Friday, January 23, 2015

Have you seen the latest news on papyrus?

Pompeii fresco of Greek lyric poet Sappho.
We've been reading with utter fascination the recent developments with ancient papyrus writings that have been in the news recently. A few days ago, there were reports from all over about the biblical scholars who may have found a fragment of the oldest known Gospel of Mark inside an Egyptian mummy mask. If it turns out to be authentic, that surely is an astounding find.

Now comes news from Smithsonian Magazine that new x-ray technology is allowing Italian scientists to study for the first time ancient scrolls from Pompeii blackened in the volcanic eruption in 79 AD and made so fragile that they could be destroyed just touching them.

With the new x-ray machine, scientists won't have to touch the scrolls to study them. They'll just scan them like CT scanner, only a little different. It's all quite technical but the gist is that ancient inks sit on top of the papyrus fibers just enough that they can be seen in the x-ray images.

Anybody who is attracted to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, of course, is going to sit up and take notice when developments like this pop up so we figure we're probably not alone in seeking all the details. From what we've seen, the technological breakthrough has just begun to yield something the scientists can work with so it may be some time before there are any great revelations. Apparently there are some 1,800 blackened scrolls that have been discovered.

As it happens, next year's theme for the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair is Written Relics: Papyrus to paperbacks. It's a great theme that gets to the heart of the many varied reasons collectors collect books. It'll be fun to explore in 2016. Maybe by then there will be some new developments on these two stories.

In the meantime, we're focused on this year's book fair. The theme this year is Modern Literature: the truth and beauty of fiction. We'll be talking about that in much greater detail in these days leading up to the book fair, so stay tuned and share with your friends.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

For book lovers, something a little different

Here's something a little different for book lovers. We came across a Washington Post article about this lady. Her name is Maria and she has gained something of a celebrity status for her practice of making videos in which she speaks very, very softly.

For some people, her whispers induce a pleasurable tingle all over their bodies. It's known as autonomous sensory meridian response (ASMR). It's like what might have happened as a kid and your friend whispered in your ear and you felt a shiver and pulled away giggling. In the Post article, Maria described it as a "shower of sparkles" and "like warm sand being poured all over you ..."

Hey, we like the beach so it was enough to send us poking around her YouTube channel, GentleWhispering, and wouldn't you know it, we discovered Maria's offering for book lovers that you see embedded above.

She had another interesting one set in a library in which she seemed to be portraying the world's quietest librarian. She typed information to issue us a library card but we left before it was ready. You'll have to find that one for yourself. This ASMR effect may not be for everyone but some will enjoy it.

We'd rather sit in our own library and listen to the sound of pages turning in a book we bought at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Past is prologue: a little history of the book fair

This is the 34th year for the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. Sometimes fair goers wonder about the history of the book fair. How did it start? Was it always at The Coliseum? Is anybody still around who remembers the old days? We're always happy when we get questions like that because we've got answers.

Yes, there are people still around after all these years who were involved with the first Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. No, it wasn't always at The Coliseum, though few would dispute the suggestion that this is probably the perfect venue for this book fair. The story of how the book fair started and some of its history over the years is told in the FABA Museum, an online space on our website devoted to our history. We encourage you to click the link and go visit the museum. It's free.

One of the videos that you'll find in the FABA Museum is displayed at the top of this post. In it, book fair chairman Michael Slicker talks about the earliest days of the book fair and where the idea for it came from in the first place. We hope you'll enjoy the video and that you'll take the time to visit the FABA Museum and learn a little about the background of this amazing event.

As always, we'd love to hear from you -- your thoughts, your ideas, your responses to what we've posted.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Downton Abbey, the Gutenberg Bible, and more

We read with fascination the post the other day on The New Antiquarian, the blog of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America. The subject was the books of Downton Abbey. You may remember we were musing on that very subject not long ago as we eagerly anticipated the new season of Downton Abbey. It has long been our theory that people who come to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair are natural fans of Downton Abbey, the PBS runaway hit now starting its fifth season.

Apparently what prompted the post on The New Antiquarian was discussion in a recent episode of a book Married Love or Love in Marriage (1918), a book on contraception and pregnancy by pioneer birth control advocate Marie Stopes. A controversial bestseller at the time, the book sold five printings in the first year and continued to be published decades later. It's not widely available today and is clearly among the ranks of antiquarian books. Among the oldest ones ABAA has listed are a 1918 American edition for $200 and a 1923 British edition for $495. Also, there is a related 1918 typewritten letter signed by Margaret Sanger, found of the American Birth Control League, offering the book for sale.

We love how meticulous series creator Julian Fellowes is about making literary references in the program. We had forgotten about the business with the Gutenberg Bible last season until it was mentioned in the ABAA blog. It's easy to miss since it's only a passing reference. Seems the Downton Abbey estate has one of the rarest books in the world but nobody knows exactly where it is in the vast libraries of the castle. And, clearly, nobody is too concerned about it. Heck, it never even occurred to anyone that they could auction it off and realize enough profit to stabilize the family's finances.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

For your convenience, book fair tickets online

We've mentioned this before but it certainly bears repeating. Through the miracle of the Internet, you can now buy your tickets to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair online.

For the practical minded among us, this is quite a convenience. It means, in real terms, that you don't have to stand in line at the box office to buy your tickets. One less obstacle to getting to what you're really coming for -- the books.

The folks at Eventbrite make it really quite easy to buy your tickets. Their website is easy to navigate and everything is quite clear. What's more, they have it set up so that you get immediate notification via email, and you get your tickets. You can print them out and bring them with you or leave them on your phone and we'll scan it when you arrive. Ain't technology wonderful?

