There is something to be said for attending a rare book fair in the mid autumn season. As I travelled down curving roads that were lined with brilliant hues of reds and golds on my way to the Pioneer Valley Book and Ephemera Fair in Northampton MA last Sunday, I felt a sense that I was entering the brink of a new season. Not just in nature, but in the book collectors’ year as well. Excitement mounted as I spotted the first book fair sign, beckoning me to follow along twisted roads and pathways until I at last arrived at the Fair site where fellow bibliophiles were already forming an expansive queue.
Upon entering, these feelings were clearly radiated from the kaleidoscopic swirl at the heart of the book fair action. I was immediately greeted by the smiling and eager faces of the book and ephemera sellers, the colorful and well laid out booths, the murmuring of excited voices, and the throngs of interested and enthusiastic buyers. The environment found in a rare book fair is simply unlike any other. It is unique and glorious in its own rights and ways. The Pioneer Valley Book and Ephemera Fair is no exception.
As I browsed among the attractive and liberally displayed rare books and paper goods, I was struck with the sincere simplicity and caring of the sellers, as they anxiously shared with me their latest and most exciting finds and treasures. Indeed, one should never attend a rare book event with the intent of quietly keeping to oneself. Each seller is quick to begin a warm conversation and to offer assistance in any way possible. As I continued my tour, I came across sellers who were comfortably seated with a book which they either owned themselves, or had just purchased. Observing this love for books in action drove the point home that these sellers truly have a genuine zest and passion for all that rare books have to offer.
Naturally, the collector items being offered for sale were delightfully impressive as well. Among the eclectic assortment of literary treasures were exquisitely bejeweled Jewish prayer books; famous children’s stories such as Eloise by Kay Thompson, and various illustrated stories by Tasha Tudor; volumes by the renowned C. S Lewis; scientific works by Charles Darwin; vibrant books of Marc Chagall’s masterpieces; and the scarce and famous Godey’s Lady’s Book, which is mentioned in literary works such as those by Laura Ingalls Wilder. The ephemeral items were enthralling to browse through as well. Rare and unique manuscripts, aged postcards, vintage ads, original artwork and sketches brought to my attention by one seller, and posters of birds and fungi for the more inquisitive minds by another. Indeed, there is something to satisfy every taste and fancy in an event such as this one, as countless items rush to the mind and senses in the form of collectible literary masterpieces and beautiful works of art.
It should come as no surprise that the Pioneer Valley Book and Ephemera Fair, is so impressive and well attended. It is centrally located in an area that is equally accessible to various booksellers in the surrounding states of NY, CT, NJ, VT, and NH. Additionally, “The Valley,” as it is sometimes called, is well known for its vast contribution to the world of literature and antiquarian book trade. Historically active in literary programs, book signings by local authors, auctions and other events sponsored by one of the many local universities or bookshops, The Valley is a thriving literary utopia for any book lover at any stage of life.
It is imperative therefore, to attend a literary event such as the Pioneer Valley Book and Ephemera Fair, to experience the unsurpassed beauty and enlightenment, which emits from such a well organized and attended event. While offering the collector the chance to escape into a book-cherishing, literature-extolling world, it enables the discovery of wondrous objects of interest. Whether through memories of the diverse yet united atmosphere of the fair, or through the rare and precious books and ephemera to be found, the collector is guaranteed to take home something extraordinarily desirable and pleasantly uncommon in the throes of our fast paced culture.