Antiquarian Book Fair: From Sylvia Plath’s Papers to Vintage Matchbooks

For those who love a chance to inspect stunning decorative bindings and rare volumes (or just ogle the people who can afford them), the annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair is an unmissable date on the spring calendar.

This year’s edition, through Sunday at the Park Avenue Armory in Manhattan, will bring nearly 200 dealers from 15 countries. And there will be no shortage of high-ticket treasures, like Sydney Parkinson’s richly illustrated “Account of a Voyage to the South Seas” from 1773 ($57,000) and the first complete, large-scale photographic atlas of the moon, published between 1896 and 1910 ($68,000).

The fair is also the place to get an up-close look at all manner of pulp novels, letters, posters, pamphlets, menus, fliers and other items (mostly) on paper, many of them affordable to browsers on a budget.

Here’s a sampling of some of the more intriguing items on offer, from 19th-century “poison books” to early-20th-century Chinese restaurant matchbooks to a choice relic of 1990s MTV.

One of several 19th-century “poison books” for sale at the fair, so named for the toxic arsenical green dye included in their bindings.Credit…Honey & Wax

Handle With Care

Ready for some bibliotoxicology? Honey & Wax Booksellers, based in Brooklyn, is offering a collection of “poison books” — volumes bound in cloth and paper containing arsenic, which was widely used in the mid-19th-centuryas a decorative bright-green tint. To date, the Poison Books Project has identified nearly 300 surviving examples. The volumes at the fair, priced between $150 and $450, include titles ranging from the innocuous (“Emily and Clara’s Trip to Niagara Falls,” circa 1861) to the vaguely sinister (“The Amulet,” circa 1854). Each comes with nitrile gloves and polyethylene bags, the listing says, “for safe handling of these beautiful but dangerous books.”

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