I had the sometimes bittersweet pleasure of strolling through the 47th California International Antiquarian Book Fair this past weekend in Pasadena. What an experience for a book lover. There’s something for everyone there, from comic books to a first edition Ulysses going for more than a new Bentley Continental. The bittersweetness for me was due to the fact that I allowed myself no book budget for the Fair, even if that little devil on my shoulder was telling me I should have some new treasure to review for The Whole Book Experience. Nevertheless, it was wonderful seeing so many books I’d only heard rumors of or that I never knew existed, as well as being able to reaffirm my intentions to some of the books on my long-term acquisition wish list.
First and foremost on my wish list is the amazingly wonderful Black Sun Press edition of Choderos De Laclos’ Les Liasons Dangereuses with illustrations by Alistair. I just love the illustrations in this book and feel Alistair really captures the decadence of the novel and the period it was describing. It was a joy just to be able to leaf through a copy of this edition. Someday maybe…
For the Joycean in me, there was lots to delight in. I didn’t even bother to look at the aforementioned edition of Ulysses as I am really primarily interested in reading copies of books (Even if my idea of a reading copy might horrify some “collectors”). I also didn’t ask to see the rare Limited Editions Club(LEC) edition, one of the few that was signed by both Joyce and Matisse. I’m happy with my copy of the scarce Easton Press facsmile, which was also present at the Book Fair. There was a very cool collection of the magazine the book was serialized in that I had never seen before. And a copy of the LEC Dubliners that was simple gorgeous. That was probably the most tempting of the Joycean options as I would love a fine press copy of Dubliners.
With regards to the LEC, there were a few other gems spread around the different booksellers. I spotted the Walden with Edward Steichen photos and Sinclair Lewis’ Main Street with Grant Woods great illustrations. And The Chimes by Dickens illustrated by Arthur Rackham.
Another book that has been on my wishlist for a long time that I saw in “person” for the first time was the First Edition’s Library(FEL) Lolita. A facsimile of the soft covered first edition in a very nice clam shell box for a much more reasonable price than I remember seeing in past internet searches. The same bookseller also had the FEL Ulysses.
There was a bookseller with a pretty impressive inventory of out-of-print Arion Press titles, including a couple I’d love to acquire someday. Titles like Nabokov’s Pale Fire and The Great Gatsby, to name a couple.
Other fine press books was able to check out included the Lakeside Press Walden, the wonderful Metamorphosis by the Shanty Bay Press, and a few Allen Press and Grabhorn Press editions.
The one book I almost did walk out with was the 1925 Bodley Head edition of The Love Books of Ovid, illustrated by Jean De Bosschere and limited to 3,ooo copies. I had never run across this book before. The illustrations were awesome and it seemed a great value for $75. Alas, I stuck to my budgetary guns and put it down (twice!).
In any event, the Antiquarian Book Fair is a book lovers paradise. It was great to just be able to stroll through the booths and thumb through the books even if there was no intent to purchase. I highly recommend checking one out in your area.