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.