The epic romance continues between the two American coasts, as the beginning of the year jumps in two major ABAA Book Fairs… the California Antiquarian Book Fair (February) and the equally as engaging and immense, the New York Antiquarian Book Fair [April]. Each fair having their own peculiarities, personalities and local fanfare, and honestly, not without their own biases.
The California fair flips between their estranged cousins of North and South hosts; this year held inland Los Angeles, more specific a sparkling bright and colorful, Pasadena. Mind you, east coast or rather booksellers coming from anywhere else outside of Southern California almost know they are escaping frigid temperatures from their homes, this year was unseasonably hot with days reaching the upward 90s. Take care, so the books don’t sweat.
It is always within the scope of the best vice and virtue, so to speak, to bring out the “sexy.” Lux Mentis never shy to vice and more vice, taunts the sensibilities with color, format, and content with a moderate collection of items that fall under the “Sex, Death, and the Devil” tease. Partly to challenge the normalized sense of the book and partly to possibly offend a casual buyer who just might be tempted enough leave their morals at home.
This year saw the debut of two major collections of material both very California and both very seething with equal parts naughty and “nice.”
The Daved Marsh Surfing Collection, a multi-faceted collection of books, magazines, pulps, and other ephemera, is a wild trip down the last several decades of surf history, but more so to capture the sleazy and exploitative end to surf culture. Daved Marsh, a surf bibliographer, first Gen SF punk, and rare book cataloger, coined the term “surfsploitation” to describe the lascivious, tongue-in-cheek, and racy nature of surf culture as seen through both mass and underground media. A visually compelling and downright dirty collection, it was a pleasure to have a snippet of material on view, and subsequently the collection found a new placement, ironically on the East Coast!Sorry, New York, but the West Coast represents a massive chunk of the punk scene beginning in the late 70s too! Also featured in California fair were bits of the SST Records Collection and the art of renowned punk artist Raymond Pettibon. SST Records, the brainchild of Black Flag guitarist, Greg Ginn, boasts not just punk ephemera, like punk show fliers, but correspondence from the administrative end of the operation, zines, and even a Henry Rollins poseable action figure! Lux Mentis displayed the highly collectible and just plain damn awesome, original Raymond Pettibon artwork, but also an original handwritten letter from Gordon Gano of the Violent Femmes, discussing the album and included lyrics. 40 years of punk this year, and we still can’t quit it.
The satellite book fair, the LA Art Book Fair, was held downtown in Little Tokyo district; and without a doubt, the opening night was not a sight “untypical” of Los Angeles. The very hip and overly stylized gamut of young socialites grazed the scene. At one point, most tables saw bodies three deep. There were a couple of largely popular and personal favorites representing the fair, Printed Matter (the organizers), Division Leap, and the wildly adorable and politically poignant, Booklyn. We ended up snatching up a few dirty bits, as usual, but also chatted with our friend, Jenny Lens, prominent Los Angeles photographer and artist of the original LA punk scene.
Also quite digestible this year, are the fine selections of artist’s books and fine press publications that many of the Southern California academic libraries acquired for their collections. Special collections libraries at major universities in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego maintain hugely representative and well-developed artist’s book collections, as always it is hugely delightful to pander to the collecting missions of these selective libraries. One of the major goals now and into the future is to support and advocate for emerging book art talent across the country. It would be my personal goal, also, to be a strong advocate for emerging book artists of color and queer and trans-identified book artists, so that their work is represented in library collections.
In some ways, it is a nice swap to talk about the New York fair in the future tense, just so everyone can get a whiff of what’s to come. New York is an uncompromising city, no doubt. However, in its small geographic metropolis, the city demands a major chunk of bibliographic and artistic liberties. We hope to envelope ourselves in the energy and intellect of New York’s prolific institutions and sharp book collectors.
To continue the saga of our highly tragic theme, more sex will available for our daring clientele, but also a twist on the devil with some occult thrown in the mix, with a nice glaze of death, death, and more death. A personal favorite of mine, death is a transgressive topic of interest this year, as we are seeing more dialogue surrounding “end of life” transgression, as well as, the fashionable Victorian morbidity culture.
It is on more than one occasion, onlookers say, “you have the best booth” and without tooting our horn *too* much, although there is something to be said for pushing the envelope by challenging the notion of “antiquarian,” “rare,” and even the book format. Collecting and developing collections is by no means regulated to just “old brown books” and certainly by example, content and context play into scarcity as much as edition and age. With that in mind, for you curious creatures, here are some selections of newly acquired material and other provocative items to taunt you with for the New York Antiquarian Fair this week (Booth B-21). [Not responsible for faint of heart, nor coddling of weak-minded morality].