Fair Brings Rare Books, 'Doors' Lyrics and Roosevelt Letters to New York

By Elizabeth Barber on April 12, 2013 8:09am 

 The New York Antiquarian Book fair includes pages of manuscript by The Door's singer Jim Morrison.
The New York Antiquarian Book fair includes pages of manuscript by The Door's singer Jim Morrison.
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Sanford Smith

LENOX HILL — More than 200 book dealers from around the world convened at the Park Avenue Armory on Thursday for the launch of what "60 Minutes" deemed “the best book fair in the world.”

The New York Antiquarian Book Fair, a four-day event running Thursday though Sunday, features an massive collection of rare books, maps, photos, and manuscripts, including letters penned by Eleanor Roosevelt and notebooks belong to The Doors’ Jim Morrison.

“There is nothing else like it in New York,” said Jill Bokor, director of marketing at Sanford Smith, an art and antiques management company that has run the show for 25 of its 53 years. “It has been repeatedly called the best, most comprehensive book fair in the world.”

The fair, which last year drew upwards of 7,000 visitors, is an opportunity for collectors to score literary finds that range from the compellingly rare to the straight-up eccentric — that includes modern first editions and illuminated medieval manuscripts, as well as books of 1920s mug shots and Utah broadsides condemning Mormonism.

“What they’re not looking for are things to read. They’re looking to add to their collections,” said Bokor, who said that visitors come in search of items as specific and esoteric as “Latin books on horticulture”

Though primarily a celebration of the written word, the fair is not strictly books-only. Among the items for sale is the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was allegedly sitting when he was told he'd been nominated for the presidency. One dealer has also brought a collection of what Bokor called “mildly pornographic items,” including a bra and panties set made out of book pages.

The fair’s hours are Friday noon to 8 p.m., Saturday noon to 7p.m., and Sunday noon to 5 p.m.. The fair will also have book experts on hand to offer informal appraisals on Sunday from noon-3 p.m.

Click here for tickets and more information.

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