South San Francisco is a weird place. Biotech, big pharma, “life sciences,” and A-I have dumped countless millions of dollars into the area, like sewage overflowing,
pushing out virtually every sign of what I would regard as normal life.
Here, instead of phragmites or algae covering the hills, we get acres of eruptions of mirror glass and shiny steel boxes that look like those conceptual drawings you see in zoning board presentations,
with stick-figure humans on too perfect sidewalks. In this real-life version,
however, there are no humans. Just corporate fantasies and chain hotels, each with its own on-site eatery for the salespeople who cater to the towers, seeking trickledown millions.
Aphids and ants.
All that aside, promoter Nancy Johnson came pretty close to getting things 100% right in this this iteration of the San Francisco Antiquarian Book and Paper Fair.
Roomy venue, lovely weather, eager crowds.
Setup was a breeze and staff were helpful and plentiful.
Nancy’s only miscalculation, in my humble opinion, was imagining that people would leave work Friday evening and drive through San Francisco rush hour to attend this event. Friday afternoon was busy. We then spent the hours and minutes and seconds between 6 and 8 pm Friday, well, perhaps J. Alfred Prufrock put it best when he lamented about “the evenings, mornings, afternoons, I have measured out my life with coffee spoons” talking to one another, or talking to ourselves, because there were no customers to talk to. On the other hand, we didn’t have to worry about a dead Sunday, because this show closed on Saturday at 5 pm. Way to go, Nancy! (Minor disclaimer here – and no reflection on Nancy Johnson. Exhibitor demand was such that the show spilled into adjacent hallways and smaller rooms. I’m not sure results in those spaces were as rosy as in the main room.)
And how rosy were things in the main room? Plenty rosy. Rose Bowl rosy. At least for Ten Pound Island Book Co. And who’s this about, anyway? Somehow, mostly accidentally, TPI sold about $9000. An incredible tally!
But it was the buying that, Lord be praised, made this fair for me. (Have I ever told you how much I love this business?) Here are a couple of representative marvels, which no doubt will be basking in their own glory in my showcase next week in Pasadena.
This is a late Edo period (mid-19th century) copy of Hata Awagimaru’s Ezo-to-Kikan – “Strange Sights on the Island of Ezo.”
It features thirty-seven ink and watercolor manuscript illustrations of Ainu life and culture.
The Ainu were a legendarily hairy, and very real, people occupying northern Japanese and Russian islands. The illustrations feature native islanders, costumes, customs, and occupations, including sealing and whaling. The person who owned this remarkable manuscript says that the text describes such things as the Ainu lomate ceremony with detailed descriptions of how a brown bear is ritually killed and sent off the the world of the gods.
And how about this beauty?
It is a Mexican supply officer’s book, captured during the Mexican War by an American soldier named David W. Haines, and re-purposed into a visual record of the conflict, illustrated with eight watercolors of war scenes,
and Haines’s first-hand narrative description of the battle of Huamantla and death of the famed Texas Ranger and war hero Samuel Hamilton Walker.
Fortunately for us, Haines happened to be a talented artist as well as an excellent reporter. Each of the vivid watercolors is signed by him.
Bookfair buying, at least a my end of the cove, doesn’t get any better than that.
Next week – On to the 2018 Pasadena International Antiquarian Book Fair!