by Rob Callahan
I like to think I do alright as a writer. The money is adequate and the hours are good. I pay the mortgage, and I’ve got enough left over for the occasional night out. But every so often, I run across someone who is doing much, much better in the realm of books. By much better, I don’t mean a better Amazon sales ranking. Most everyone’s got that going for them. No, by much better I mean living in a manner befitting doctors, lawyers and crooked city council members.
Rob Rulon Miller of Rulon Miller Books, who is one such person, is an exhibitor at the upcoming Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair. He deals in valuable books and, as we talked, he realigned my concept of just what is and is not a valuable book. I used to think I had something special with my signed Dana Baird first editions and my original printing of Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, but that was before I held a book in my hands that was old enough to have been referenced by Shakespeare. Twice.
That book is worth more than I make in half a decade. It’s small enough to fit in my pocket and, I’ll admit, as I held it my mind raced through the possible zany heist scenarios I could pull off if only I had access to a grappling hook and a fence.
That one won’t be on display at the fair. What the 60-plus rare book dealers who exhibit at the fair are bringing are the more affordable pieces. You’ll see plenty of books that only cost a day’s wages, and even more on sale for the price of an informal first date. Lots more still embody the old and ephemeral qualities that the modern bibliophile seeks in a hand-held book, but are priced at or below what the local independently owned fair trade coffee shop charges us for a lite breakfast.
That nearly quarter million dollar book I mentioned earlier not withstanding, I was focusing on the relative bargains as I researched the book fair. I figured that was what interested me, and presumably my readers, the most. I was probably wrong, though. Knowing that there are first edition Sinclair Lewis and F. Scott Fitzgerald works on display, and that they are probably better kept than my Amazing Spider-Man #30, drew me in a little more.
I admit that I got into the idea enough that I snared a handful of comps to the fair, which I’ve been giving out as prizes at my trivia night, the l’étoile-sponsored JägerCon: Sci-Fi Tuesdays (every Tuesday at Clubhouse Jäger beginning at 8:30 pm).
While I normally hesitate to write about anything in terms of its demographic or some new appeal it has for a younger, hipper generation, this does actually seem to fit that bill. So this weekend’s Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair appeals to a younger, hipper generation. Hazel and Wren are going, so I rest my case. It features used, rare, and antiquarian books including illustrated & children’s, maps & prints, first editions, Americana, fine bindings, mysteries, private press, and other unusual books by over 60 vendors from 15 states.
And, notably, if you’ve got a 600-year-old German Bible in your basement, they’re doing free appraisals on Saturday. It’s kind of like Antique Road Show, only just with books, and probably disappointing more often than not. Which I say because I know how values can change. My Spidey comic, for which I was offered $100 cash a few years back, is now worth five or six bucks.
The 22nd Annual Twin Cities Antiquarian & Rare Book Fair will be held this Friday, June 29 from 5 to 9 p.m. and Saturday, June 30 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Progress Center at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds in St. Paul. Admission is $7 on Friday, $5 on Saturday, or $7 for both days. Parking is free. Click HERE for the Midwest Antiquarian Booksellers Association site.