By Greg Gibson
No trouble packing out of last week’s show in San Mateo, enjoying a quiet dinner, and heading down the coast next morning past Levi’s Stadium, already crowded with Superbowl tailgaters, to Santa Barbara to enjoy a rather strange Superbowl in our motel – sliding glass doors open to the harbor and gentle sunny breezes filtering through the curtains.
No trouble recreating with friends for the next few days in Pacific Palisades, hiking endless trails in Temescal Canyon, napping, eating, reading in the sun, napping, eating, reading…
No trouble walking into the splendid Pasadena Convention Center for the 49th California International Antiquarian Book Fair. No trouble – other than the usual “Too many goddam books! Will somebody please buy something fat?” quandary.
No trouble checking into our balcony room in the adjacent Sheraton Hotel, or stopping down by the bar and finding a dozen or more colleagues awaiting us, drinks all around… and around, and around. No trouble availing ourselves, sometime later and throughout the weekend, of Pasadena’s excellent selection of restaurants, bars, and breakfast joints.
And certainly no trouble getting ourselves out early Saturday morning – John Thomson, Nick Aretakis and the old Tenpounder – for the one event I’d been awaiting since we arrived in California – a hike into the foothills of the Angeles National Forest. Or maybe I should say “up” rather than “into,” because an hour’s walk put us high above the site of our worldly cares. Alas, alas, that great city Babylon, that mighty city!
There wasn’t much trouble with anything this trip. ABAA’s SoCal Bookfair Committee and White Rain Promotions orchestrated a nearly flawless event, right down to the spacious and well stocked dealer’s lounge, lunch during setup, and a catchy, slightly goofy “Alice in (book)Wonderland” theme, not to mention polite, efficient, and omnipresent security, wide aisles, and excellent lighting. And if crowds seemed a little thin and lackluster (they were) we could blame it on the extraordinarily warm and sunny weather. There can be no greater pleasure on this earth than walking to work hoping not to get too hot and receiving a phone call from your kids back in Massachusetts complaining of sub zero temperatures and snow shoveling tasks.
The whole thing was as smooth, calming, nutritious, and easy to consume as yogurt. To paraphrase The World’s Most Interesting Man, I’m not a huge consumer of yogurt, but when I have it, I enjoy it. And I really enjoyed this week. Thanks, California; thanks, ABAA; and thanks to all those lovely people who once were competitors, then became colleagues, and now are good friends.
Here are the numbers:
Total sales – $47.3 K
Purchases – $14.2K
Bookfair total – $61.5K
And here is my favorite purchase:
Manuscript. Journal of the Whale Ship “Arab” on a Whaling Voyage to the Pacific, Arctic Ocean, Japan Grounds, and Antarctic.
4to, unpaginated. About 200 pages of manuscript entries. Over 125 ink drawings, a fifty page book of accounts for the ship, and a full page of instructions for “Cutting Sperm Whales.”
This is an unusually literate, detailed, and complete journal of a whaling voyage, kept by first mate Benjamin Akin. The “Arab” departed Fairhaven, Mass. November 2, 1857. The Captain, Edwin Grinnell, died on April 1, 1861 and was replaced by William Washburn, who kept the log for a few months after taking over command, after which these duties went back to Akin. Washburn’s portion of the journal is out of sequence (at the front of the book) but there is no loss of continuity. Both writers give detailed – and legible – accounts of their activities in the Arctic, Antarctic, Japan Grounds, along The Line, and recruitment stops in Chile, Hawaii, and Japan. The ship’s accounts are equally detailed, tracking expenditures on provisions, tools, supplies, slops and payments to the crew. There are many excellent descriptions of all phases of whaling and sealing operations, fights and mishaps, desertions, gams, and ships sighted and spoken. But perhaps the most remarkable sequence begins March 29, 1861, as Akin notes the captain’s failing health and the anxiety suffered by the captain’s wife. On April 1 he writes, “Captain Grinnell died at 2 1/2 pm… Cooper having finished the cask brought the captain’s remains on deck called all hands aft to take a farewell look at him then put him in the cask and put canvas and oakum around him and put the head in the cask.” On April 2, “Broke out the rum and got out all the liquor in the ship and poured it into the pipe containing the Capt’s remains.” By April 19 at a port stop in Japan, “Got the rum onboard bought yesterday but had not enough to fill the cask.” Somehow they made do, and Grinnell’s body went back to Massachusetts with his grieving wife. Instructions for “Cutting Sperm Whale” fill an entire quarto sheet. Akin was a good draftsman, and his drawings of flukes, whales, walruses, and land masses which inhabit the margins of the journal, make the reading quite enjoyable. In excellent condition, bound in half calf over marbled boards. Account sheets are bound together but do not have covers. The lot, $10,000
Posted on Bookman’s Log, presented here by permission of the author. Pictures: Bookman’s Log.
Next international antiquarian book fairs under the auspices of ILAB:
4th Milan International Antiquarian Book Fair
11 – 13 March, 2016
Salone dei Tessuti, Milan (Italy)
New York Antiquarian Book Fair
7 – 10 April, 2016
The Park Avenue Armory, New York (United States)
Scandinavian Antiquarian Book Fair
16 – 17 April, 2016
Armémuseum, Stockholm (Sweden)