Rare book fair explores the industry


By Laura Latzko

Pasadena Weekly Contributing Writer

BDealers from around the world will converge on the Pasadena Convention Center for the Rare Books LA-Pasadena trade show from Friday, February 4 through Sunday, February 6.

The event will feature books, maps, scripts, letters, comics, classic photographs, Bibles, religious texts, original manuscripts or typescripts, fine art prints and other printed items from more than 100 merchants.

Jen Johnson – co-producer of Rare Books LA book fairs and co-owner of Johnson Rare Books and Archives – said while many are opting for digital editions of books these days, there are those who prefer and collect print editions.

“We see people falling in love with a book they’ve read, like ‘Alice in Wonderland,’ and they want to own a copy,” Johnson said.

“They want to have it on their shelves, be able to reach it, pick it up, curl up and read a few pages, maybe with nice illustrations. I pity people who don’t read. I feel like they miss out on a whole new world in front of them. There’s nothing quite like getting lost in a big book.

“There are just some things you can’t see on a computer. You don’t get the weight, heft and feel of a good book when you’re on the computer. You want to see it, touch it, feel it.

Johnson said collectors start the hobby for a variety of reasons.

“I think people approach it from different angles,” she said.

“Certainly, many people have emotional attachments. Sometimes we find people who want to delve deeper into a certain topic. Some people don’t necessarily collect books as reading material. They collect them like objects. They might be interested in the illustrations or the type of binding it is in. And then there are people who collect because they want the ideal copy of what was released at the time, in the original dust jacket perhaps.

Johnson has a collection of books, ticket stubs, pamphlets, and other items associated with the 1932 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Along with the chance to see rare books and printed materials, the book fair offers a chance to learn more about the process behind the industry.

“We hope people will leave the book fair with a new appreciation for the book — not just the story or the worlds that are printed, but the subject matter itself,” she said.

“There are so many fascinating elements to publishing a book, whether it’s illustrated or how it might be bound.”

Treasure hunt

At the event, customers can chat with dealers about their offerings.

“They can provide a great resource and context for the information you see. They are happy to share their time and experience,” Johnson said.

This year at the fair, David Brass Rare Books of Calabasas will display a 1934 copy of “The Life and Times of Catherine de’ Medici” bound by Riviere & Fils of London in maroon crushed morocco.

The front cover features an oval miniature portrait of Catherine de’ Medici, created by Miss CB Currie.

Johnson Rare Books and Archives of Covina will be giving away a signed copy of an unproduced play by Ray Bradbury, based on his short story “A Medicine for Melancholy”.

Carol Sandberg, owner of Michael R. Thompson Rare Books, said her inventory depends on trends. Currently, books on Black, Asian, and Hispanic history have become more popular, along with articles on education and women’s studies. She also carries 19th-century fiction by lesser-known female authors.

“Fortunately, I am a person with many interests. Which ones get featured depends a lot on what the market is at any given time,” said Sandberg, who collects Salvation Army memorabilia and books.

The company offers printed materials, including fine press printing and artists’ books, diaries, letters, manuscripts, works of art and photographic archival pieces.

Sandberg brings the first edition of Paul Landacre’s 1931 title “California Hills and Other Wood Engravings”.

Sandberg finds books at estate sales, auctions, other resellers and long-time customers. Sometimes finding the right books, with a market, can take time.

“It’s always a matter of searching through a lot of things to find the gems,” Sanberg said.

“We have been around for a long time. It was funny. I’m still enthusiastic about it. The good thing about this world is that it’s always interesting. There is always something to learn and that is what drives us forward.

This year, the book fair will celebrate the 100th anniversary of James Joyce’s literary masterpiece “Ulysses”. Different editions of the once banned book will be exhibited.

The Huntington is also hosting a two-day conference titled “Joycean Cartographies: Navigating a New Century of ‘Ulysses'” on Thursday, February 3 and Friday, February 4, in-person and live.

The library has a new exhibition called “Mapping Fiction”, which features novels and maps from the 16th to the 20th century, a presentation of a first edition of “Ulysses”, a typewritten draft of one of the novel’s chapters, as well as rules-inspired maps and intaglios.

The exhibit runs through Monday, May 2, inside the west lobby of the library.


Rare Books LA-Pasadena Book Fair

WHEN: 5 to 8 p.m. Friday, February 4; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday, February 5;
and from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, February 6

OR: Pasadena Convention Center, 300 E. Green Street, Pasadena

COST: $25 for Friday; $10 for Saturday and Sunday

INFORMATION: rarebooksla.com; proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test
are required. Masks must be worn.

Joycean Cartographies: navigating a new century of “Ulysses”

WHEN: 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday, February 3 and Friday, February 4

OR: Rothenberg Hall at The Huntington, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino and broadcast live

COST: $25 general admission, free for students;
access to the livestream is free

INFORMATION: 626-405-2100, huntington.org/Joycean-mappings;
proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test is required,
just like surgical masks, N95, KF94 or KN95.

“Mapping Fiction”

WHEN: Until Monday, May 2

OR: West Hall at the Huntington, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino

COST: Tickets start at $25, with discounts for
seniors, students, military and children

INFORMATION: 626-405-2100, huntington.org/mapping-fiction;
visitors are required to wear masks.

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