Tuesday, 1 November 2011

One Moose, One Pecker, but no Beaver, Or The Toronto International Antiquarian Bookfair.2011.

The title of this blog is not just a shameless attempt to get picked up by google and the other major search engines by using often searched keywords.
When I mentioned to a friend recently that I was going back to Canada to exhibit at a bookfair she challenged me to capture pictures of a Moose and a Beaver. When I pointed out to her that there is so much  more to this wonderful country than those two stereotypical animals she started singing Celine Dion songs at me (Some of my friends are more enlightened than others). I eventually agreed to her challenge, just to get the singing to stop. I had no plans to even attempt to get images of either animal but , warming to her theme and finding herself hilarious, she was about to start working her way through the Bachman-Turner Overdrive back catalogue and I had to make her stop somehow.

I flew into Toronto with Air Canada. I assumed that the people working on the national airline would have some of the qualities of the many friendly, funny, kind and warm-hearted Canadian people I had met.
I was wrong.
I would have put it down to just plain bad luck in getting a flight crew who had got out of bed on the wrong side if the mob in charge of the return journey hadn't been even more miserable and rude.
Being made to feel like a naughty school boy for eight and a half hours is not something I enjoy (although there are rumours that one particular bookdealer does and pays a lot of money to make it happen). Even when I was a naughty school boy I got to go home after less than seven hours.

So, there I was. Back in Canada.

                                                                    The CN Tower.

After being interrogated by both Immigration and Customs officers at the airport they finally let me in and I made my way to my hotel, right on the lake front and beneath the wonderful CN tower. I chose to admire it from below. Being petrified of heights I stayed on the ground to save visitors the pathetic sight of me crying and screaming for my Mummy when I got to the top.

Toronto seems to be booming and all around the Harbour front there is major building work going on and mighty sky scrapers compete to creat a new skyline.

                                                              Canadian Building site.

Thursday was spent visiting local dealers and buying several nice books. Well done me.

Friday saw the serious business of set-up and the opening evening of the bookfair at the mighty Metro Convention Centre on Toronto's busy Front Street.

                                                    Metro Toronto Convention Centre.

It was while walking into the lobby of the centre that I noticed the first of several oversize animal statues dotted around the city. There it was. My Moose. The challenge wasn't to photograph a live Moose, just a Moose.

                                                   A well travelled Moose.

After taking a snap of the impressive multi national Moose I turned around to see a five foot high Woodpecker on a post just outside of the lobby. These People appear to like their animal statues.

A Woodpecker made of wood.

This was confirmed by the six feet tall dog and cat positioned outside the pet entertainment centre (I am not making this up. This vast building is full of items and events to keep your pets amused and entertained and even inlcudes a 'Dine with your dog' area) which was next to my Hotel.

                                                                       Big Dog.

So, what of the bookfair?

This event was revived last year after a fifteen year hiatus and all three days were busy with a good mixture of Collectors, Librarians, Dealers and the just plain Curious. Any doubts that, having sated their curiosity, people wouldn't bother returning were quickly proven wrong with a steady flow of visitors on the opening evening. This continued right up until closing time on sunday and many happy customer were seen walking out with bags full of books.
A good mix of well, and not so well, established dealers from Canada, Usa and Europe, with a wide range of material meant that there was something for everyone and sales appear to have been good throughout the whole fair.

                                                                        My stand.

I sold well on all three days and came away happy with my weekend.

                                                                  More of my stand.

On the Saturday and Sunday of the bookfair the Convention centre was hosting a major dance competition in adjacent rooms and the sounds of Hip Hop, Drum and Bass and general pop music drowned out the muzac that was playing in our room. Some felt it was an improvement on the 'elevator music' that was piped into the bookfair, some could be seen putting their fingers in their ears.
One conlusion that I have drawn from this is that, on the whole, booksellers have a lot of rhythm and several could be seen busting some moves that surely would have put them in contention for the prizes on offer next door. I'll mention no names.