We started this a couple of years ago and it's really amazing how many more people are buying their tickets online than did that first year. Eventbrite is probably a huge company by now. They're based in San Francisco, where all great technology-based ideas come from (are you an Uber Taxi fan?).

Back when we were setting all this up we had an occasion to call out there for some advice. The company seemed pretty tiny then. You had the impression of a few tech-savvy folks getting together to and creating this great idea for helping small venues deal with ticket sales. Don't think they even had a receptionist or a phone operator. The woman who answered the phone had all the answers as if she had been working on the software herself. (She might have been.) Think she might have said that she was the only one in the office. Everyone else had gone to lunch.

Anyway, we've been pleased that so many of you have decided that buying tickets online is the way to go. You may know that we've set up a discount code "saveabuck" so that if you enter it you'll save most of the service fee, plus you get the tickets immediately. Don't use the quotation marks. Just enter the code as one word. There's a link in the column on the right on this blog. Click where it says BUY TICKETS NOW. You'll be taken to our page on Eventbrite.

If it works for you, we hope you'll go online and get your tickets. If not, we're happy to accommodate you at the box office. We hope you won't have to wait in line too long. We'll get you in the door as soon as we can.

It's getting closer. We'll see you at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair.

Friday, January 9, 2015

We're counting the days, hours, minutes, seconds ...

In just a few weeks, we'll be gathering at The Coliseum in downtown St. Petersburg for the 34th annual Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. Antiquarian booksellers from all over the country will be here for the oldest and largest book fair in the southeastern United States.

Every year we're thrilled when time for the book fair rolls around. We're looking forward to seeing old friends. Many of the booksellers have been showing at this book fair for decades. It's just what they do. They, in turn, have made many friends in Florida who come to see them every year. Meanwhile, there are always new book dealers who are exhibiting at the book fair for the first time. We look forward to seeing them as well.

Our dealers are knowledgeable about the books, maps, prints, ephemera, and related items they bring to the book fair. So if these things interest you, you're going to find kindred spirits at the book fair. A few years ago, someone described the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair as a little book village that springs up Brigadoon-like every year. We think its a special place to be and we hope you do, too.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

More fuel in the e-book vs. real book battle

Article on the NPR website about the Harvard Medical School study.
We read with great interest (and glee, if truth be told) the recent reports of a study at Brigham & Women's Hospital in Boston that concluded that reading an iPad just before you go to bed most likely would be detrimental to your health. Seems all that flickering blueish light emitted by the e-readers wreaks havoc on your melatonin levels, and that, in turn messes up your sleep patterns.

Well, we didn't need a scientific study to tell us that. We were already pretty sure that flickering blue light can't be good for anybody. Look at TV, for instance (or don't). That's flickering blue light, isn't it? And everybody knows TV (most of it anyway) rots your brain. Still, we're glad Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, associate neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School, and her team undertook the study. Confirms what we've suspected all along.

Admittedly, we're somewhat biased when it comes to the question of good old-fashioned books vs. e-readers. Oh, sure. We've used iPads and Kindles before. We even own an iPad. But our anecdotal evidence shows that it clearly is an inferior experience reading a book on a screen. Maybe it's a cliche argument but it's also true that the visceral pleasure one gets from holding, smelling, and feeling a real book is unmatched by an electronic device. We won't even mention that there's no need to plug in a book to recharge it because it has no batteries.

Dr. Anne-Marie Chang
In our modest fantasy, Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, associate neuroscientist, who studies people's sleep patterns for a living, owns a vast library of classical literature and each evening curls up with a great leather-bound tome filled with deathless prose. This fantasy is based on absolutely nothing. We don't know Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, though she looks like a nice person, and we certainly don't know anything about her reading habits. Still, in our fantasy, we're pretty sure she undertook this study to show people that reading books on an e-reader is bad and reading real books is good. Perhaps our fantasy is fueled by our own bias. We can live with that.

If we let our fantasies run to their wildest extreme, Dr. Anne-Marie Chang, associate neuroscientist, and her entire team would take a break from studying the sleeping habits of hapless e-reading people and come to the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair in March. If they did, we would thank them profusely (and probably even buy them a beer) for undertaking such a wonderful study. But that's our fantasy and it has nothing to do with reality.

We doubt that this blog post or the report on the results of the Dr. Chang's study will do much to convince our readers of the value of real books. Indeed, we're well aware that we're the railing minister in the pulpit and our readers are the steadfast choir. You're here. You're reading this. Heck, maybe you're even reading this on your iPad. (Wouldn't that be ironic?) We'd suggest that you turn off your e-reader, and pick up a good real book to read for a little while before you go to sleep. Sweet dreams. We'll see you at the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair. Well rested, we hope.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Just a reminder: We have a new email address.

You know that three-toned signal you get when you dial a number that is not in service? Maybe we need one of those. Well, maybe not. Our phone is fine. It's our old email address that needs one of those tones because some people keep sending mail there and get a notice that it doesn't work. Guess that's the email version of that three-toned signal.

Anyway, we're not going to put the old email address here. We'd rather avoid the confusion. Instead, as you can see, we've displayed very prominently our new email address for anybody who hasn't seen it yet. We've had it for awhile but some folks still have the old email address in their files.

If you have ANY questions about the Florida Antiquarian Book Fair, that is the email address to use. Any questions. Any at all. Sarah Smith, the book fair manager, is on the other end of that email. She'd love to hear from you.