Traditionally, when I’m exhibiting at a “live” ephemera show, or even one of the provincial book fairs, I bring a lot of inexpensive odds and ends along with a few rare items. People like to poke through stuff and, by mid-afternoon, as I struggle to stay awake, the occasional inquiry or snatch of conversation provides welcome relief. Anyway, I’m mostly just there to buy stuff. If I happen to sell a few hundred dollars worth of small-change material, so much the better!
But “packing” for this year’s virtual Ephemera Society Show has me stumped.
The maximum number of items we are allowed to upload to this event is 48, which is a pretty big number in comparison to most other VBFs. However, it’s less than 10% of the amount of material that would fill all the boxes, shelves, folders, and print racks in my half booth at a live show.
What to “bring?”
If I had 48 fresh-to-the market, high-ticket items, that’s what I’d be displaying. But between my catalogs and this ceaseless round of BIGGEST EVER, TRANS-ATLANTIC, 150 EXHIBITOR virtual book fairs, I just can’t purchase enough quality material to have fresh stock for every show. If I only exhibit high-ticket items from stock, I probably won’t sell a thing, since most of this material would already have been exposed to likely customers. On the other hand, 48 items priced at under $100 wouldn’t make for much of a show, even if I sold my entire “booth.” So, I suppose I’ll include a few new items, a few high end, and a few odds & ends, just to try to keep everyone happy.
And maybe the only person who won’t be happy is me.
As usual, I’ll be sitting in my virtual “booth” grousing about the fact that this virtual event, which is really no more than a collection of static ABE or Biblio pages, should still be conflated in many people’s imaginations, with the original live and in-person Ephemera Society show.
Although the sponsors and promoters may be the same, there is no connection, in terms of the buying/selling experience, between this virtual event and the former live events. All this flashing about of names of sponsoring bibliophilic organizations, with buzzwords such as “Transatlantic” is nothing but marketing.
Sure, these virtual fairs work, in their own way. They’re almost certainly more efficient, in terms of sales vs. expenses, than live events. But the tactile experience of live book fairs is entirely absent.
Books are also objects, folks. They have their own look, feel, and yes, odor. Book hunting is hunting. It should involve tired feet as well as eye strain. Live shows are political events, learning opportunities, social engagements. Virtual book fairs are me and a screen. Socially isolating, with information limited by bandwidth. I’m quite disappointed in the book fair promoters I’ve been encouraging and publicizing over the years, who seem reluctant to take any risks in this era of Delta uncertainty. Understandable, perhaps. Unfortunately, their lack of initiative may signal an epochal change in the way we go about our business in our trade.
Yeah, I’ll adapt. I’m a survivor. But that doesn’t mean I have to appreciate or applaud the flattening out and dumbing down of what was once an in-person, adventurous, risky, and vastly rewarding occupation.
Having said all that, here’s one of the fresh things I’ll be “bringing” to the “Ephemera Show.”
(Davies, John). E Himene, oia Te parau Haamaitai, E Te Arue I Te atua. Tahiti: Windward Missionary Press, 1822. 13.5 cm. (3)-96 pp.
The History of the Tahitian Mission, 1799-1830, edited by C.W. Newbury, credits Welsh missionary John Davies with the composition of the hymns in E Himene. Years earlier, Davies wrote a Tahitian spelling book which was published in 1810 in London. This opened the door for more works in the Tahitian language, almost exclusively civic or religious in content, printed in London and Australia. In 1817, a printing press and paper arrived at Moorea from England, along with William Ellis, a knowledgeable printer. The following year a printing press was also established on the windward side of Tahiti, at Burder’s Point. The first book printed there was a book of hymns published by the Windward Missionary Press in 1818. Over the next four years, another seven books of laws, reports from missionary stations, religious works in translation, and an arithmetic textbook were issued by the press. Then, in 1822, the Windward Mission Press published the present work, E / Himene, / oia Te / parau Haamaitai, / E Te Arue I Te atua. This was a Tahitian hymnal, and only the second hymnal to have been printed in Tahiti. Harding and Kroepelien, in their bibliography of Tahitian printing, add the interesting note that the first signature of this book was printed in Hauhine in 1820, presumably by Ellis’s Leeward Mission Press, but that it is “always found bound with the seven signatures [of this book] printed in Tahiti.” See Harding and Kroepelien, Tahitian Imprints of the London Missionary Society, 1810 – 1834, #25. This is a rare book. Worldcat shows only four institutions holding copies. The book is in brilliant condition, stab sewn, in original marbled wrappers. There is one spot, an old signature, and light foxing on the title page. The rest of the book is clean. $3500