As I have written here before, Toronto is a great city with a full range of nightlife. The evenings were well spent with friends, trying out various bars and restaurants and getting caught up in the World Series of Baseball excitement that had the whole city buzzing. Saturday night also saw the Halloween revellers out in force in a range of costumes, most far too small for the cold weather of this time of year.

I look forward to exhibiting at next years event but will get there with a different airline and plan to spend some time searching out an oversize Beaver statue. I cannot believe there isn't at least one in the city somewhere.


Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, Its off to York we go.

It is late August. I sitting here at my desk tanned, relaxed and a few kilos heavier after my annual summer holidays. After a busy year bookselling I need my rest and most years I can be found bobbing about somehwere in the Mediterranean or Adriatic seas during Augusts hot days and devouring the local fish at various restaurants in the evening. I have, on occasion, been known to take a sip of the local wine too.

This year I was lucky enough to have two holidays. One, on the beautiful Spanish island of Menorca, with very good friends of mine that also happen to be bookdealers. Amazingly enough there was little book talk during this holiday. This was partly down to the withering "Oh No. Do you have to?" looks that many bookseller's partners have perfected over the years when they hear the start of a hilarious bookselling related anecdote,  but mainly because we were far too pre-occupied with the importand issues of the day, like; What time was lunch?, What time was dinner?, and trying to keep the little people amused by letting them attempt to drown me in several different ways. Normally quiet and sweet natured children can be brutal when you poke fun at their 'Hello Kitty' armbands. Be warned.

My second holiday was with non-bookselling friends on the Greek island of Corfu. The Greeks discovered fishing with Dynamite in the 1970's and managed to not only kill off all the adult fish but the inafnts and the breeding grounds as well. The result is that Corfu is an island with very little fresh fish on it. It took me 3 or 4 days to get over this fact. I had been looking forward to trying new and different tastes. I got kebabs and feta cheese.
This holiday was markedly different from my earlier trip in many ways, the main one being that 2 of my friends have teenage boys who spent most of the holiday mumbling, pouting and shuffling along at a snails pace behind everyone else. Only the passing of bikini clad girls and huge plates of food made them break into a smile, and then not for long. If I was anything like them when I was their age, I would like to apologise to everyone I ever came into contact with.

The end of the summer means the start of the bookfair season. Traditionally the York Bookfair kicks off the whole thing in early september.
The largest antiquarian and second hand bookfair in the UK, York has some 220 exhibitors spread over three floors of the Knavesmire Suite at York Racecourse, for 2 days. This years the dates are; Friday 8th (1 - 7pm) and Saturday 9th (10am - 5pm).
Because of its fairly central position, York is easily reachable in a few hours from most parts of the U.K by car. The result is that the bookfair has dealers from Scotland, Wales and most of the counties of England. You will find part-time and fairly new dealers alongside some of the biggest and longest established firms that our little world has. This leads to an interesting mix of stock. All subjects, all ages and all price levels. This combination proves very popular with the bookfair customers and it is always very well attended. There really is something for everyone. Last year a regular customer of mine took great delight in showing me a couple of Edwardian postcards of his home town that had cost him just 50 pence each. Also in his bag was an early travel book that he had just parted with a few thousand pounds for. Many dealers make a point of bringing a wide range of stock to cater for this broad customer interest and there will be books, maps, ephemera and often assorted other odds and ends on paper for sale from pennies to tens of thousands of pounds.

After the lull of the Summer and with my batteries re-charged it is nice to look forward to the bookfairs again. After the June fairs in London my appetite for standing about in a brightly lit hall with a hundred other dealers for several days is very low. This follows the previous 9 months of assorted trips around the UK and overseas, from Toronto to Chelsea to Boston to Los Angeles to San Francisco to New York to Olympia. By mid June I don't want to see another shipping case again, or prepare yet another packing list to keep Customs officials quiet.
Now that it is all about to start again I feel myself getting excited at the prospect of the coming months of bookfairs that will kep me busy until June 2012. What I will find to buy? What I will sell?. What interesting new people I will meet, both dealers and collectors? Then there's the new restaurants and bars to try out, and the old favourites to be re-visited.

