Antiquarian Book Fair is returning to the Upper East Side this week

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Mrs. Tabitha’s Cats’ Academy, 1889, Louis Wain. Oil on canvas, 9-1/16 x 12-1/4 inches. Depicting a “Schoolroom” following the 19th century genre of “School in an Uproar” images popularized by famous artists Thomas Brooks and Henry J Richter among others, which often parodied human behavior and situations. In 1886, Wain’s first drawing of anthropomorphized cats was published in the Christmas issue of Illustrated London News. (Courtesy NYIABF)

For collectors and the curious alike, the New York International Antiquarian Book Fair will be running later this week on the Upper East Side. This will be the 60th anniversary of the Book Fair, which runs from March 5-8 at Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Ave.

The Fair will offer rare books, manuscripts, historical documents, maps and more, on a wide variety of topics and for a range of prices, from over 200 American and international dealers. It is sanctioned by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) and International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

“The New York Book Fair is probably the most important book fair in the global book fair calendar,” said Donald Heald, Treasurer for the Mid Atlantic Chapter of the ABAA. Ha said it’s the most highly attended antiquarian book fair in the U.S., drawing about 8,900 people last year and expecting a similar or higher turnout this year.

Heald noted materials at the Fair will be on a wide variety of topics and fields, and not only older subjects but books on topics related to recent decades and up to the present day. “It’s a very interesting group of people, the booksellers are very diverse,” he said. “It’s a great mix of material.”

A photo of Albert Einstein, signed and with a poem he wrote which reads: “Whenever we hatched a plot, The Old Man stuck out his tongue. But our old friendship, here and there, Has survived all the storms. Comrade Ladenburg, With heartfelt greetings, A. Einstein 1939.” It is on a photograph signed to his early supporter and friend, Rudolf Ladenburg. (Courtesy NYIABF)


While the fair draws plenty of serious collectors and librarian groups, Heald noted, different age groups attend and can potentially find something to buy for as little as $10, to go alongside more expensive items like a signed book or item related to Shakespeare or The Federalist Papers that could go for hundreds of thousands of dollars. “People of all ages come through,” Heald said.

Eric Carle, “The Very Hungry Caterpillar.” New York: The World Publishing Company, 1969. First edition, first printing, first issue. Signed “with love” and with a doodle by Eric Carle on the verso of the title-spread. (Courtesy NYIABF)


The first Fair was held in 1959, and has now been at the Park Avenue Armory for nearly 30 years. Despite all the potential digital distractions of modern times, attendance is up nearly 50 percent in the last few years, Heald said, noting there is still great appeal in handling items in person.

“There really isn’t a substitute of the serendipity of going to a fair or bookshop and looking through and seeing something,” he said. “And suddenly you have a new interest or you learn something.”

Heald added, “I see people coming through that are younger and getting used to looking at books in a different way, and that there’s more than just looking at the screen of your iPhone.”

More information can be found at nyantiquarianbookfair.com.