BYOB, bring your own old books for appraisal a la “Antiques Roadshow” at the 40th annual Washington Antiquarian Book Fair (WABF) near DC March 6-7.
But your own book probably won’t be valued at $30,000, like the WABF’s most expensive volume, a rare first edition of “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. BTW, Mark Twain was adamant that “It is not a boy’s book at all. It will only be read by adults. It is only written for adults.”
The most expensive item at the region’s most curated antique book fair is valued at $75,000, an extremely rare painting “Pansies” by the great American poet Elizabeth Bishop.
Believed to be the most important of only 40 paintings that Bishop created, she presented this watercolor to the love of her life, Lota de Macedo Soares.
The Brazilian self-taught architect and the New England Vassar grad poet lived together for more than a dozen years near Rio de Janeiro — until Soares committed suicide. (”Rare and Commonplace Flowers: The Story of Elizabeth Bishop and Lota de Macedo Soares” by Carmen L. Oliveira is, although not antiquarian, quite a read.)
Pansies, originally known as “hearts ease”, did not ease the heart of Soares, but may have worked their antiquarian purpose, an aphrodisiac, as in Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. Alas, the hearts ease elixir on the eyelids of Titania, Queen of the Fairies, made her fall in love with Bottom, topped with the head of an ass. Ah, well, all’s well that ends well, in Shakespeare if not in Brazil.
The WABF’s oldest book, Icones Biblicae Veteris et N.Testamenti, dating back almost three centuries to 1729, is illustrated by Jan Luyken. It has 62 full-page engravings by Luyken, one of the most important etchers of his time, and also a poet. It’s valued at about $4,500.
One of the many other illustrated books is “Where the Wild Things Are”, by the late Maurice Sendak. This first edition is fully illustrated, including color fold-outs and a functioning pop-up.
Published in 1963 by Harper & Row, the book was “simultaneously genre-breaking and career-making,” wrote “The New York Times” in its May 8, 2012 obit of Sendak — “widely considered the most important children’s book artist of the 20th century…”
Sendak had discussed “Wild”, his first picture book, in an interview with PBS’ Bill Moyers: “We’re animals. We’re violent. We’re criminal. And if I’ve done anything, I’ve had kids express themselves as they are.”
Here are some of the WABF’s events:
On Friday, March 6, from 6:30 P.M. to 8:30 P.M.: “Bestsellers Then & Now presented by WAMU 88.5”. WAMU Radio’s “Metro Connection” host Rebecca Sheir talks with local booksellers Brian Cassidy and Eileen McGervey, and an Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) representative, about how books have become bestsellers.
On Saturday, March 7:
- 10:30 A.M. to noon: “Book Conservation at the Library of Congress”. Talk by the Library’s Dan Paterson, who is also president of the Potomac Chapter Guild of Bookworkers.
- 11:30 A.M. to 1:00 P.M.: Have your historic book appraised by founding exhibitor Allan Stypeck of Second Story Books in D.C. and Maryland; by long-time exhibitor Jeffrey Marks of Jeffrey H. Marks Rare Books in Rochester, N.Y.; and Paul Collinge of Heartwood Books near the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.
- 1:00 to 2:30 P.M.: “Building Collections: Private Collectors and Research Libraries in Search of the Perfect Book”. Talk by Dan De Simone, the Folger Shakespeare Library’s Eric Weinmann Librarian.
- 2:00 to 3:00 P.M.: Bookbinding demonstration by Jill Deiss of Cat Tail Run Hand Bookbinding in Winchester, Virginia.
So, bring your own historic books, learn how to bind your own books, or just look at — and touch — antique books at the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair.
“I love everything that’s old: old friends, old times, old manners, old books, old wine,” as Oliver Goldsmith wrote in the 1773 comedy “She Stoops to Conquer”.
For more info and tickets: 40th annual Washington Antiquarian Book Fair, (WABF) March 6-7, Holiday Inn Rosslyn at Key Bridge, 1900 North Fort Myer Drive; Arlington, Virginia. List of the 75 exhibitors. Contact email@example.com 202-363-4999.