Should you want to see this glowing optimism in the flesh, I will be at stand number 7 on the ground floor for this years York Bookfair. Please stop by and say hello. If there is anything from my stock that you would like to have a look at, just send me an email ( paulfosterbooks@btinternet.com ) or call me ( 020 8876 7424 ) and I will bring it along. I have a few complimentary tickets available so please do ask if you want one (or two).

See You there.


Friday, 17 June 2011

What is heavy, white, and wears yellow check trousers? Rupert the Fridge.

The story of the 1973 Daily Express Rupert the Bear Annual is a strange one, but will, I am sure, be a familar tale to illustrators and designers the world over.

The artist, Alfred Bestall, provided his finished artwork to the publisher as usual. And, as usual, the cover illustration featured Rupert with a brown face and hands (Paws?), while the cartoon strips within all showed a white rupert. This was the way that Bestall designed the cover artwork, and he was the artist so that's the way it was printed.

Bestall had been drawing Rupert since Mary Tourtell's death in 1935 and produced all the artwork for the popular annuals from the first issue in 1936 until 1965. From then on he still produced the colour artwork for the covers each year while the story strips inside were produced by Freddie Chaplain.

Readers often wrote to the Publishers office asking why Rupert changed colour for the cover artwork. Bestall's main reason appears to be that he liked the extra possibilites it gave him for tone and colouring in the cover painting as a whole. This seemed to satisfy the Publishers for a number of years until the print run of 1973 was being prepared.

A few copies, thought to be only a dozen or so, were printed with the artwork that Bestall had provided. These are effectively proof copies of the annual. However, after a boozy pub lunch the Publisher, Editor and Printer took the decision to change Rupert from a brown to a white bear. Why they did it this particular year is unknown. Letters about the colour difference had been written for years and not acted upon. Maybe it was a sign of the times. On British television in the early seventies (I am just old enough to remember) it seemed everyone was blacking up, from Spike Milligan's obsession with playing Indians and Pakistanis, to the Black and white Minstrel show and It Ain't 'alf Hot, Mum. Maybe the Publisher was just joining in with this bizarre trend, albeit changing the colours the other way around. Whatever the reason the Bear on the cover was changed to white for the enormous print run, without Alfred Bestall's approval.

When Bestall found out he was horrified. His brown bear had light and shade and fitted in well with the light sky in the background. The white Rupert blended with the background and suddenly had no tone. He vowed to never supply any artwork for the Publishers again and wanted nothing to do with the white bear annual. In a move designed to appease him, his signature on the back cover was darkened to try and disguise it, but Bestall kept his word and the 1973 annual is the last to feature one of his wonderful illustrations on the cover.

Since 1973 these Brown Faced Rupert Proof annuals have been sought after by collectors, mostly without success.
Occasionally copies do turn up, including the unusual occurance of two copies being offered in the same auction sale by Duke's of Dorchester back in October 2007. These copies were in the collection of Rupert writer Freddie Chaplain and sold for record prices of £26,290 and £27,485 including the buyer's premium.

I currently have a unique copy of the rare Brown faced Rupert Annual for sale.

It is in fine condition and has not appeared on the market before, having been safely housed in the same collection since 1974.
What makes my copy unique is that it has been signed by Alfred Bestall on the title page.

When the Life-long Rupert fan and collector, who I got this volume from, visited Bestall in 1974 he asked the story of the famous 1973 annual. After telling him his side of the story Bestall took down a copy from the bookshelf and signed it, commenting as he did that he had given copies of this rare book to other fans and collectors but had not signed any other copy.

Many artists and illustrators know the frustration of Editors and Publishers making changes to their artwork, sometimes with and sometimes without their knowledge and blessing. This rare annual is part of the story of one of the most famous design changes in childrens book production.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Olympia Antiquarian Bookfair 2011. To be there, or not to be there?

