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International antique book fair finds a new home in Oakland

on February 7, 2015

The lines started early. One man asks if this is the queue for ticket holders, hoping that he is in the wrong one. To his disappointment, it’s the right line, so he waits, his anticipation growing to get a glimpse of the trophies inside.

This is the 48th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. For three days, the Marriott Convention Center in downtown Oakland is transforming itself into a treasure trove for some of the most rare books in the world. This year’s book fair began on Friday, and will run through 5 pm on Sunday, February 8.

Almost 200 vendors travel from around the country and around the world to attend this unique event. The book dealers must be apart of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers in order to participate. The fair contains a wide range of items not limited to books, such as old photographs, maps, manuscripts, foreign literature and other subjects. The event’s purpose, described by the fair manager Molly Glover, is for the public to get a glimpse of each book collector’s materials and to promote the trade of bookselling. “I love the books,” said Glover. “Every time I come here, I just find a couple of things that I have on my dream list of ‘If I were a book collector.’ It’s really fun.”

Walking past the shelves, one can’t help but feel transported into another time, as the smell of old pages comforts the bystanders. Sellers slide the doors to their cases, carefully removing works by authors like  Ernest Hemingway or Winston Churchill, or old hand-painted Fruitvale Station signs.

For the past 18 years, Sam Kers of Jonkers Rare Books has traveled from Henley-on-Thames, England to participate in this weekend’s event. Back in England, she specializes in locating first edition literature. “That is the fun of it,” says Kers, “We’re quite specialist. We only deal in literature.” Within her glass cases sit three first editions of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. To keep them company is a fourth edition folio of William Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies.

In the past years, the event was held in San Francisco, but this year the members of the organization decided to move it to Oakland, since the old venue had closed. This was great news for book junkie Mayor Libby Schaaf. “This has been a really proud place to showcase incredible art, history and culture, that is so important to me personally and to Oakland,” said Schaaf.

Browsing through the rows of books stands, the mayor stopped to appreciate Beverly Garcia-Garst, a fourth grade teacher’s, collection of old children’s books with familiar titles that transport viewers back to their childhood: Hansel and Gretel, Little Red Riding Hood and Mother Goose.

“I was enjoying the children’s books—it brings back memories,” said Schaaf. “But mostly I really was enjoying the old maps of Oakland and the illustrations of what Oakland’s downtown looked like.”

In addition to booksellers, the event provides different activities focused on books and book collecting, including a featured seminar on Jack London’s photography, in honor of Oakland hosting the event. London was a journalist, social activist and the author of Call of the Wild and White Fang.

For the treasure seekers, the fair is quite an experience. Paul Franklin, a retired semiconductor consultant, attends these book fairs in the hopes of finding photographs or diaries on Western Americana and mining history. This book fair proved a success for Franklin; he went home a happy buyer with a couple of jewels to add to his collection. “I found some of the photographs [that] were of Virginia City, the Comstock Strike, which is one of my near and dear subjects,” said Franklin. “There were also some stock certificates, which I also collect.”

The fair is ongoing until Sunday at the Marriott Convention Center. For more information, please click here.

1 Comment

  1. Be Still, My Bay-Area Book-Fair Beating Heart | on February 12, 2015 at 10:39 am

    […] press for the book fair but also felt like a warm welcome to the fair’s change of locale. Click here to read about the mayor’s visit (and see a picture of her and Vic, which he is really proud […]

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