Having had problems last year convincing Canadian Customs and Immigration officers that I am not anywhere near as dangerous as I look I decided to throw them a curveball and arrive, not from London with my shiny burgundy British passport, but via the U.S.A where I hoped to go un-noticed and un-molested through the border looking like an American, a thing I am often accused of here in England.
I flew with Virgin Atlantic into Boston. After the miserable cabin crew on last years Air Canada flight direct to Toronto it was a real pleasure to be back with the always cheerful and laid-back Virgin crew. Being stuck in a seat for 8 hours can be miserable at the best of times. It is amazing how much difference a smiling, rather than scowling, face can make when serving you your camomile tea. I know, its not very rock & roll, but having experienced a plane hangover once before I no longer drink on flights. I am grumpy enough when I wake up without adding a headache and mouth like a Wombat's armpit (To avoid causing offense the previous sentence has been heavily edited. Send me five pounds and I'll tell you what I originally typed).
After many delays I arrived at my hotel for the night. A depressing chain hotel chosen for its location (a short walk from the international arrivals hall) and price (it being the Leaf Watching season in New England all the hotels in the city were charging obscene amounts of money) I decided that it would be ok for one night. I was wrong. Dinner in their restaurant was miserable. I can't work out who wanted to be there least, the staff or the guests. At least it was for only one night.
The following morning I went into Boston and bought books from the ever friendly and welcoming dealers. At my first stop, Brattle Bookshop, I was given a steaming bucket of lovely black coffee to keep me going as I scanned every shelf of the rare book room on the third floor. By the time I got to Peter Stern's office I was buzzing and turned down the offer of more coffee. Unfortunately Peter was at a bookfair in Seattle (more of this later) with much of his new stock so I carried on to Commonwealth books where I found several rare and interesting books to add to my piles (stop sniggering at the back). Realising I was running out of time I rushed back to the hotel to collect my luggage and headed to the airport for my short flight to Toronto.
Safely through the airport (my ruse worked) I settled into my hotel and planned my visits to the local booksellers the following day. On the way to my room, laden down with bags and concentrating on the door numbers, I didn't notice that I appeared to have checked into the set of a horror film. Only when I left my room in search of dinner did I notice the eerily long corridor I was placed at the end of.
After convincing myself that I wasn't about to be hacked up by a madman with an axe I relaxed and looked forward to the bookfair and, more importantly, the fun to be had over the evenings ahead.
One night, after the bookfair had closed and I had spent a polite amount of time at a drinks reception (I know, its a tough life isn't it) I declined an invitation form a couple of the team from Bauman Rare Books of Philadelphia, New York and Las Vegas, to go to the top of the CNN tower. Being somebody with a terrible fear of heights I declined and had dinner nearer to the ground with the less dare-devil book-fairies of Bernard Quaritch and Peter Harrington from London. Nobody should have to witness me screaming and sobbing like a 3 year old whose had his toys taken away, a state I can lapse into at a moments notice when elevated anything above about three feet. I have to change light bulbs with my eyes shut, using the classic If I can't see it, it's not there technique.
As a reminder of my cowardice, the tower dominated the sky-line whenever I looked out of my hotel room window.
So, to the bookfair.
This year the fair moved up from the basement of the Toronto Convention Centre to the ground floor, promising more visibilty and with it more visitors.
Alas, it was not to be. I don't know whether visitors chose the much larger and longer established bookfair being staged in Seattle, just over the Canadian/American border to the west, over the same weekend, or was there something else that kept people away. The Toronto Marathon can't be blamed as it was on sunday and the bookfair opened friday. ( I arranged to meet a friend of mine, who lives in the city, for Brunch on the sunday and sat on the metro train with a smug grin as several runners, all draped in tin foil capes and looking like a dose of flu waiting to happen, staggered onto the carriages. I probably shouldn't have been quite so proud of myself for being fast asleep in my warm king-sized bed while these folk puffed and panted through the cold and rain, but, what can I say. I'm easily pleased. Oh, and lazy.).
Anyway, the fair was considerably quieter than the previous two years with several collectors finding something else to do. My own theory involves the carpet and lighting which reminded me of my brief fling with the illegal Rave scene in England in the late 1980's. Strong lights and strange patterns were all the rage back then and worked, for a while, in disused warehouses in London but not so much in a bookfair. I found myself becoming entranced by the carpet several times over the three days.
The fair wasn't a disaster. The organisation was impeccable, the other dealers great company in the long lonely hours between customers and I did sell some books on all three days, just not anywhere near as many as the previous two years, although one decent after-sale has already brightened my opinion of the whole thing. Maybe the Jet-lag hasn't lifted fully yet.
My stand at the bookfair. The view unspoilt by any customers.