Summer time is almost upon us and that means that it's time for the Olympia Bookfair again.
The International Antiquarian Bookfair circuit finds booksellers converging on cities around the world at set times of the year. The California bookfair is always in February, although it does alternate each year between Los Angeles and San Francisco (even in the state of California North and South have their own agendas and view each other with some suspicion), April is split between New York early in the month and Paris at the end. June belongs to London and the ABA Olympia bookfair. Mid November means a trip to the often cold and wet North Eastern U. S. A for Boston's turn, and finally, the last few years has found booksellers enjoying the experience of December in Hong Kong. (I exhibited at the Hong Kong Bookfair two years ago. My one and only sale at the fair just about covered my taxi fare from my house to Heathrow Airport. I haven't been back).

There are other international events, but they tend to be Bi-annual, occassional, or mostly just local affairs, similar to the ABA Chelsea bookfair each November, all but 1 or 2 of the exhibitors being from the UK. On this basis, and because I don't do them, I have left them out. My blog, My rules.

Last Year the Canadian Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABAC) re-launched their own fair in Toronto during the last weekend of October, after a 15 year hiatus. This was considered successful enough to repeat again this year and looks set to become part of the calendar. I did the fair last year and was hugely impressed with the number of collectors, Librarians, Dealers and just curious onlookers that the organisers got through the door. I sold very well to many new customers and will be returning this year. Toronto is such a fun city, I would recommend anyone to visit. I had a great time and can't wait to get back there.
The bookfair last year conincided with Halloween. A night that the whole of Toronto takes very seriously, if that is the right word. I had always thought that 'Trick or Treating' and dressing up in costumes on Halloween was very much an American thing but the Canadians do it bigger, louder, and better than the US. Leaving a restaurant with fellow bookdealers we were jumped on by a group of female pirates who insisted on having their pictures taken with us. While this was going on a group of giggling girls dressed as Baywatch lifeguards (a brave move on a wintery Toronto night) was chased past us by Popeye and Scooby Do.

We retreated to the sanity of the nearest bar.

Anyway, I digress (Yeah, I know. I do it when speaking, thinking and dreaming, as well as writing).

June. London. Olympia.

This years fair is being held on the 9, 10, & 11th of June, with a charity preview being held between 2 and 4 pm on thursday 9th, in aid of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre, hence the hilarious pun in the title. (As I said, It's my blog. I can do what I like).

This years fair patron is Zoe Wanamaker, who will opening the, bookfair and making a short speech. Zoe's Father, Sam, was the driving force behind establishing the re-built Globe Theatre, on the Thames South Bank, and its many educational activities. They are celebrating receipt of the fabulous John Wolfson collection of Elizabethan books and research material that was generously donated to them last year.

There are many dealers from all around the world offering all manor of items in all price ranges. The downstairs area has many stands run by allied trades and associations. I could list a few here but risk forgetting something, or someone, so I think it is probably best to just give you the address of the dedicated Olympia Bookfair website. Here you will find all the details of the whole event, and can even download free tickets for the fair.


I shall be at the bookfair. I am on stand number 62 and would welcome anyone who feels like dropping by to say Hello. I will have many new items of stock on show, including the only known signed copy of the famous 'Brown Faced' 1973 Rupert Annual. A scarce 1835 hand coloured extending Peep-show of the first Railway in Germany. A very good set of First editions of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings in dustwrappers. A very clean and tight First edition of Arthur Conan Doyle's The Hound of the Baskervilles. Several scarce three decker novels from the 19th century, half a dozen of them not included in either the Sadleir or Wolff collections. Aside from these I will have the usual mixture of fine bindings, First editions, Childrens and Illustrated books as well as a mix of unusual, rare and interesting books from all ages.

See you there.


Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Aaaargh. My books got wet.

I returned from the New York Antiquarian Bookfair last week with a smile on my face.

