Once & Future

Charlotte Ashley – Book seller, collector, writer, editor, historian

October 29, 2010

A Busy Weekend in Books

If you aren’t busy enough already shmoozing at the International Festival of Authors, rooting around at the St. Michael’s College Book Sale, or trying to read 40 Canadian novels before November 7th; there’s an extremely exciting alternative available to Torontonians (and her visitors) this weekend: The Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair.

After a month-long marathon of the University of Toronto’s excellent book sales, book-hunters might be inclined to give this one a miss, but step back for a minute and reconsider.  This is not just another book sale.  For the first time in fifteen years, Toronto will be hosting some of the biggest and best rare and antiquarian book dealers in the English-speaking world in one spot, and attempting to pull off a show that compares with the excellent New York and Boston International fairs.  This is a significant step above the lack-luster local Toronto Book Fair & Paper Shows.

Pre-register: this will get you a coupon for $5 the entrance fee, bringing it down to a very reasonable $10 for unlimited access for the whole three days of the show (October 29th, 30th & 31st).  Roughly 50 dealers are scheduled to be showing there wares at the cozy Metro Toronto Convention Centre site.  Among these will be the excellent and approachable local dealers like London, Ontario’s Attic Books and Toronto’s own (organizing force) Contact Editions; as well as big International names like Baltimore’s Kelmscott Bookshop and Maggs Brothers of London.

While firms like Maggs and Adrian Harrington can be reasonably counted on to bring some high-visibility (and high-priced) rarities, don’t think this is just a show for established collectors with deep pockets.  The promises of “something for everyone” are likely to be well-founded.  I’ve always loved looking through Attic Books’ reasonably-priced early-20th century children’s books, or David Mason‘s specialty, the “1st Canadian editions” of important works.  While a show like this isn’t for bargain-hunting cheap used copies of paperbacks, you can still find some under-appreciated treasures in the $10-$50 range.  Furthermore who wouldn’t want to go see some of the higher-profile books or documents?  I might not be able to afford a $275,000 map, but if I should be so lucky, I’d love to glimpse one.

For the amateur collector, this is also an excellent opportunity to approach dealers who don’t keep open shops and sign up to receive their catalogues.  I don’t think I’m the only person who reads catalogues for fun: they’re a treasure trove of bibliographical information, a good way to make wish-lists and the best way to get an idea of what books cost on the market.  The catalogues themselves are also frequently beautiful things.  See the wonderful offerings from Oak Knoll or Roger Gaskell as examples.  You’ll never wonder why so many people collect 18th century scientific treatises ever again.

For full details, visit the Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair’s website.

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