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Rare Book Collecting with Eve and Edward Lemon of Fine Book Fairs

Rare Book Collecting with Eve and Edward Lemon of Fine Book Fairs
Photo Courtesy: Fine Book Fairs

By: Alex Logsdon

Fine Book Fairs was founded by Eve and Edward Lemon in 2022 to promote book and print fairs across the United States. Each of the fairs is a unique social event that combines rare books and prints, bespoke service to both exhibitors and attendees, live music, food and drink in a historic venue. Since its inception, Fine Book Fairs has hosted internationally attended book fairs in D.C., Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, and New York, helping to make collecting accessible to a new generation of fans. The couple sat down to discuss the state of rare book collecting and the future of the fairs ahead of their Capital Rare Book Fair in D.C. in May.

Can you tell us about the inspiration behind starting Fine Book Fairs? 

Eve and Edward Lemon: We are rare book collectors based in DC. In 2022, we wanted to raise money for a historic building in Georgetown dating back to 1796 called the City Tavern. The previous DC rare book fair had died with Covid and the promoter had no plans to revive it. So we thought: why not hold a book fair at the City Tavern and raise money to preserve the building? We set about calling dealers to convince them to join us. We had only been to one book fair in our lives so we had to learn everything from scratch. The event was a resounding success and we quickly made plans for further fairs, eventually holding them in Philadelphia, New York and Newport, RI. 

What sets Fine Book Fairs apart from other book fairs or events in the industry? 

Eve and Edward Lemon: We try to make our fairs a social experience. We open with a reception, featuring canapes, live music and wine. Our fairs feature guest speakers on topics ranging from book bans to The Beatles. We try to cultivate a welcoming atmosphere for everyone who steps in the door. You don’t have to be a seasoned collector to attend. Even if you don’t own a large number of books, we want you to come to our fairs to explore and learn. 

How do you select the vendors and exhibitors for your fairs?

Eve and Edward Lemon: Initially, we had to make a lot of phone calls to introduce ourselves to the exhibitors. Now we have organized seven fairs, we are more well known and have a pool of over 100 dealers with whom we have worked. We still attend events and try to connect with new and upcoming dealers.  

What are some key trends you’ve noticed in the rare and antiquarian book market recently? 

Eve and Edward Lemon: Rare books continue to grow in popularity. A couple of areas are growing quickly. People increasingly want material that is unique, personalized copies of books with notations from the owner and inscribed books. Counter-cultural material is popular, as is African-American literature. Early American printed material is scarce and as we approach the 250th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 2026. 

 How has the digital age impacted the world of rare and antiquarian books, and how does Fine Book Fairs adapt to these changes? 

Eve and Edward Lemon: In a digital age, print material is increasingly popular. People gravitate towards paper as a nostalgic alternative to screens. In bookshops and on the subway, it is increasingly younger people who can be seen reading, where the older generations have switched to e-readers. Paper has become cool!

Can you share any memorable or standout moments from past Fine Book Fairs

Eve and Edward Lemon: One particularly memorable moment was when we invited Ryan Miller from the rock band Guster to open our fair in New York with his band’s song Empire State (the fair was called the Empire State Rare Book and Print Fair). He was so lovely and spent a few hours looking at the books and meeting the dealers.

For those who are new to rare and antiquarian books, what advice would you give them for navigating the world of collecting?

Eve and Edward Lemon: First, we would say that you don’t have to have a great deal of money to collect. You can collect anything you like. You just need a love for books, interest in the subject and a determination to build something unique. Second, if you are looking at collecting books as an investment, check auction records and speak to dealers with in-depth knowledge of the market to identify the right books to buy. While some books are good investments, not all are. Third, buy some books  or read articles on book collecting to get acquainted with the ins and outs of condition, bindings, printings and so on. Lastly, come to one of our fairs and say hello or even shoot us an email. We are happy to connect with new collectors and encourage their collecting!

What are some common misconceptions people have about rare books, and how do you address them 

Eve and Edward Lemon: One of the most common misconceptions is that age equates with value. Not every household bible from the 19th century is valuable. At the same time, some modern books such as a first edition Harry Potter are worth six figures. A second misconception is that all books that are rare are valuable. Like everything else, the price of rare books is determined by both the rarity and the demand. The other myth that is perpetuated through the media is that you should wear gloves to handle books. Gloves decrease dexterity, increasing the likelihood you can tear the books; they also retain dirt.  

How do you see the future of rare and antiquarian book collecting evolving? 

Eve and Edward Lemon: We are seeing more and more young collectors and dealers coming through our fairs. We see a bright future for collecting.

Are there any upcoming projects or expansions for Fine Book Fairs that you’re excited about sharing?

Eve and Edward Lemon: We are hosting fairs in three new venues in 2024. The Georgetown Rare Book Fair will become the Capital Rare Book Fair with a move to the University Club in the heart of DC just steps from the White House. The fair will take place the first weekend in May. Our fair in New York, the Empire State Rare Book and Print Fair, will move to the beautiful Great Hall of City College of New York and expand to cover 60 dealers. The fair will take place from September 27th to 29th. We will round the year off in Philadelphia, where our fair will move to the Armory and feature over 100 dealers. These exciting new venues will allow us to present a broader range of material in great locations. 


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