealers. In addition, Gryzb spoke about selling some books that she had listed on the Internet for quite some time, indicating that some dealers and collectors prefer to hold a book in their hands before they buy.

Some of Locus Solus’s series of handmade collage books by Bertrand Dorny, the French book artist who has collaborated with many poets of the New York School. Each volume, done in a limited edition of nine, is priced at $1,800. Dorny’s work will be featured in an exhibit at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris beginning in May, 2003

Other dealers were not originally as certain about the concept, as James Goldwasser, of Locus Solus Rare Books, Ltd. in New York City, spoke about bringing some of his higher-end books to the ABAA show. “It’s a bit of an experiment to see whether a one-day fair simultaneous with the ABAA fair can draw enough people,” he said. He featured In the Future, a series of limited edition, handmade collage books made by the French book artist Bertrand Dorny in collaboration with the poet Ron Pageant. Each wildly illustrated book, filled with bright colors and reflective materials, is priced at $1,800.

Goldwasser remained optimistic, however. “It’s too bad it’s a rainy day. It certainly is a nice room to have it in, and it’s fun and inexpensive to do. Let’s see what happens.”

On The Road Book Shop’s exhibition catalog of original lithographs from the Redfern Gallery in London. This cover is by Miro (one of 1000 copies).

Design Books of New York’s La Lune, a mid-19th century satirical French newspaper with an illustration by Andre Gill. Priced at $2,000

Bruce Gventer’s Book Shop’s gigantic Spanish choir book, large enough so everyone in the congregation could see it. Held together by ½” of wood covering in leather and metal. The book is priced at $12,000 and originally cost Gventer $120 to ship
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