COLLECTING
Thomaï Serdari on Fine Arts & Luxury
53rd New York Antiquarian Book Fair
Kaleidoscope. Designed by Sonia Delaunay, ca. 1923. Courtesy of Eberhard B. Talke Antiquariat.

Kaleidoscope. Designed by Sonia Delaunay, ca. 1923. Courtesy of Eberhard B. Talke Antiquariat.

The 53rd Annual New York Antiquarian Book Fair is an elaborate affair of over a hundred exhibitors crammed under the roof of the Park Avenue Armory. The fair that opened on Thursday is closing on Sunday April 14—there is still time to visit. And while everyone is lamenting the demise of print and book cultures, the Armory has been particularly crowded during the last three days.

One can sense the high levels of energy of all those peripatetic thinkers who happen to also be consummate book collectors of the most passionate kind. Temptation hovers everywhere. Each booth, nicely transplanted on Park Avenue either from Europe or the US, showcases one-of-a-kind treasures: a manuscript from ca. 1240 Liège, a hybrid of the Gothic and Archaic traditions and perhaps the most beautiful work exhibited at the Armory right now; 38 engraved plates published and signed by architect Leo von Klenze (1822, Munich); 18 hand-colored plates of Jean Dunant’s interior design projects (ca. 1913); woodcuts by Antonio Frasconi; and a 1923 volume with 20 hand-colored pochoirs by Sonia Delaunay, to name a few personal favorites.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the art of the book seems to have been very appealing to artists even if they were mainly focused on other aspects of the visual arts. A hundred years later, visual artists who are concerned with the art of the book are the exception rather than the norm. In that sense, the fair is a great educational experience even if book collecting is not an aspiration. It informs the viewer of contemporary artistic practices of enduring quality.

© Thomaï Serdari