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Fair Play: The Bancroft Library and the California Antiquarian Book Fair
The Thirty-sixth Annual California Antiquarian Book Fair was held from February 7-9 at the Exhibition Concourse in downtown San Francisco. During the Book Fair, The Bancroft Library acquired a fascinating array of rare books, photographs, and unique materials, as staff renewed relationships with book and manuscript dealers from across the nation and around the globe. In addition, Bancroft staff and the Friends of The Bancroft Library welcomed a large community of book and manuscript enthusiasts to the Bay Area including a great many colleagues from special collections libraries in California and around the country.
Preparations for the Book Fair began far in advance of the Friday afternoon opening. In the days and weeks preceding the Book Fair, Bancroft curators and staff balanced an ever increasing number of telephone calls, emails, and personal visits from dealers who brought many rare and special items for consideration. Work schedules were adjusted so that staff had as much time as possible to visit many of the more than 250 antiquarian dealers and exhibits in an intensive search for unique research materials to add to Bancroft collections. The advent of cell phones and wireless personal computers lent a modern touch to this decades-old tradition, as staff proceeded methodically from one dealer's booth to another, traversing the seeming endless aisles of bookcases and glass cabinets. Bancroft staff politely but firmly negotiated acceptable prices and payment schedules, and slowly began the accumulation of a new reservoir of letters, diaries, photographs, books, pamphlets, architectural plans, and other materials.
The Bancroft Library also staffed an information booth at the Book Fair, alongside tables representing a wide range of academic libraries and book collecting organizations from California and beyond. Bancroft staff and members of the Friends distributed brochures and flyers, answered questions about collections and the use of Bancroft materials, and promoted the latest publications, programs, and services. Hundreds of people stopped by the booth, including many Cal alumni, attracted by the large banner that boldly announced Bancroft's presence.
With thousands of book lovers attending the fair, there was always the opportunity to encounter old friends of the Bancroft.
Bill Brown, Associate Director of Public Services, greeted members of the Espero Family, including a woman with her adult granddaughter. The elderly woman had donated a small but important collection of Espero family papers some forty years ago. Following a quick review by staff of online records for these papers, the descendants happily planned a visit to Bancroft (after promising to check their closets for more papers). Steven Black of Bancroft's Acquisitions Unit and James Eason of the Pictorial Unit met a San Francisco photographer who was very interested to know that Bancroft collects contemporary San Francisco images, and that we maintain a "Sexual Orientation and Social Conflict Collection." This freelance photographer is often published in the Bay Area Reporter, a weekly gay newspaper and is now discussing placing his work in Bancroft. Bill Brown also connected with a private collector of books who was interested in exploring an estate planning program that will benefit both Bancroft and his family.
From Friday afternoon to Sunday evening, curators carefully checked packages of books and materials through Bancroft's remote online catalog to determine what could benefit the collections. This same computer also allowed staff to answer research questions from visitors and showcase the digital resources now available through Bancroft's web site (bancroft.berkeley.edu). At the end of the day new acquisitions were whisked across the Bay to their new home in Bancroft.
By the close of business on Sunday evening, the exhibit hall contained a weary yet excited group of book sellers, and many collectors, proudly clutching their latest acquisitions or sadly bemoaning the steep price that placed an item outside of their grasp. Unsold items were careful re-packed for transport to the next book fair or for return to the dealers' stores. Tables were folded up, banners rolled up, and Bancroft staff began thinking about next year's fair.
Some selected treasures acquired from the 2003 Book Fair:
Mexico. Sketchbook Of Scenes In Mexico, ca. 1827, with 42 pencil and pen and ink drawings (some with color wash).
Daniel Leach. Manuscript Diary Of Three Train Trips To California (including Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Yosemite), 1884-90.
A.L. Baker. Manuscript Diary Kept By Forty-Niner A.L. Baker Of His Experiences During The California Gold Rush From September 16, 1849-June, 1850.
John Michell. Conjectures Concerning the Cause, and Observations Upon the Phenomena of Earthquakes: Particularly of That Great Earthquake of the First of November 1755, Which Proved So Fatal to the City of Lisbon and Whose Effects Were Felt as Far as Africa, and More or Less Throughout Almost All Europe. London: 1760. 71pp.
Carleton Watkins. Group Of 8 Stereoviews, A Panorama Of San Francisco Taken From The Grounds Of Leland Stanford's Home, Including A View Of The Stanford Home. San Francisco, ca.1875.
Group Of 4 Stereoviews, A Panorama Of San Francisco Taken From The Orphan Asylum. San Francisco, ca. 1875.