Virginia Antiquarian Book Fair

The fifth Virginia Antiquarian Book Fair, held on April 7 and 8, filled the main floor of the Virginia Historical Society with around 40 booksellers, or dealers, specializing in antique books.

Many bookstore owners treat the fair as a way to add to their collections, in addition to selling their own inventory.

“I’m interested in cookbooks, so the cookbooks that were printed and published throughout the south and in Virginia and other places are really interesting to me, but I don’t get to see them that often up in Maine,”said, Don Lindgren,owner of Fine Books on Food & Drink.

This is the fifth time that Fran Durako, owner of Baltimore-based of The Kelmscott Bookshop, attended the Book Fair.

“Richmond is a great city, for books and for people so it’s well-attended and just important for us,” Durako said.

This is the second time the fair was held at the historical society. One of the event’s organizers, a member of Friends of VCU Libraries Board and owner of Black Swan Book, Nicholas Cooke, said the building makes the setup easier.

“Some of the dealers have done the fair three, four, five times and they like the ambience.” Cooke said. “It’s really difficult when you’re moving your booth full of books if you’ve got to take them up four flights of steps.”

Some of the book selections included social or political books, art books and first edition copies. Holly Blakeney, of Blakeney Griffin Booksellers in London, specializes in first edition copies of modern literature.

Blakeney’s stand included a first edition copy of “Madeline,” by Ludwig Bemelman, which Blakeney said was a revolutionary book for children’s literature. She also brought a first edition copy of James Joyce’s “Dubliners.”

“Mostly I take what our recent inventory is. Sometimes a few things will get mixed in that are standouts that should be seen at fairs. I like people to handle the books and see them,” Blakeney said.

Blakeney said she likes to give people the opportunity to interact with older books that are hard to come by.

Durako specializes in a variety of genres, but the private press books and artist books she brought to the Fair stood out in her collection.

Private press books are printed by an individual, Durako said, and the type is set by hand. For this reason, few copies are printed.

“Sometimes (artist books) look like books and sometimes they don’t. It’s an increasingly important aspect of the contemporary book,” Durako said.

Being that many of the books for sale at the fair are rare, price tags frequently danced between the hundreds and thousands of dollars. Durako says for artist books, the bookseller sometimes acts as an agent for the artist, who set the price.

Lindgren said he began collecting and selling books on food and drink 10 years ago. His collection isn’t limited to cookbooks–some of his collection consists of books on gardening, brewery, distilling and old-fashioned food production. Lindgren says he didn’t expect culinary books to interest him as much as they do now.

“There are all these different social and cultural and technological and political pressures that shape our food world today,” Lindgren said. “All of those things were actively shaping the food world in 1650 and 1750 and 1950 and they show up in cookbooks and other related materials.”

Lindgren brought a copy of “The Virginia Housewife,” by Mary Randolph. First published in the early 19th century, he said it represents the beginning of southern cuisine, as well as being the first regional cookbook.

Cooke said some of the most prominent buyers were university libraries, like those of the University of Virginia, Washington & Lee University and VCU. However, many of the booksellers support each other by buying from each other, Cooke said.

“I absolutely love books, I love being a book dealer and this is everything in one event that I really love,” Cooke said.


Georgia Geen, Staff Writer

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