Greetings my dearly beloved.
Three months in, and Jonathan Kearns Rare Books & Curiosities is still doggy paddling its way into 2015.
It’s been nerve-wracking and occasionally demoralising, exciting and occasionally really rewarding, and overall is reminding me of that “May you live in interesting times.” comment that makes as good a curse as anything else. I’ll tell you what though; the book trade is awesome, books are incredible things, and thus far; we’re still flying. I am filled with humble, dumb gratitude for all the people who helped me so far this year.
I’ve got my first big book fair coming up fairly soon, more on that as I know it. I’m hoping for a printed catalogue at some point, maybe 50 items, probably knocked off on the school library photocopier after everyone has gone home, grainy black and white photos, and the kind of contents that, if I’m fortunate, might come out of a library sale at The House of Leaves. There are a million things I want to do and a million places I want to be and I have only the vaguest idea how to do any of it.
I have some wonderful books coming in at the moment, not many, I’m trying to keep my stock quite small and swift; although the success of that seems to depend upon the stars, the weather and possibly goat entrails.
As yet there isn’t a section in the ABA handbook on haruspicy, but if I can get this to work that’s one of my next projects.
We’re rapidly approaching the bookfair season (although with a number of new fairs filling in the gaps we’re kind of moving away from a ‘season’ and towards a kind of solid monthly timetable if you can travel far and wide enough). There’s the Illustrated, Children’s and Modern First Editions Fair at the London Olympia Hilton on the 21st of March, which will be heaving with pretty things. There’s the crown jewel; The New York Antiquarian Book Fair from the 9-12th of April, which is destined to be amazing and wonderful and filled to bursting with the best books and booksellers on the planet. Then London kicks off with the May fairs; details here, and here. Tickets for Olympia International Antiquarian Book fair here.
The other major advantage of the Olympia International Fair, at least from an entertainment point of view, is that I’ll be doing a guided tour of the fair this year for anyone who fancies the idea of being led around a bookfair by someone who looks like a bad Doctor Who cosplayer; and talks like the kid who spent his entire school career tied upside down to a tree. I imagine there’s a somewhat limited demographic for that, but I’ll have sweets, and I can point you in the direction of the bar. Wish me luck.
So that’s bookfairs, it’s essential you go to one, or two, or all of them…there is seriously no better way to get your hands on the books and get up close to things of incredible significance and beauty that you might otherwise not get within lustful groaning distance of. Any queries, questions or help you want just drop me an email and I’ll point you in the appropriate direction. It’s really and truly worth every moment of your time, and they are usually as close to free as makes no difference. There is really no substitute for actually seeing a Nuremberg Chronicle or an Origin of Species or your favourite Harry Potter in the wild.
While we’re on the subject of worth every moment (although less free); the scholarships and applications for this year’s York Antiquarian Book Seminar have kicked off!
The seminar takes place in September and is basically a crash course introduction to entering the world of rare books. Whether you want to be a dealer (of any size or inclination), a prospective trade employee, an academic or a librarian there is something rewarding and practical that can be learned at YABS.
I’m a co-director, along with Anthony Smithson of The Keel Row Bookshop, and I’m on the faculty as the bloke who lectures about post-apocalypse bookselling, or how to sell old books in new, interesting ways. I’m a pretty minor part of the whole exploit, but I absolutely love it, and last year’s seminar was an enormous success with our students (I really like saying that), mainly down to the outstanding faculty we were fortunate enough to assemble.
Well, that fantastic faculty has decided to stay with us for this year, which is brilliant news; and we have secured the talents of Sally Burdon of The Asia Bookroom, and Janette Ray as our keynote speakers and speciality dealer.
The main thing about YABS is that it is a labour of love, a necessary and desirable thing for the benefit of the rare book trade in general. Whilst the trade I work in, and love, is fascinating, rich and totally engrossing; the initial steps to enter it can be baffling and obscure. Most book dealer biographies suggest it happens by a weird accident, the fates align and suddenly you’re working in a basement off Charing Cross Road surrounded by Strand Magazines (actually that may have been a dream I had, not sure). The York Seminar is our effort to help the fates along a bit and give the people who really want to make a life in this trade and amongst books in general, able to do so with a little more confidence. It’s general in some areas, and detailed in others, but it is an attempt (and apparently a successful one), to provide a practical and usable overview of many aspects of the book world.
We have a number of scholarships available this year, including one named after me that comes with a free drink…yes, I know (it’s the second one down for those of you who are interested, last years recipient requested a Negroni I believe).
See you there!