Friday, February 13 dawned cold, grey, and rainy. The choppy water of the San Francisco Bay reflected the heavy rain clouds above and an incoming storm roiled the water. The winter weather outside made the inside of San Francisco’s Concourse Exhibition Center all the more warm and inviting. It was opening night of the 42nd Annual California International Antiquarian Book Fair.
The seemingly “unlucky” opening date of Friday the 13th had more than a few booksellers a bit nervous. From cases of books that almost didn’t arrive in time for the fair’s opening to a leaky roof in the event center to transportation woes for some booksellers arriving from distant places, there were a few things that seemed,well, not quite right.
Among the thousands of treasures brought to the fair by 225 booksellers were treasures such as a Shakespeare Second Folio and unusually macabre finds, such as Jeffrey Dahmer’s cookbook. The doors opened at 4:00 p.m. to a crowd of browsers and buyers, talkers and tire-kickers, note-takers and checklist makers. Noise and bodies filled the long room and books slowly began to make their way from one side of the counter cases to the other, purchased.
Toward the end of the evening, the question no one ever wants to answer but is on everyone’s mind — “How’s your fair?” — was asked casually from one booth to the next, masking the intense, somewhat competitive, and definitely comparative nature of most booksellers.
Realizing that book fairs are about more than just sales, this bookseller realized that, despite its unlucky date, the booksellers at this fair were lucky indeed. They were surrounded by the best of the best in books, other booksellers, and customers. From that moment on, I decided to think of the date as Lucky 13.
Tomorrow: Day Two at the Book Fair