I had sold a lot of books, met several interesting new people, bought a few nice books, & had a lot of fun in the evenings. It's not all work at these international events. Local dealers put on parties to entertain those from out of town and there are always new and exciting restaurants or bars that get recommended on each visit. The week ended with a last night visit to a comedy club late on saturday night after what was probably the biggest steak dinner I've ever eaten (No, really, I mean it). Things have calmed down from the 4am sessions of ten years ago, but we Booksellers still know how to have fun when forced away from home to  city that doesn't sleep (by the way, I've finally worked out that the City actually wants to sleep, it just can't because of the constant honking of car horns all night. The street signs threatening hefty fines for Horn use are ignored more than the One-way signs in Rome and the Pedestrian Crossing ones in Paris).

The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) New York Bookfair is held every April in the grand, in every sense of the word, Park Avenue Armory, at 67th street. It is an amazing building, taking up a whole block of prime Upper East Side Manhattan land. Because of its location, size and ease of loading, it is perfect for fairs and is used throughout the year for events of all kinds, from art and antiques shows to our humble little bookfair every spring.

Good after fair sales have kept me smiling for the last seven days as I fought the inevitable jet-lag and tiredness that a week working and socialising in New York brings with it.

That smile was wiped from my face today.

Speaking to a fellow dealer in London this morning he complained that one of his many shipping trunks, delivered back from the same New York fair had leaked water in and damaged some of the books inside. Mine were alright, I said confidently, eyeing the one trunk that I hadn't yet opened, the books being sealed in re-inforced moulded plastic trunks with a gripping lock system. Surely nothing could get in them. After all, it hadn't in all the years of being sent off to various bookfairs around the world.

I opened that last trunk to find the books on the top were all bone dry in their Bubble wrap protectors. Unfortunately as I got to the bottom of the trunk it became clear that some water had got in. And not just a drop or two, either. Enough to soak the handfull of books sat at the bottom. A couple of quite valuable books were protected from damage by the clam-shell boxes that I now have made for a larger part of my more valuable stock. All that money that I spend on these boxes now makes perfect sense. I was able to just wipe the water off the two boxes and the books remained unharmed inside.

(Sorry. I couldn't resist)

An odd mix of books got damaged. An 1834 First Flugel Edition of the Koran, Two leather bound early editions of Carroll's Alice books, a 1780 book of travels in the Middle East in a wonderful contemporary full calf binding and a 1930's exhibition binding on a book of Chinese folk tales and legends.

(The dark area is the wet bit)

A couple of the books might be saveable to be cleaned up and re-priced to allow for the damage but I'm afraid the 18th century travel book is ruined for all but the biggest bargain hunter who will tolerate the large water stains and the already showing mold, at a price.

I am relieved that only a few books got damaged. It could have been far worse, but it has taken the shine off what was a great week & I will be nervous the next time the shippers come to collect for my next overseas bookfair.


Friday, 11 March 2011

Paul Foster Books. Catalogue. 2011.

Yesterday I received several boxes, from my Printer, containing my latest Catalogue. It is always an exciting time for a bookseller. Months of hard work, buying, researching and cataloguing the books, not to mention proof reading and checking photo images, have gone into this one little volume, and it is as near to publishing as most book Dealers ever get.
This latest catalogue is a selection of the more interesting items I have bought recently, listing 190 books over 48 text pages and with a sixteen page colour section full of photographs in the middle, the whole lot wrapped in colour printed, gloss finished, covers.
It is a modest little booklet by some standards, but when I ccompare it to the catalogues I was producing back in the 1990's it seems a world away. My business, and my catalogues, have seen remarkable advances in Technology over the last 20 years. My first catalogue, issued in 1993, was a simple affair. I didn't have a computer or word processor. I simply piled the books up, in alphabetical order, on the table and typed out my descriptions, book by book, onto A4 sheets on an old manual typewriter. These completed sheets were than handed into a local printer, a blue card cover was decided on, and he produced, I think, about 200 copies for me.

