The California International Antiquarian Book Fair: For those who still like the feel of a page 

Book lovers from all over the world are gathering in San Francisco this weekend for the largest rare book fair in the world.

The California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which starts Friday, is expected to draw thousands of book buyers and dealers from all over the world. More than 200 booksellers will be on hand, offering everything from 11th-century illuminated manuscripts to rare children’s books.

For people who live in a Kindle world but prefer the feel of fine paper, there’s plenty to choose from. A 1930s signed copy of Ansel Adams’ first book of actual photographs is selling for $40,000.

Another find is the notorious “Wicked Bible” — so named because of a printing error in 1631 that resulted in the advice “thou shall commit adultery.” It can be yours for $39,500.



John Windle, who owns an antiquarian bookshop on Geary Street, says the fair typically draws all kinds of customers, from young couples collecting noir fiction to wealthy retirees adding to their library. Even a few celebrities sometimes turn up.

Not everything for sale is even readable. Windle will be bringing a collection of fake books — boxes that look like books but open to reveal a radio, a cigarette lighter and other surprises. While the cigarette lighter-as-book is going for $200, Windle says, many items at the fair will sell for as little as $20 or $30.

Windle acknowledges that not all collectors actually read their prized books. Many bibliophiles are content to merely see their treasures on the shelf and enjoy “being among friends.” If they want to read, they rely on their stash of paperbacks.

“The honest truth is that owning rare books is like belonging to a religion,” he says. “It gives you a wonderful, safe feeling.”

Not all of the books are old. Beatles fans take note: Robert Haines Jr., owner of the Argonaut Book Shop, will be selling “Fifty Years Adrift,” a book that traces the history of the Beatles. It was published in 1984 and is signed by George Harrison.

Saturday’s events include a reception to benefit the San Francisco Early Music Society and the 2012 Berkeley Music Festival. The reception will include a private viewing of musical books and manuscripts dating back to the 1300s from the Jean Gray Hargrove Music Library at UC Berkeley.

On Sunday, visitors can attend seminars that range from “What is This Book Worth?” to “Discovery Day,” where exhibitors will offer fairgoers a chance to receive free verbal appraisals on up to three books.

IF YOU GO

California International Antiquarian Book Fair


Where:
Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., San Francisco

When: 3 to 8 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.  Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday

Tickets: $10 to $15 admission; $50 for SFEMS benefit

Contact: (415) 962-2500; www.sfbookfair.com

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Cathy Bowman

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