While perusing the New York Antiquarian Book Show, I came across a seller, Yesterday’s Gallery & Babylon Revisited, whose inventory almost exclusively deals in the period between the wars. The dust jackets of that span reflected the artistic craze now known as Art Deco. I’ve collected many books with the Deco motif, and would have grabbed one book they had in particular, had it not been a little out of my reach. ABE, as usual, highlighted this specific section of antiquarian books, showing off what they considered to be great examples of Art Deco jackets. I think they did a decent job of finding some gems–especially since a few of them I own. It’s hard to explain what my criteria for ‘Deco’ consists of. I know it
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At the annual New York Antiquarian Book Show, even the paper within a bookseller’s catalog, has a refined air. A fragrance if you will, of expensively printed sheets of paper, beautifully bound with my favorite illustration from In Powder and Crinoline by Kay Nielsen’s hand.Within its pages are detailed descriptions of tomes I’ve never heard of from so many years ago, it’s fascinating any exist. Blackwell’s Rare Books, Antiquarian and Modern, lists book prices in pounds, something that always throws me when calculating if I can afford a title. My initial reaction is, oh, that’s not so terribly high, then reality sets in and I double the price seen, and find not only can I not afford it, I can’t think of anyone who could.
The Butter Did It. This is a running joke my friend Jamie McCoy will meet me with whenever he wants to point out my fallibility. Back when hypermodern collecting was all the rage, I would tout the newest first time author, depending on print run, etc. Not all new authors were great or even remained authors. Some faded quickly leaving behind a couple of signed books in someone’s hopeful collection of possible appreciating volumes. The Butter Did It melted away into oblivion and with it Jamie’s hope of resale at a profit. It became the symbol for Jamie and I, of the silliness in believing every new novel could or should be collected. If I now recommend some book I think was a fantastic read,
It happened again. I found a title with divine illustrations that I could afford, and ordered it from ABE or another seller on the bookfinder website. I eagerly mutilated the box tearing tape and cardboard in my haste to see the promised art. A Mother Goose naturally, this one illustrated by Edna Cooke, a new artist to me after having found 2 storybooks, during a road trip, full of lush colorful plates. I had enquired, making certain that all plates were present, something I’ve learned from experience isn’t a given. They were, the description of the quality of the book and plates was clear and fine, so here I was ready to ooh and ah over each picture as I turned the musky smelling pages.
Sidewalk booksellers were a common sight in New York City when I lived there. And I frequently bought from them. At first I was surprised they were allowed to set up shop–I didn’t notice a merchant’s license, which vendors selling anything from berets to Falafel needed in order to stay in business. A friend of mine way back in the 80s was selling tee shirts to make some cash to support her acting bug. On the corner of Tiffany’s she had a pile of shirts. No table, or even over turned crates to support the wares. It was a discreet business. I was handing out flyers for an upscale shoe store a block away. The undercover police popped up and took my friend and her