Long Live the Book!

Bookworms unite! Explore these 8 captivating design history books from Print’s library.


1 AntiqueBooksThe predictions can be dire: The book is dead. According to a Pew research study, 50% of Americans do their reading on a tablet or a dedicated e-reader like a Kindle or Nook. However, if you love the look and feel and smell of books—the paper, the binding, the typography, the jacket design —fear not. Antiquarian book fairs, held in many of the world’s major cities, are where you can indulge your passion for the printed book and meet like-minded people who gather to celebrate, buy, and sell rare and beautiful books.

For three days last month, the Park Avenue Armory was transformed into 38,000 square feet of eye candy for designers, a place to be inspired by thousands and thousands of books as well as by maps, prints, letters, cards and other printed ephemera. There, I met booksellers from all over the United States and from Argentina, Canada, England, France, Germany, Holland, Japan, Hungary, Italy, Russia, and Switzerland. In their free moments — in between selling Japanese art postcards for a few dollars to nearly priceless signed first editions of classics — they were happy to share their expertise and passion. Many offered free, beautifully designed catalogs. Here are a few highlights:

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Brian Cassidy, Bookseller, Silver Spring, MD

Mr. Cassidy (below) travels all over the country to find silkscreened and collaged works on paper by street and graffiti artists. “More than half of what I sell are unique, one-of-a-kind items,” he said, indicating the prints arranged along the top of the display cabinets in his booth as well as the books and ephemera inside. “I and many others who exhibit here work all year to get new material for New York. That’s because the quality of the people in the room, both the sellers and the buyers, make this the best book fair in the world.” Note “the” Andy Warhol book jacket designed by Herb Lubalin in 1975.

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Athena Rare Books, Fairfield, CT

“My focus is on philosophy,” said Athena’s owner Bill Schaberg, “philosophy, literature, history, and science.” Mr. Schaberg said he knew collecting was the right career for him when he bought a first edition of Nietzsche for $600 in 1984 and sold it in 2010 for $18,000. Distinguished by head shots of every author and tent cards that listed the author’s name, book title and price, the offerings here ranged from The Meaning of Truth by William James for $125 to a first edition of Essay Concerning Human Understanding by John Locke for $70,000.

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Whitmore Rare Books, Altadena, CA

Dan Whitmore began collecting American and British literature of the 19th and 20th centuries while attending Middlebury College and the University of Pennsylvania Law School. “If there’s a great book, I want to find it, especially a book I’ve read that’s important to me,” he said. “I never practiced law. Instead, I spend my time chasing these treasures from private collectors and at auction and authenticating them so that every book we sell is the genuine article—not a forgery—that’s accurately described and fairly priced.” Below, three first editions: East of Eden inscribed by John Steinbeck, $8,250; Steinbeck’s To a God Unknown, $6,000; Bound for Glory inscribed by Woody Guthrie, $10,000.

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Földvári Books, Budapest, Hungary

A specialist in art, avant-garde, literature, and philosophy, Lóránt Szabó, below, presented the catalog of the 1926 International Exhibition of Modern Art at the Brooklyn Museum ($5,500), designed in the Constructivist style by Soviet artist Constantin Alajalov (1900-1987). “Société Anonyme was the international organization for promoting and bring modern art to America,” Mr. Szabó explained. “It was founded in 1920, by Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp and Katherine Sophie Dreier, who organized solo exhibitions for Klee, Léger, Mondrian, and others, published monographs on various artists, and sponsored public lectures on art.”

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Eric Chaim Kline Bookseller, Santa Monica, CA

Mr. Kline focuses what he calls “Eurocentric” books published between 1850 and 1960. Subjects range from photography and interior design to Holocaust propaganda. “I like being a dilettante,” he said, proudly reporting that he built two 10,000-volume collections of Holocaust-themed books; one was donated to Clark University, the other to the University of Southern California. He also offered works on art, architecture and design, including advertising and design memorabilia such as vintage color system books and VW magazine ads that won gold medals in Art Directors’ Club exhibitions of the 1960s.

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Librarie Michele Noret, Paris, France

Ms. Noret’s collection of children’s books includes rare European illustrated volumes by Futurist/Avant-garde innovators, including El Lissitzky. Among the works displayed in her booth was this 1932 photo-illustrated Alphabet book by Emmanuel Sougez for $5,100. I was also enchanted by Chataigne, a first edition with 30 color lithographs by the Russian Constructivist Natalie Tchelpanova-Parain ($600).

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David Bergman, New York, NY

Operating out of his Upper West Side apartment-house basement, Mr. Bergman told me hat he’s been in the rare book business for thirty years. His eclectic offerings included trade catalogs and sample books of tiles, venetian blinds, and envelopes. “I’ll sell almost anything that I can get more than I paid for it,” he said, “and I love everything about vintage printed ephemera and books, even the smell of them!”

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Michael Di Ruggiero, The Manhattan Rare Book Company, New York, NY

Mr. Ruggiero showed me a first edition of A Computer Perspective, the 1973 graphic history of the computer, designed for the Eames Office by Paul Bruhwiler, signed and inscribed “To Rick” by Charles and Ray Eames. “This book is one of the high spots in our collection,” he says, “though no one knows who Rick was.”

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Eames Signature

I’ve had A Computer Perspective on my shelf for many years — no inscription with little heart — but hadn’t opened it in a long time until Mr. Di Ruggiero and I looked through it together. Each spread is like an exhibition panel, worth exploring in detail, we agreed.

Does all this make you wonder, “What’s in my bookcase?”


By David Sherwin

Designers can often struggle to find creative inspiration because of tight deadlines and demanding workloads. So if you want to perform your best, then you need to exercise your creativity! Creative Workshop helps you do just that. Packed with 80 unique creative thinking exercises that cover all kinds of media and time ranges (we know how rare free time can be), this book can help give your brain the creative workout it needs to stay sharp. Get it here.

 

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