Antiquarian book fair looks to boost attendance with move to AGO
At this year’s Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair, dozens of exhibitors will trot out their collections of rare and old books in a new venue: the Art Gallery of Ontario. Event organizers hope the change in location – the show was previously held at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre – will revive the fair’s waning attendance and attract new followers to the bibliophilic subculture.
Stephen Fowler, a director-at-large of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Canada, says attendance has declined over the past few years in part due to the “vibe” of the large conference centre. Two years ago the fair was located next door to a loud children’s dance competition, and Fowler notes that several international exhibitors didn’t come back the following year. Three dozen exhibitors have signed on to participate at this year’s fair.
When AGO director and CEO Matthew Teitelbaum (himself a bibliophile and customer of several of the fair’s exhibitors) suggested the annual event be held at the gallery, organizers jumped at the chance.
“Old books have a certain kind of atmosphere, and the Metro Convention Centre is more like an airport,” says Fowler. “Every antiquarian bookstore in its own right is a kind of small museum, and the book fair is like a three-day pop-up museum of old books. So the fact that we get to hold the thing on the third floor of a museum is so suitable.”
Despite the fair’s declining attendance, Fowler says he has noticed a “groundswell” of interest in antiquarian books. As the proprietor of the “old and unusual” bookshop Monkey’s Paw (located in Toronto’s hipster hub at Dundas and Ossington), Fowler says he has plenty of “younger customers and people who, 10 years ago, weren’t collectors [and now] all of a sudden are.”
This year’s fair also boasts its first-ever patron of honour: Canadian filmmaker David Cronenberg. The director will be presented with the honour at the opening ceremony on Nov. 8 at 4:45 p.m.
Like Teitelbaum, Cronenberg has been a longtime collector and repeat customer of several of the fair’s antiquarian exhibitors. Fowler says the director of the 1991 film adaptation of Naked Lunch has amassed a sizable collection of William S. Burroughs’ works.
The Toronto International Antiquarian Book Fair runs from Nov. 8 to 10 in the AGO’s Baillie Court.