I was whining to a colleague during setup at this year’s Papermania about how desperate Hartford was in the summer time. To my surprise, he offered a dissenting opinion.
“Nonsense,” he told me. “The weather is beautiful. Hartford is a wonderful city to walk around in – the parks, the riverfront – especially during the weekend when there’s no traffic.
You go into a restaurant and you never have to wait to be seated. You sit down at the bar and there’s plenty of room. So stop your complaining and get out there and enjoy it.”
He was right. I left the XL Center late Friday afternoon and hit the streets. Hartford was empty, and that was fine with me. It almost felt as if I had the place to myself.
Unfortunately, but not unexpectedly, this summer’s iteration of Papermania was also fairly empty.
The Saturday morning crowd was thin,
That’s the legendary Carmen Valentino in the beach chair. He got in line early.
and the situation did not improve as the weekend wore on.
Sales at the Ten Pound booth totaled about $1400, but least I found some interesting things to buy.
Here’s an 1862 broadside advertising the auction of a captured Confederate blockade runner. (Show me another!) $1750
An interesting, early (1845) ship’s log. $750
A dramatic whaling print. $2750
And how about this wonderful whaling narrative?
Sampson, Alonzo. Three Times Around the World, or Life and Adventures of Alonzo D. Sampson. Buffalo, NY: 1867. 170 pp. A rare and unusually well-written whaling narrative. After a brief stint in the Mexican War and and an unsuccessful trip cod fishing out of Gloucester, Sampson signed aboard the whaling bark “Willis” of Mattapoisett. He then shipped aboard the New Bedford whaler “Junior” to the North Pacific, then the “Rebecca Sims” which also visited the North Pacific, Arctic, and Sea of Japan. Finally he signed aboard the “Junior” again. It was on this fourth voyage that a mutiny took place near Van Diemen’s Land, led by Cyrus B. Plummer, during which the captain and most of the officers were killed. Aside from this bloody mutiny and some unusual adventures (including the capture of a sea serpent which yielded ten barrels of oil) Sampson treats us to some of the finest writing in the literature of whaling. This work is not listed in Jenkins, Sabin, Howes, Streeter or Cowan. Forster 85. Title page is foxed, otherwise in very good condition. Bound in original decorated cloth with minor chipping along backstrip. $3500
The guy who sold it to me told me that the last copy to appear in the trade had sold at the Barbara Johnson sale in 1996. When I looked the book up in my database I discovered I was the one who’d bought it at the Barbara Johnson sale. I love this business!
However, something occurred this weekend that I did not love.
When we showed up for work Sunday morning we discovered that booth 81, the stand of White Fox Rare Books, was empty. It seems that Peter Blackman, proprietor of White Fox, had shopped the show on Friday, hung around to see if he could sell anything Saturday, then packed up and departed Saturday night. This happens occasionally in the trade, and it’s never a good look. To customers that empty booth is like a missing tooth in a pretty smile; to other dealers it proclaims, “I’m special. I get to leave first!”
Promoter Gary Gipstein was circumspect when I asked him about Blackman’s departure. “We’ll see what happens,” he told me. In truth, Blackman had put Gipstein in a bind. The promoter should have banned White Fox from exhibiting at Papermania in the future, but with dealer numbers dwindling, he could ill afford the loss of another exhibitor.
Gipstein made some vague allusion to “a family event,” and to an earlier conversation about this untoward departure, but it all sounded lame to me. If Mr. Blackman had a family event this weekend, he should not have taken a booth at Papermania.
I called him at his Vermont number and he answered promptly. I asked him for a statement regarding his departure, and he said he’d prefer that I didn’t write about it. I told him I would indeed be writing about it and asked again if he had anything to say. He told me he’d left in order to attend a family reunion.
Let’s face it. We’d ALL like to shop the show and leave after the first day, but we stick it out through Sunday out of respect for the event, the promoter, and one another.
In my opinion Blackman’s abandonment demonstrates a disregard for the public and for his fellow dealers.
Having put the finishing touches on what I regarded as a worthy blog entry, I rode my moral high horse across the street to the bar for lunch. While I was enjoying my mid-day repast I got a call from Bill Hutchison. There was someone in my booth and he wanted to buy something!
“Tell him I’ll be back in half an hour,” I said, and returned to my spinach salad and IPA, to meditate on my self-righteous chastisement of Mr. Blackman – as viewed this time in the light of my own departure from the show.
The difference, I decided, was that, unlike Peter Blackman, I would return to my booth, and sit there and suffer through the long, empty afternoon in the basement of the XL Center with the rest of my colleagues.
But first I ordered another beer.