Guess what? There are perks to working in a publisher’s office!
Like getting free passes to the World’s Largest Antiquarian Book Fair.
The passes appeared on the freebie table in the kitchen on Wednesday. I was ecstatic until Friday evening when A. and K. came in to join me on a jaunt to some odd corner of San Francisco where we got to look at Books.
*cue choral music*
I took some pictures, but not a lot, because Friday night is not a big “public” night, and I was the only one there with a camera and felt very awkward. I asked very nicely every time (I had learned my lesson) and they obliged, but I still felt weird and so didn’t take very many pictures.
There were very old books and very expensive books and very pretty books. There were books from Paris, Prague, and London. There were maps and geometries and illuminated prayerbooks.
The prices varied wildly from what I expected. There was a first (English) edition of Galileo for $12,000, which I thought pricey until I saw the first edition (signed) of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for £35,000. Yes, that’s pounds.
Or, for the price of a small house, you could get a first edition (one of a hundred) signed copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses. It was six inches thick and $400,000. That’s almost $100,000 an inch. That’s either very nice paper or equisite ink.
I found one first edition Andrew Lang Fairy Book (brown!), but it was four times the price of the other two I had so I passed.
I enjoyed the booths that focused on children’s books (a lot of Baum, Lewis, and Suess) because they were so much more colorful and friendlier. They only go back in time so far (what with Childhood being invented by the Victorians), but they are also more expensive because they are recent enough to have nostalgia value.
There was a very cool set of calculating sticks (corresponding calculation manual sold separately) that I thought my father would particularly enjoy.
There were instruction manuals for all sorts of sciences, including the art of writing.
There were other bookish things too, such as a forged passport from World War II and a bookseller from Portland (where else?) with art-books creatively thought inconceivably impractically bound.
On our way out we stopped at the calligraphy association’s booth. It was delightful!
All in all, it was a smashing Friday evening. It gave one hope that all the old books of the world aren’t disappearing, they’re just circulating through the libraries of those who could spend the same amount of money for a fleet of luxury cars but don’t want to pay for all those cheauffers. Might as well spend that money on wall-sized giant display books.