The Pacific Northwest will become the focus of the rare book world this month when 59 AbeBooks booksellers come to Seattle for the annual Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair & Book Arts Show on October 14 and 15.

Over 80 rare and antiquarian booksellers will gather in the Seattle Center Pavilion in the shadow of the Space Needle – many of them from Washington, Oregon, California and western Canada, but also from as far away as New York, Massachusetts and Germany.

The array of literary gems on offer range across many specialist genres, including nautical books, military history, western Americana and history, science fiction and horror, sports, cookery, arts, modern firsts and many other subjects.

Although the event started in 1977 as a biannual fair, David Gregor of Gregor Rare Books, ABAA, and his partner Louis Collins of Louis Collins Books ABAA, took over producing the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair & Arts Show in 1997.  “Before we took on the project it was held every two years and each fair would be presented by a different local seller around the Seattle area,” Gregor explains from his shop in Langley, Washington. “We decided to take on the project full-time and make it annual because we wanted to try and make the festival a little more consistent. We felt there was interest in the community to support it.” 

With each of the 80+ book sellers bringing an average of 300-400 books, there is bound to be something to interest everyone.  But don’t assume that there are only books for high rolling collectors though; with books in all price ranges, organizers like to describe the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair as the best place to find used books on this side of the Mississippi.

A couple of the rare gems up for grabs at this year‘s fair include a copy of Travels to the source of the Missouri River and across the American Continent to the Pacific Ocean - the Lewis and Clarke expeditions ($39,500) available though AbeBooks seller Donald A. Heald Rare Books, Prints, and Maps ABAA, and a 16- page first draft of the Star Trek story ($1750) available though AbeBooks seller Wrigley-Cross Books. A large number of first editions, signed copies, and other specialty items will also be available.

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An example of the type of specialist that can be found at the event is SeaOcean Books from Seattle, which offers marine, naval, maritime and nautical books.

“We’ll be taking along plenty of books about naval recognition,” said Captain Christopher Flavell, a former master mariner in the British merchant navy. “Recognition books usually list and categorize ships so they’ll cover battleships, cruisers and aircraft carriers. There will also be several sets of fiction as well as polar books and voyages of discovery. Everything has a watery theme.”

Added Christopher: “I’m the only man on the west coast with an open bookstore who carries these kinds of books. I call it a ‘wood and glass’ store rather than bricks and mortar.”

Another seller to look out for is Larry Ewing, who runs Barbarossa Books on Bainbridge Island – a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle.

“I specialize in military history and western Americana,” said Larry. “I’ll be taking mostly military books to this book fair. I’ll carry books on pretty much any war but World War II is the big seller. I tend to have lots of personal memoirs and unit histories, and around 10 to 12 per cent of my books go overseas. I’ve been an online bookseller for seven years but spent 15 years before that as a book scout.”

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See more book fairs taking place this year