Tuesday, January 27, 2004

I've taken a long hiatius from this barely begun work, but inspired by Samantha's diligent posting, I will restart. It's been a disappointing week, with a museum turning down an archive they had been hot for for several months, and yet another book fair debacle.

The Books at the Armory Show fair was this past weekend, held annually at the site of the original Armory Show featuring Marcel Duchamp, which at the time shocked the cultural world. The energy has clearly gone out of it though, with fewer visitors again this year, continuing the downward trend. However, the conviviality was pleasant and there were a few good books to buy. I found a nice copy of the second edition of Claude Levi-Strauss's Triste Tropiques, inscribed by the great Structuralist, and with a letter laid-in. Also found a nice cloth first of John Cage's Notations, another personal favorite of mine, as well as some fine issues of Dance Index magazine with the covers designed by Joseph Cornell. The next few days will be spent cataloguing these and the 15 or so other titles I picked up.

The low point of the fair came for me when a woman approached me about the copy of Robert Frank's Les Americains I had displayed. She asked about a first of the American edition, an unusual case in that a later publication is more valuable than the true first. Personally, I prefer the French edition, with its collection of America-critical quotes juxtaposed against the photographs. I explained this to the woman at the fair, accompanied by the bookseller's litany of condition being the paramount factor when dealing with rare books. She looked at me with a staight face and told me an "expert" had informed her that authentic firsts have loose pages because of a poor binding. I said yes, the first was perfect bound, which frequently leads to loose pages, but that just means that there are fewer copies in fine condition with the pages still intact, as they should be. She would have none of it, insisting that the book is not a first edition, unless the pages are falling out. She huffed off, realizing I would have none of it. Yet another delusional book owner, convinced their book is the only one truly worth anything.

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