The upcoming weekend of November 16-18 draws book lovers in the United States to two events that are not to be missed. This is especially true for those who are located close to the cities of Boston, Baltimore, or Washington DC. The first is the 36th annual Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair, and the second is the 12th Biennial Pyramid Atlantic Books Art Fair & Conference. These weekend long events covering some of the most appealing aspects of rare books are some of the oldest and most respected book shows in the country. The Boston show will be going into its 4th decade, while the DC fair is in its 3rd decade of celebration. While both events are expected to be well-attended and received by book collectors from around the world, they are miles apart both literally, and figuratively.
Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair: Over 120 dealers from the United States, England, Canada, France, Hungary, The Netherlands, and Argentina will exhibit and sell rare, collectible and antiquarian books, illuminated manuscripts, autographs, maps, atlases, modern first editions, photographs, and fine and decorative prints. The presentation highlights will include: D. Sidney Berger presenting on “Everything you need to know about rare books!” D. Sidney Berger is The Ann C. Pingree Director of the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum, and adjunct Professor at Simmons College (Communications Department and GSLIS) and at the University of Illinois, Champaign/Urbana (GSLIS). In a separate presentation, Professor Martin Antonetti, Lecturer in Art & Curator of Rare Books at Smith College, will be covering “The Art of the Book in Wales” with Associate Professor / Director of the Libraries at Vassar College, Ronald Patkus.
Pyramid Atlantic Books Art Fair & Conference: With over 40 exhibitors this fair will showcase a dynamic array of innovative book art, limited edition prints, fine papers, and specialty tools, along with a rich program of notable speakers, demonstrations, and special exhibitions connecting international artists, scholars, collectors, publishers, and art lovers. Featured exhibitors will include: Robin Price, Publisher; Corcoran College of Art & Design; and Carolyn Shattuck, Shattuck Studio & Gallery. The demonstration highlights will include: MICA’s Mary Mashburn (proprietor of Typecast Press), and David Shields. Together they will letterpress samples from their large collection of Baltimore’s Globe Poster historic wooden type and linocuts. In a separate presentation, artist Theresa Easton, who has put a great deal of energy into promoting her The Sunderland Book Project, will focus on artist-led projects and the role of the artist’s book, in view of the International Book Arts Project.
The diversity between the two events is as basic as the difference between new and old, and modern and antiquarian. Together, the two reflect the beauty and the power that books have in our lives. Just as the antiquarian book collector perceives value in a rare manuscript or a rare book illuminated with beautiful drawn plates or the scarcity of a first edition, so is the modern fine printing perceived to the art book collector. The art book followers have discovered fine printing, and have realized that something made by hand as near back as yesterday can be elegant, capricious, attractive and collectible, retaining the sense of having been created by human touch, which is the essence of craftsmanship. Each book created by hand is an original, rather than a copy of the original.
Despite being miles apart, the two events converge on the common perception of value. They both promote only the best possible workmanship, coupled to the best possible design that is superior to digitally designed or mass-produced print of today. The theme can be traced back to the printing world of Ashendene, Kelmscott, and Basketville in Washington DC, and back to that of Aldus and Gutenberg in Boston.