This catalogue was simply my typed pages copied and reduced to A5, with all the missprints, Tip-ex marks and smudges intact.

I didn't have a mailing list back then, so got hold of a directory of all the book dealers in the UK and sent a copy to those that listed Children's books, Bindings and Literature as specialities. Luckily, some of those dealers ordered books and so there I was, a catalogue bookseller. I gave the rest away to customers who bought books from me either at Bookfairs, or my market stall in Ealing, West London. A couple of those customers who were given catalogue number 1 are still buying books from me 18 years later. I don't know whether either has kept a complete set of my output, or whether they are binned after ordering whatever interests them.

Later in the 1990's I started using a Computer which changed things dramatically. I bought a specialist bookselling program that arranged my stored listings in catalogue format at the push of the "Create Catalogue" button. Getting creative, I started laying out a selection of the books listed, either on the floor or on a bookcase, and taking colour photos of them. I would then take the film into the local chemist and when the negatives were ready ask for 300 prints ( I had started to develop a mailing list by then) of the best image. These were then stuck onto the front cover of each catalogue, within a plain line border I had asked the printer to include.

Each photo was manually stuck into position by me, using a glue stick. This process lasted until the 2000's when, Thankfully, colour printing, digital photography and Photoshop programs all became cheaper and easy to use.

These days the print run has grown to 1000 copies, the number of colour photos to about 80 and the paper is thicker and of a better quality, the covers with a high gloss finish.
The catalogues still contain a mixture of books on different subjects and from all ages. This latest one has books from the Sixteenth century to the very end of the Twentieth, including a 1587 first edition of Polemon's Second Book of Battailes, an important Elizabethan source book used by George Peele when writing his 'Battle of Alcazar', up to a Harry Potter 1st edition from 1997. These sit alongside a selection of titles including First editions by Oscar Wilde, Beatrix Potter, Charles Darwin, Dr. Seuss, James Joyce, & Voltaire.

There are several signed works as well, including books signed and inscribed by Evelyn Waugh, Winston Churchill, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ian Fleming, Roald Dahl, Joseph Conrad, and Arthur C. Clarke, among others. The books are mainly First editions of English and American Literature, Childrens and Illustrated titles, Fine leather bound books and special, signed, inscribed or limited editions, although there are a handful of other subjects covered.

If you would like me to mail you a copy, please send me your name, address, and a brief note on what kind of books you are interested in, and I will be happy to send you one.


Thursday, 24 February 2011

California 2011

I am now just recovering from the Jet-lag that is one of the only down sides of my annual trip to exhibit at the California International Antiquarian Bookfair.
This year there were two bookfairs. The "Official" Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America sanctioned one in San Francisco, and what many refer to as a "Piggy Back" bookfair in Pasadena the week before. This was organised by an independent promoter, Sheila Bustemante, and exhibitors ranged from some of the Rare book worlds largest dealers and members of the worlds ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers)  affiliated trade associations through to part-timers and Hobby booksellers. This gave an interesting mix of books on display. There were books priced in the Hundreds of Thousands of Dollars through to two dollar paperbacks, and everything in between.
It was an interesting trial run for the ABAA who will be holding their bookfair in the same building next year. The California Bookfairs alternate between San Francisco and Los Angeles and last years event at the Century City Regency Plaza was to be the last in the hotel.
The Pasadena building is a purpose built exhibition hall. Soul-less and bland but well lit, with good facilities on site, many cafe's and restaurants nearby and significantly cheaper than the ballrooms of the Plaza Hotel.

I was very pleased with my trip. I not only sold many books at both bookfairs, but I met a lot of potential new customers and bought some fantastic books as well. For many dealers, a quiet selling bookfair can be saved if enough good books are bought. To have good buying and good selling is the ultimate bookfair.
When I look at the books I bought it brings home to me how much California is the home of the Modern First Edition. I found a signed first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a special publishers edition of Hemingway's Across the river and into the trees, one of just 24 copies, with an explanatory note, signed by Charles Scribner, A nice 1st edition of Dr. Seuss' Cat in the Hat, The first American printing of Alice in Wonderland, and Arthur C. Clarke's own signed copies of 2001 and 2010. These are just a few of the books bought.

