Forget the Kindle and its promise of a brave, new bookless world. At the Santa Fe Antiquarian Book Show, which opens Friday, Oct. 1, at El Museo Cultural de Santa Fe, book lovers can snatch up tomes nearly as old as Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of movable type in the 15th century. Bound in leather with artisan-marbled endpapers and spines gold-stamped by hand, many of these volumes come from a time when a book was a sacred object, the only way to transmit knowledge in an era without TV, the internet, or widespread access to newspapers.
“Imagine a farmers market, but instead of booths with produce, you have booth after booth of rare books. Many of the dealers are coming from different states,” said Shirley Jacobson, one of the festival’s four principal organizers. “That’s the beauty. You will see things you will never see in a bookstore.
At the fair, collectors will get to visit the booths of nearly 40 dealers, mostly from across the Mountain West, and indulge in the vice of judging a book by its cover. In the days before mass paperbacks and slick hardcover jackets, bookbinding was an art that gave the world volumes of literature and history that could last centuries. Poems, travel books, and even Bibles came decked out with rich illustrations. In the late-19th century, British publishers sold lush, illustrated editions of authors such as Milton, Cervantes, and Rabelais with engravings by French artist Gustave Doré. The artist combined finely detailed line work with a sense of epic adventure in illustrations that could be as moving as the words themselves.
These books remain sought-after items on the antiquarian market. Henry Lewis, who operates Gunstock Hill Books on North Guadalupe Street, said he will be selling a Doré illustrated copy of Samuel Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient
Mariner. Book dealer Nicholas Potter of Santa Fe showed off a copy of a Doré-illustrated book of biblical stories that will be at his booth.