"The Finest Early Atlas of the Americas," published in 1662 is among books for sale at the 2017 Antiquarian Book Fair.

Credit: Courtesy of the Antiquarian Book Fair

Book Lovers, Collectors Flock To 41st Antiquarian Book Fair

November 3, 2017

Boston's 41st annual International Antiquarian Book Fair will be held this year from Nov. 3 to 5 at Hynes Convention Center. One of the oldest and most respected book shows in the country, it showcases a wide range of antique collector's items, from maps and manuscripts to children's books. Henry Santoro spoke with longtime participant Ken Gloss, proprietor of Boston's Brattle Book Shop and appraiser on PBS's Antiques Roadshow, about what's in store for this year's fair.

Henry Santoro: Ken, before we jump in and talk about this year's book fair, let's begin with this. I saw on social media that you recently acquired 13,000 books in one day.

Ken Gloss: Thirteen thousand books, and that's not even that unusual. But yes, we went to Connecticut and we bought 13,000 books from one place, but a month before that we were in Buffalo, New York, and bought 11,000 books in another. And the logistics of moving those books — not only are they fun and it's a treasure hunt, and so on — and then you get down  — boy, they’re heavy.

Henry Santoro: Oh, I'm sure. The Boston Antiquarian Book Fair kicks off this Friday night. It's a ticketed event, and then it's open to the public free of charge on Saturday and Sunday. Now, you know this event like the back of your hand. So what are some of the highlights for this year's fair?

Ken Gloss: Well, a few of the highlights  — and we have a bunch of speakers  — but there's a book, well it's more a pamphlet, it was almost a magazine that was published in the 1840s on West Street in Boston which happens to just be next door, but it was the first edition of civil disobedience by Thoreau. There's one item I really want to see. I haven't seen the material. Someone has an archive of a man named Dave Powers. Dave Powers was a great friend of John Kennedy. He was always at the White House. He was the first president of the Kennedy Library. Here's an archive — I haven't seen it yet, but I'm really anxious to see what's in it.

Henry Santoro: He's got speeches and manuscripts and everything from Kennedy from going back to his earliest —

Ken Gloss: The earliest days and friends. There's a map of the Back Bay, but it's an interesting map. It's back in the 1840s, and it's an auction catalogue of the land in the Back Bay. And actually, the map showing the layout of the Back Bay was slightly different than what it turned out to be. And, you know, the corner of Boylston and Arlington Street, you could buy land for $2 a square foot.

Henry Santoro: Do you see a shift? I mean, you deal with collectors all the time. Do you see a shift in trends when the cultural climate shifts?

Ken Gloss:  Yeah. You definitely see the politics change a little and people get a little bit more fervent on each side. So actually, some of the things that you might consider very extreme on one end and very extreme on the other, actually sometimes go up in price because the people are so passionate about it.

Henry Santoro: So do you know yet what the ... Brattle bookshop will have in its booth?

Ken Gloss:  Well, I know — well, hopefully we won't have a lot at the end of the week, but we're bringing  — I know we have a not a first edition, but a slightly later edition of “Leaves of Grass,” that was inscribed by Walt Whitman.

Henry Santoro: Boston's 41st International Antiquarian Book Fair is happening this coming weekend, Friday and Saturday and Sunday at the Hynes Convention Center. Admission is free, as you heard us say, on Saturday and Sunday, and this is the first year it's sponsored by WGBH.

 


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