The Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair will celebrate in 2015 its thirty-ninth anniversary (or by some counts perhaps a thirty-seventh).
Begun as a three-day fair with fourteen dealers in July of 1976 and held in conjunction with the meeting of the Rare Book Conference of the American Library Association, it has since evolved into a one-day fair with forty dealers. The inspiration for the fair came from Bob and Ruth Iglehart of Hartfield Books.The Igleharts, together with Tom Nicely of Leaves of Grass–Rare Books and Jay Platt of the West Side Book Shop, formed a committee to stage an antiquarian book fair with the simple goal of selling hundreds of books to the hundreds of rare book librarians coming to Ann Arbor.
A room in the Michigan League building was secured for the three-day event and a few other Michigan book dealers were persuaded that this was a grand idea. A wine and cheese reception was planned for the opening evening. The librarians came, drank the wine, ate the cheese, bought a few books–and left. The next two days were spent in the heat and humidity of a room without air conditioning, staring at each other’s books.
There was no fair in 1977.
By 1978, hope was revived and another fair was planned. Going to perhaps the other extreme, February was chosen and the venue moved to the Michigan Student Union. The fair continued to grow and has since moved from the modest Anderson Room to the spacious grand ballroom on the second floor. It is perhaps worth noting that during the early years the planning for the fair was often done with the aid of a bottle or two of wine; therefore there were two Eighth Annual Fairs in a row and the fair this year is actually number 38. In the official record books, however, it goes down as number 37.
The Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair now hosts nearly forty dealers annually in the month of May. The booksellers offer a wide range of material, from collectible Americana, literature and children’s books to scholarly reference works, antiquarian maps, prints and ephemera. The William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan now co-sponsors the fair along with the Ann Arbor Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. Each year the library benefits from the gate of around five hundred attendees.
The Thirty-Seventh Annual Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair will be held Sunday, May 17, 11am – 5pm, in the ballroom of the Michigan Student Union (map), 530 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI. There is a $5.00 admission. For more information contact Jay Platt at the West Side Book Shop in Ann Arbor (113 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor MI 48104), ph (734) 995-1891, or via email.