Just as well I was up early on Saturday. Longtime readers will know that I occasionally have unaccountable difficulties with hotel rooms, particularly in the north of England (see Hotel Kafka and other posts below). I say hotel ‘rooms’, but that’s a little grandiloquent for the accommodation actually offered in York by a well known chain with a penchant for hotels with overlong, silly, and somewhat pretentious names, who won’t be receiving my custom again anytime soon. ‘Cubicle’ would be more accurate, ‘cupboard’ only marginally harsh. The bathroom was so small that the door-handle was actually positioned right over the middle of the washbasin. And it may have been an optical illusion, but it also appeared to be a touch bigger than the sink – pretentious, as I say. Solved the kettle issue, but when addressing the mirror in an orthodox fashion to shave, I found that my shaving arm was actually completely outside the bathroom, i.e. in a different room. Various strategies suggested themselves – (a) shaving left-handed, (b) shaving sideways on, one side at a time, (c) shaving entirely from memory elsewhere in the cupboard, and (d) not bothering at all turning up at the fair cloaked in fashionable stubble. In the end, it took a combination of all these approaches to get me to the fair looking just about plausible. There early, before the fair actually opened, to attend an informal meeting summoned by Anthony Smithson (Keel Row Bookshop) to discuss the setting up of the York Antiquarian Book Seminar. Peter Miller (Ken Spelman) was there. Brian Lake (Jarndyce) was there. Richard Hodgson was there. And Arthur Cunningham (Westfield Books) was there. The idea is firmly based on what our American colleagues have been doing successfully for over thirty years at the annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar. Anthony went out to Colorado last year and has come back fired with enthusiasm. And if we believe in the future of our trade, which we do, then it is high time that we took steps to ensure its future by passing on proper basic training to our successors. Of course we already have the excellent London Rare Books School (itself based on an American model), but we need something to complement that – something more trade-focussed, more practical, a touch less academic, more concerned with the basic issues of making a living out of dealing. And if you doubt the utility and importance this – the potential for transformation – then just have a look at Brian Cassidy’s recent Field of Booksellers post on his Bilblioblography blog (link in the blogroll to the right). Anthony too is a graduate and had to go to the States to find the kind of tuition that we fail to offer here. All present were fully behind the idea. We of course realise that there are significant cultural differences between here and the States – and that this is a much smaller country. We know that, but it can be done. It would stand alone, but with the active backing of both ABA and PBFA. York is an ideal place to do it – with a richness of heritage, a thriving university, a more than thriving bookfair – record sales again this year. Let’s get behind it, let’s collectively bring it into being. It has my complete support. Thank you Anthony for a rousing start to the day.
The fair opened shortly afterwards. Head down and looking for books in earnest. I’ve already told you about my favourite purchase of the morning in Dearest Papa below – now happily out an approval to a major UK library. But that’s not all – a couple of lovely things from Neil Summersgill – one a murder mystery which could only be solved by doing the jigsaw-puzzle which came with it. Neil assured me that the jigsaw was complete – taking the art of collation to a wholly new level. A charming nineteenth-century gift-annual from Alex Alec-Smith, still with its slip-case. Pause for a chat on ABA membership and proposed rule-changes with Steve Liddle. A couple of books from Bryan Kernaghan, poised to move after all the years in Southport to some rather grand looking premises in Liverpool. Upstairs once more – and here’s
Miles Bartley (Howes Bookshop) puzzling over why just about everyone has taken his Mary Russell Mitford off the shelf to look at, but no one has so far bought it. Puzzle no more, Miles – it’s mine now. Good times, good talk, great fair – much more I could say, but it’s off to Lucerne in the morning – time to start packing.