Library Blog

The Mark of Dee: Some Beautiful Things from the Antiquarian Book Fair 2023

Monday, May 1, 2023

On Friday, April 28, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours wandering through the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America's 63rd annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair at the Park Avenue Armory. Many old and beautiful things caught my eye, including one with an extra-special connection to this Library's Special Collections. (Open any image in a new browser tab for a closer look.)

Schubertiade Music & Arts offered this handful of Oscar Wilde-connected items, including something not a book - a "posy holder" inscribed with love to Wilde from Lord Alfred "Bosie" Douglas. I took a detailed look at a piece of Wildeana from the Library's collection in last summer's Books & People newsletter.

Manuscript materials and part of a rare edition of A L'Ombre des Jeunes Filles en Fleurs from Marcel Proust's A la Recherche du Temps Perdu, courtesy of Librarie Clavreuil. The Library hosted a major panel discussion last November for the centennial of Proust's death - catch up with the recording here.

London-based Sotheran's displays an early edition of Alessandro Manzoni's I promessi sposi (The Betrothed) - THE canonical Italian epic novel, now newly readable by English-speakers in the Modern Library translation by Michael F. Moore. (I just finished it - it's SO GOOD.) We're pleased to start a two-part seminar with Nicholas Birns on this book, using the new translation, this week.

Our New York City neighbors Books of Wonder shared two first editions of books about Babar. Original Babar artwork by Laurent de Brunhoff hangs in our Children's Library.

A first edition, first printing of The Uncalled by Paul Laurence Dunbar, shown by Thorn Books. This is not one of the bindings designed by Margaret Armstrong, but we included several of those editions in our 2021 exhibition, including When Malindy Sings. We enjoyed a lecture by Dunbar biographer Gene Andrew Jarrett last fall - watch it here.


Shortly before the Antiquarian Book Fair opened, the Library had a visit from two of its exhibitors - Kim Schwenk of Lux Mentis booksellers in Portland, Maine (that's a bit of their intriguing display in this article's sidebar) and Christian Westergaard from Sophia Rare Books of Copenhagen, Denmark! Special Collections Librarian Barbara Bieck and I showed our guests the Library and a few books from our own Winthrop Collection - because Mr. Westergaard brought to the fair another volume with the same history as ours. This copy of a mathematical treatise by Apollonius of Perga was owned by John Dee, advisor to Queen Elizabeth I of England, and was later part of the collection of John Winthrop Jr. Each eminent man left his mark on the books, including Dee's name just above Apolloius's, and Winthrop's name with an alchemical sigil, on this title page. You can read more about this volume and see more images on the website for Sophia Rare Books.

This is the title page of one of the Library's Winthrop books, Cheiragogia heliana de auro philosophico necdem cognito by Raphael Eglin. Learn more about our Winthrop Collection here.

It's not all solemn vellum at the Antiquarian Book Fair. This amusing item in the display from Editio Altera is an invitation disguised as a subpoena to a party thrown by Allan Carr at the Lincoln Heights Jail in 1975. This one went to guest of honor Truman Capote, a member of the Library for a number of years.

Thanks to Kim Schwenk and Christian Westergaard for the invitation to the fair, and congratulations to the ABAA for a beautiful weekend of history and books!

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