by Jay Platt
The Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. 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 grown to a one day fair with forty dealers. The inspiration for the fair came from Bob and Ruth Iglehart of Hartfield Books. Together with Tom Nicely of Leaves of Grass Rare Books and Jay Platt of the West Side Book Shop a committee was formed to plan an antiquarian book fair in order to sell hundreds of books to the hundreds of rare book librarians coming to Ann Arbor.
A room in the Michigan League Building was secured and a few other Michigan bookdealers 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 the un-airconditioned room staring at each other’s books. There was no fair in 1977.
By 1978 hope was revived and another fair was planned. Going to the other extreme, February was chosen, and the venue moved to the Michigan Student Union. The fair continued to grow and was moved from the modest Anderson Room to the spacious and grand ballroom on the second floor.
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 8th annual fairs in a row and the fair this year is actually number 31. Officially, though, it’s number 30.
The Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair now hosts nearly forty dealers annually in the month of May and runs concurrently with the Ann Arbor Book Festival. The William L. Clements Library of the University of Michigan now co-sponsors the fair along with the Ann Arbor Antiquarian Bookdealers Association. Each year the library benefits from the gate of nearly five hundred attendees.
The 30th Annual Ann Arbor Antiquarian Book Fair will be held Sunday, May 18th, 11am – 5pm in the ballroom of the Michigan Student Union, 530 S. State St., Ann Arbor, MI. There is a $5.00 admission. For more information contact Jay Platt c/o the West Side Book Shop,113 W. Liberty, Ann Arbor, MI 48104, 734-995-1891, firstname.lastname@example.org.