Home book seller The Antiquarian Book Fair returns to downtown Seattle this weekend

The Antiquarian Book Fair returns to downtown Seattle this weekend


The 2022 edition of a popular local event is back this weekend after a two-year pandemic hiatus.

The Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair returns to the Seattle Center, which means it’s time to get a sneak peek at the sights — and the smells — of one of the nation’s best-known book sales.

A tradition since 1978

The first edition of this event took place one weekend in May 1978 in the former Georgian Room of the current Fairmont Olympic Hotel. Its original title was the Northwest Antiquarian Book Fair.

In 1980, the fair started a new chapter by moving to a venue with more storage space – the Seattle Center. That’s where it’s been since. It is considered one of the best antiquarian book events in the United States, featuring big names in the book industry in New York and California.

Local bookseller Bill Wolfe is the producer of the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair. He owns Collins Booksthat he succeeded fire Louis Collins — a beloved figure in the Seattle book retail scene who passed away in 2018.

Collins had produced the book fair for a long time, but the event turned a corner after his passing, and Wolfe is now the author of the annual gathering. Like so many in-person events, organizers have suspended the book fair in 2020 and 2021 due to COVID.

Seattle Center: October 8 and 9

So the late fair returns this Saturday and Sunday, October 8 and 9, to Exhibition Hall along Mercer Street at the Seattle Center. Wolfe estimates that 40,000 books will be offered for sale by nearly 100 exhibitors from the United States, England and Canada.

Wolfe says there will be expensive collectibles available, but the wide variety of printed materials from multiple genres and eras – ranging from the 14e century to the present day – means something to everyone.

“I’ve personally been involved in selling six-figure items to people wearing UW apparel,” Wolfe told KIRO Newsradio. “So if anything, the word ‘antique’, I think, can be a bit tricky. I don’t want that to scare anyone off [or] scare anyone [into not coming]. There is something for all tastes, all budgets. And it’s not a fancy party. There are fancy items, that’s for sure. But we see walkers down the aisle every year, and a lot of young, kind of “new collector” energy that’s there.

At this point, you might be looking up from your eReader and wondering why somebody buy real books in 2022. It’s been a debate that’s been raging for years: do we still need physically printed books?

Nothing like a real book

Wolfe says nothing replaces the tactile experience of holding and feeling the weight of an actual book. There is also the investment appeal of first editions, or books once owned by a well-known figure, or the aesthetics and craftsmanship of unique hand-illustrated manuscripts, or even mass-produced vintage volumes. with ornate bindings.

“All of that is lost when you look at a screen,” Wolfe said. “So I think that’s why everyone comes back. And the printed word [has] has existed for thousands of years; it’s not going anywhere. We see all kinds of threats all the time and we always come out of it better than before.

Ahh… that old book smell

Along with all the tactile, investment and visual cues, experts now say the smell of old books has proven to be scientifically appealing – something many people know just by visiting certain parts of their home and taking a puff.

It turns out that this pleasant smell, say the scientists of McGill university, is “due to organic materials in books (such as cellulose from wood pulp) reacting with light, heat and water, and over time releasing volatile organic compounds or VOCs”, including ” toluene or ethylbenzene, which smell good; benzaldehyde or furfural, which smell like almonds; or vanillin” which smells like vanilla.

And there is also a word for this phenomenon: “bibliosmy– pronounced “bib-lee-OZ-mee-uh” – meaning “the smell and aroma of a good book”.

Feel old books? What smell of old books?

“I think I’m so immersed in it in general, that I don’t notice it,” Wolfe said with a laugh. “I come home and they tell me, ‘what’s wrong with you do today?'”

Wolfe says that since vendors only set up a few days in advance, they won’t be there long enough to permanently alter the aroma inside the exhibit hall this weekend.

“Maybe we won’t infect it too hard and heavy, but it’ll be there for sure,” Wolfe said.

Admission to the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair is $10, payable at the door, cash only. Wolfe also says vendors have decided to require masks out of respect for COVID and their older vendors and customers – not to prevent people from participating in any bibliosmy.

You can hear Feliks every Wednesday and Friday morning on Seattle’s Morning News, learn more about himhereand subscribe to The Resident Historian podcast here. If you have a story idea or question about Northwest history, please email Felikshere.