Chelsea is often refered to as the friendliest event in the bookfair Calender. This is almost certainly due to it having a bar in it. A few years ago I met a customer of mine, who had asked for a ticket to the fair, a few days after it had finished. He apologised for not coming to thank me for the ticket but said that every time he tried to leave the bar he met smebody else he knew who insisted on "just the one" with him and eventualy poured himself into a taxi home without buying a single book but having spent a small fortune at the bar.
I will be bringing my usual mix of modern and old books to the fair, including the following;
A signed First Edition of Fowles classic.
FOWLES. JOHN. THE FRENCH LIEUTENANT'S WOMAN.
Jonathan Cape. London. 1969
FIRST EDITION. 8vo. Signed by Fowles on the title page. Fine, clean copy in a near fine original dustwrapper with just a hint of fading to the spine. A beautiful copy. Uncommon signed.
A Rare copy of London Types, Inscribed by WilliamNicholson to his Mistress' daughter and her future husband.
William Heinemann. London. 1898FIRST EDITION. Large 4to. (13.4 x 11.5 inches). Inscribed on the front paste down endpaper by Nicholson to the Daughter, and her second Husband, of his Mistress and house keeper Marie Laquelle; "For Georgette and Norman Holder with love from W. N. who did the pictures. London. Xmas. 1916". Decorative colour printed front board, lettered and showing the illustration for The Bus Driver, plus twelve full page colour lithographs after the original woodblocks. Brown paper covered boards, printed in colour litho. Plain tan cloth spine. Some minor foxing to endpapers and the edges of the boards are rubbed and bumped but overall a very good copy of this beautiful book. Housed in a felt-lined clam-shell box. Marbled paper on boards and a black calf spine, lettered in gilt.
From about 1910 until he remarried in 1919, Nicholson's housekeeper Marie Laquelle, whose real name was Adèle Marie Schwarz, née Schiestel, was also his mistress. Nicholson painted her several times, first as Carlina in 1909; he also painted her daughter Georgette and her second husband Norman Holder’. (Colin Campbell, Merlin James, Patricia Reed and Sanford Schwartz. The Art of William Nicholson. Published by The Royal Academy of Arts, London. 2004).
The works of Gibbon in original publishers boards.
GIBBON. EDWARD. THE MISCELLANEOUS WORKS OF EDWARD GIBBON, ESQUIRE. With memoirs of his life and writings, composed by himself: Illustrated from his letters, with occasional notes and narrative, by John Sheffield.
A. Strahan and T. Cadell Jun. and W. Davies (succesors to Mr. Cadell); John Murray. London 1796/1815
FIRST EDITION. 3 Volumes. 4to. (11.7 x 9.3 inches). xxv, 703pp; viii, 726pp; x, 691pp. Volumes 1 & 2 published in 1796 and the 3rd volume issued in 1815 by John Murray. The third volume was issued to allow owners of the two earlier 4to volumes to have a uniform version of the material that appeared in the second edition that was published in five 8vo volumes in 1814. Portrait frontis in volumes 1 and 3. The first in silhouette, the second an engraving of Warton's painted portrait by James Fittler. Some offsetting from both frontispieces. Errata leaf in volume two, publishers advert leaf at the end of volume three. A tall and wide margined set in original publishers blue (Strahan & Cadell) and brown (John Murray) paper covered boards. All edges untrimmed. Re-backed to style with beige paper spines, each with a printed paper label. From the library of noted scholar of 18th century literature and art, John Cabell Riely, and with his bookplate to the paste-down endpapers. Generally a clean and bright set throughout. Boards show some rubbing to the edges and a few marks but overall the set is very good indeed. A remarkable survivor and rare in the original publishers boards.
A First Edition of Ulysses. One of only 150 large paper copies.
JOYCE. JAMES. ULYSSES.
Shakespeare and Company. Paris. 1922
FIRST EDITION. Large Paper. Large 8vo. (10.7 x 8.5 inches). One of 150 copies, numbered from 101 to 250, printed on Verge D' Arches paper and larger than the other issues, from a total edition of 1000 copies -- 100 copies were numbered 1-100 and signed and 750 copies, numbered, printed on hand made paper. A lovely fresh copy, finely bound in early full dark brown morocco by Sangorski & Sutcliffe with the original publishers blue front and rear wrappers bound in at the back. Spine with three raised bands. Compartments lettered and ruled in gilt. Boards with single gilt ruled border and gilt shamrock device to each corner. Board edges gilt ruled. Inner boards with double ruled borders. Off-white paper endpapers. All page edges untrimmed.
A beautiful copy of this rare large paper issue in an attractive early leather binding. Considered by many to be one of the greatest and most important works of twentieth century literature. Slocum & Cahoon. 17.
If you would like complimentary tickets, please let me know and I will be happy to send you some, otherwise they can be downloaded from the Bookfair website- www.chelseabookfair.com .
I will be on stand number 52 at the fair. Please do stop by and say hello if you are there, and not distracted by the bar.