Seeing as this year was the 50th, this event has happened before, and I had heard of it being in Oakland, although I’m not sure if that’s the location every year or if it moves around. Anyway, it was in Oakland this year, and it worked out that I was able to go check it out.
The Fair filled the Convention Hall at the Marriott with rows of black curtain backed booths with an assortment of display cases and shelves. (Must be quite a production to set all that up!) Since I’d never been before, I just started at one side, and went with an orderly perambulation up and down the rows. After a few rows I started to get full/run out of time and then I realized the program had a listing by specialty. Ha! That would have been helpful for more targeted browsing from the get-go. On the other hand, I wasn’t really there for anything in particular, so it was neat to see a variety, and then finish up with a few specific selections.
California obviously was the most represented geographical area, but there were booksellers from around the world – even one from London that I had gone into on our trip last summer! It was an odd combination of being in a library – most sellers seemed fine with having people leaf through the wares – and museum – there were books that were hundreds of years old, or first editions by famous people – with the added surreal layer of it all being for sale, and prices into the millions. Another visitor made the observation, “There’s irony for you!” about the presentation copy of a Marx edition that was offered for $1.5 million. Whoa. $1.5 million. Right there on the shelf in front of me. Huh. (How many bikes is that?) (And how does buying something like that work? Even the things in the tens of thousands of dollars, how would that work if you bought it? I mean are there people walking around at these things with cash in their pocket?!)
Anyway, like any world, there’s the people who live there and know each other – I heard vendors greeting customer and other vendors, customers talking to other customers – the “oh you should go see X over at Y” or “I have something you should see” or “do you have any?” There were definitely folks on their particular mission. I overheard one fellow that collects books that are illustrated with stamps. One seller specialized in cooking related items, and had recently discovered food themed sheet music, which caught my eye.
Lots of amazing stuff to look at, and there were a variety of talks on the weekend too. Nominally the same content, that is – books, as Codex earlier in the week, but different vibe, probably mostly that at Codex the majority of the exhibitors have made the books they are displaying, and are there to talk about their creations. I’m glad I went, and I did see some pretty neat stuff, but, not being a collector, I’m not sure that I’d go again.