The San Francisco bookfair is vast. Today I spoke to two London bookdealers who also had stands at the fair. I am amazed that over the four days of the fair I didn’t actually see either dealer, nor them me.
Luckily the organisers manage to attract enough book collectors to keep the hall full of customers from start to finish. I sold my first book within half an hour of the start on set-up day and my last while packing up my stand on the last day. San Francisco truly is a Book city. Although a large number of Europeans were there also, taking advantage of the nice weather after months of winter back home.
The impressive range of books on show mean that there really is something there for everyone, at all price levels, covering most subjects to some degree, and from all ages. I would recommend to anyone who likes books and has thought of visiting San Francisco to take a trip there to coincide with the bookfair. It is well worth the long hours on a plane from Europe to see this enormous bookfair as well as the many great attractions that the city has to offer.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

California Antiquarian Bookfair. San Francisco. February 11th to 13th.

Each year, February sees many bookdealers from Europe heading for the West Coast of the US for the annual California Antiquarian Bookfair. This major event in the international bookfair calender, now in its 44th year, alternates each year between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Last year saw what was possibly the bookfair's last event to be held at the Hyatt Regency Century Plaza in Century City. The hotel complex is undergoing major renovation and the rumour mill in the rare book trade (sometimes compared to a baloon full of pessimistic politicans--Lots of hot air, moaning and lies) reports that us mere booksellers won't be able to afford the shiney new prices charged for their shiney new function rooms. This is a real shame for those bookdealers who, like me, enjoy a swim in the outdoor pool under the warm february sunshine. For many of the European Dealers attending this is the first proper sunlight that we have seen in four or five months. It is easy to spot the locals around the hotel. They wear sweaters and warm jackets, considering the 20 degrees  a chilly day for them. To some of the Europeans 20 degrees is an excuse to don shorts, often ill fitting swimming trunks and those sun glasses that we didn't have much use for last summer.
We await a decision about where the Los Angeles Bookfair will be held in 2012.

This year sees the bookfair taking it's turn in the huge Concourse Exhibition Centre in San Francisco. The building, at 635 Eighth street at Brannan is a vast glass, steel and wood construction covering some 125,000 square feet. An old Railway starage yard, it has been adapted to be an easy access exhibition space with easy loading, plenty of space for large display booths and its own on-site parking. The vast building is filled up by the bookfair which is the largest event of it's kind in the world. Visitors to the bookfair get a major workout walking up and down the long aisles and many return for a second or third day to ensure that they get to visit each booth. Luckily there is a good cafe area which supplies the necessary snacks and drinks to keep the determined collectors and dealers going throughout the fair.

There is always plenty for the non book buyer to do at San Francisco Bookfair. Many societies and local artisans set up tables on the upper level and you can spend your time at the fair learning about the history of the book, watching live displays of binding techniques, or getting your name written on a grain of rice or beautifully calligraphed onto a sheet of paper.
During Saturday and Sunday there are a series of book related talks, discussions and seminars, rainging from the intruductory 'Book collecting 101' to an exhibition of rare music books and manuscripts, some dating back the the 13th century.

The bookfair is open on Friday February 11th from 3pm to 8pm.
Saturday 12th from 11am to 7pm.
Sunday 13th from 11am to 5pm.

I shall be at the bookfair with a selection of my books on show at Booth 113.
Please do come by and say Hello. I'm told that I am actually a lot less scary than I look, (I think there is a compliment in there somewhere), and I promise not to wear my shorts during show hours.

If you would like complimentary tickets for the show, please do let me know and I will either post them to you or leave them on the door for you to collect on the day.


Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Show me the Bunny. Beatrix Potter and Peter Rabbit. The 3 first editions.

