What is better than receiving a new book for Christmas? Getting an old book!
The third annual Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair is coming to the Old Stone House in Park Slope on Dec. 6, giving gift-shoppers a chance to check out rare, vintage, and used books from 11 different Brooklyn dealers under one roof. The fair’s founder said the book culture here in Kings County is vibrant, but she wants to see more attention paid to publications from the past.
“In Brooklyn it feels like there’s so much momentum behind literary culture,” said Heather O’Donnell. “But there was no tradition of this kind of rare book fair here.”
O’Donnell started her book-selling business, Honey and Wax Booksellers, in 2011. She keeps a book room in Gowanus, but without a storefront, O’Donnell said she wanted to find a way to show people what she has to offer. So she started the fair in 2012.
“I thought it would be good to get my books out in front of people,” she said.
The draw for rare books lies in the story behind them as much as the stories they contain, said Stephanie Valdez, who owns Terrace Books, which will be selling at the fair.
“They’re not only chosen for their content, but for the specialness of the edition,” she said. “And they usually have a story.”
One of the books Valdez has up for sale is a first edition of “Stoner,” a 1965 novel by John Williams. After the book’s original publication, it nearly disappeared completely and was not printed again until the early 2000s. Since then, it has become a commercial success and garnered high praise from the big-name authors and literary critics.
O’Donnell will be hawking an original edition of Virginia Wolfe’s writing diary, which was owned by Wolfe’s sister Vanessa Bell. It takes on another layer of importance because Bell designed the book’s original dust jacket, O’Donnell explained.
“It’s like walking into a Victorian book shop and picking up a copy of ‘On the Origin of Species’ and seeing it how people saw it back then,” she said.
This year’s fair will also include a book signing with Maira Kalman, the author and illustrator of “My Favorite Things.” Fittingly, her book explores the significance of objects in people’s lives. There will also be a book-binding demonstration run by Faenwyl Bindery.
It might take some digging to find what you are looking for, Valdez said, but the reward for your efforts can be priceless.
“Having a beautiful edition of your favorite book is a special experience,” she said.
Brooklyn Holiday Book Fair at the Old Stone House [336 Third St. between Fourth and Fifth avenues in Park Slope, (917) 974–2420, www.theoldstonehouse.org]. Dec. 6 from 11 am–5 pm. Free.