Man’s Best Friend – Books!

If Australians bet on two flies climbing up a wall, they’ll collect everything.  A quiet Friday night in front of the tele proves it. And there are a lot of bibliophiles out there.  Most of them are pretty harmless. Although some of us go nuts, we don’t all end up with Boulard’s Syndrome. Just for the record, Antoine-Marie-Henri Boulard was a pathological 19th century collector. He tried to own every book and pamphlet ever published. Some say he ended up with 300 000 volumes. Others say 600 000. Some say they filled five whole buildings. Others say six and others say eight.
 
Whatever Floats Your Boat
Sydney has had its share of bibliomaniacs. David Scott Mitchell was legendary. And one, recently-deceased gentleman used to scour the Salvos, the garage sales and the charity book fairs, lug his boxes home on the bus and stack them up in his garden shed and under his eaves.
 
Some people collect children’s books, or juveniles, or illustrated books. Others go for an author’s first editions, or a particular subject, or artists’ books. But most of us collect the authors or subjects that we admire. We start collecting when we realize that we want our own quality copies, rather than settle for cheap paperback and library copies. We start making connections that link this book to all the others. We start focusing our acquisitions to tell a story about that author, that publisher, that illustrator, that subject, that great work.
 
We all collect because we enjoy the hunt. And the hunt takes us to flea markets, op shops, charity fairs, dusty old secondhand bookshops, book fairs and, even, prestigious antiquarian dealers. We mightn’t have much money, but we need to have ‘the eye’
 
Some of us invest in our books. We start considering each acquisition’s intrinsic importance as a first edition of a novel or scientific breakthrough. We get off on its scarcity, its historical interest, its condition, its binding, its dust jacket, its inscriptions, its provenance. We might fantasies about our collection’s market value. But we usually value it for the deep satisfaction that it gives us.
 
Sydney’s Book Fairs
Most European and American cities have held regular antiquarian, rare and secondhand book fairs for decades. But Sydney seems to have lost out. Of course, ANZAAB, Australian & New Zealand Antiquarian Association of Booksellers, has kept the flame burning, by hosting a Sydney fair every other year. In the meantime, we have had to settle for op shops, flea markets, charity fairs and fewer-and-fewer bookshops where dirty, unsorted quantity, rather than a clean, careful selection, is the norm.
 
A band of Sydney book dealers set up the Bookdealers Guild (NSW) to promote rare and quality second-hand books. Some of its members have open shops, others work out of their storehouses or homes. Some members only list some of their stock on the net. Others eschew the net, trading at fairs and collectables markets.
 
The Bookdealers Guild will host two Sydney Book Fairs this year. All of these dealers are showing their best and rarest. In the internet age, when many dealers have shut up their bricks and mortar shops, book fairs provide opportunities to scout for items. Nothing beats holding the book and evaluating its condition. Book fairs are buzzy places where stallholders trade with other dealers; avid collectors scout for unrecognized treasures; hobbyists search for reference books to reveal the mystery of that unusual teapot or old engine or exotic fabric.
 
They’ll have all sorts of quality books. And you can always contact them, asking them to bring their books or ephemera on you-name-it.  Contact the Guild’s Secretary for details about the exhibiting dealers, proposed dates and venues.
—Written and contributed by Gavin Harris of The Cross Art + Books

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