I have been asked in the past, although not often, Why are there 3 first editions of Peter Rabbit? How can that be?
The answer is that there aren't really. There can be only one true first, but there can be variations in the text and then commercially produced editions, each of which lays a claim to that title.
With Peter Rabbit this is the case. There are three different books that are all refered to as First Edition, although qualified with the necessary publishing details as well, so we have;

1. First edition, 1st printing, a privately printed Edition. 250 copies.

2. First Edition, 2nd printing. A privately printed edition with minor corrections in the text. 200 copies.

3. First Published Edition. A commercially produced edition by a book publishing company. 8000 copies.

The story of Peter Rabbit is fairly well established. Potter, a keen naturalist and accomplished artist, had often written, and illustrated, short stories in letters to children of friends. On september 4th, 1893 Potter wrote such a letter to Noel Moore, the son of her former Governess, Annie Moore, who was unwell. This letter contained the story of Peter Rabbit.
A few years later, Potter come to the idea that the story would be of interest to other children and would make a nice book. Luckily, Moore had kept his letters from Beatrix and when she wrote to ask if she might borrow it, he returned the short Tale of Peter Rabbit.
The story was re-written in a school excercise book and a watercolour frontis and 42 line illustrations, prepared in pen and ink, were added, some based on the orignal drawings in that letter. Initially the story was titled "The Tale of Peter Rabbit and Mr. McGregor's Garden By H. B. Potter".
This manuscript was sent to several publishers during 1900 by Canon Hardwicke Rawnsley, a Family friend who was keen to help this new enterprise. All returned it without any interest.

In 1901 Potter had the manuscript privately printed by Strangeways and Sons of London in an edition of 250 copies. This little book, now re-named simply " The Tale of Peter Rabbit", made small enough for young children to hold and printed on durable paper, was issued, undated, on December 16th 1901, with the colour frontis and 41 of Potter's line drawings, in a plain grey/green paper covered binding with a flat spine, printed with a black line illustration and lettering to the front board.

                                                                  1901.  1st printing.

Potter not only gave many copies to friends and relations, she also sold several at the very reasonable price of 1s2d. Unsurprisingly the book was a great success form the start and within a couple of weeks it was decided to have another edition, this time of just 200 copies, printed at the Author's expense, but this time in a better quality binding, with a rounded spine.

                                                                    1902.  2nd printing.

This new printing allowed for a few minor changes to the text and the punctuation, and it was decided to print the publication date on the title page. This second printing was issued in February 1902.

                                                                    1902.  2nd printing.

While Potter was producing her own editions of Peter Rabbit, She and Canon Rawnsley had been in negotiations with the Publisher Frederick Warne & Co, who had seen some potential in the story and its charming illustrations. This probably explains the decision to print fewer copies of the second printing, despite the huge success of the first. After much discussion about the cost of colour printing and how much should be charged for the book it was agreed that Warne's would publish the story, with slightly edited text, and just 31 (including the frontispiece) of Potter's illustrations reproduced in full colour from her watercolours.

This version, the first commercially published printing, was issued in October 1902 in an edtion of 8000 copies. This lovely little book, often called the First Trade Edition, was bound in either grey or brown boards with a colour illustration of Peter in his light blue jacket mounted to the front board with white lettering above and below and to the spine.

                                                               1902. First Trade editon.

A further 12000 copies were printed in November, and 8220 copies in December 1902. These 3 printings are identical internally. The only variation that exists is that some copies of the 2nd and 3rd printings were issued in green boards.
Despite the large number of books produced, copies in collectable condition are not common and are much in demand. This has led to many collectors willing to pay a premium for the best copies, while restored, worn and damaged copies sell for considerably less. This is the way the rare book market has been going for a number of years now with the difference in prices achieved for the very best and the run-of-the -mill copies growing ever wider.
Peter Rabbit's enduring success is partly down to Beatrix Potter's simple good story telling, partly her exquisite drawings, which she later water-coloured, and also her determination and good business sense. Truly a remarkable Woman and a great example of the Victorian "Can Do" attitude.