See Highlights From the 2023 Antiquarian Book Fair, From a Rare Duchamp Catalogue to a Surrealist Dancer’s Choreographic Drawings

The fair runs through Sunday at the Park Avenue Armory.

Lily Hildebrandt illustration for her children's book of 1918. Courtesy of Pierre Coumans Rare Books.

Bibliophiles rejoice—the Antiquarian Book Fair has returned. All this weekend, a wide assortment of historic tomes, manuscripts, first editions, illustrations, maps, and even collectible menus are packed into Manhattan’s Park Avenue Armory for the 63rd edition of the fair.

The annual event is widely considered the world’s finest book fair, where both serious collectors and curious onlookers alike are welcome to explore. This year, nearly 200 exhibitors from 17 countries make up a maze of booths winding through the armory, each brimming with paper-based treasures, from a copy of Shakespeare’s Third Folio to rare editions of James Joyce’s Ulysses

A number of dealers have also brought exceptional items related to art and design. These include a book of hand-drawn cats by Andy Warhol, an illustrated copy of the classic fairy tale Hansel And Gretel, prints by Norman Rockwell, an artist book by multi-talented musician John Cage, and drawings by Queen Victoria. As diverse as the items on offer, prices range from about $50 to the millions.

Here are some of the highlights.


“Le Surréalisme en 1947″ Catalogue by Marcel Duchamp
Ursus Rare Books

Marcel Duchamp's “Le Surréalisme en 1947" exhibition catalog. Courtesy of Ursus Rare Books.

Marcel Duchamp’s “Le Surréalisme en 1947″ exhibition catalogue. Courtesy of Ursus Rare Books.

Surrealism burst onto the scene with the exhibition “Le Surréalisme en 1947″ in Paris. The exhibition catalogue consisted of 24 original prints by participating artists, housed in a box containing a foam-rubber breast by Marcel Duchamp in collaboration with Enrico Donati. Very few catalogues from the show are known to exist, but Ursus Rare Books of New York has brought one to the fair and it’s in superb condition—albeit slightly flattened over time. The foam rubber used in the breast was delicate and perishable; consequently, most of the copies that survive exhibit an “unappealing, deteriorated state,” according to the dealer. This deluxe copy—numbered 34 of 999—also differs from most other versions in that it comes with a cardboard slipcase wrapped in paper and decorated with haphazardly placed letters spelling out Pierre à feu, the publishing division of Galerie Maeght, where the exhibition took place. 


Steve Wolfe, Untitled (Waiting for Godot)
James Cummins Bookseller

Steve Wolfe, <em>Untitled (Waiting for Godot)</em> (2000). Courtesy of James Cummins Bookseller.

Steve Wolfe, Untitled (Waiting for Godot) (2000). Courtesy of James Cummins Bookseller.

As an homage to reading, artist Steve Wolfe—whose works can be found in the collection of the Whitney, MoMA, SFMOMA, and the Dallas Museum of Art—made realistic sculptures of his favorite books. A proponent of trompe l’oeil, he painstakingly recreated his personal copies of the books that most moved him, by the likes of Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, J.D. Salinger, Vladimir Nabokov, and Marcel Proust. The American author Edmund White, writing about Wolfe’s sculptures, saw them in the tradition of Walter Benjamin’s writings, Andy Warhol’s “Brillo Boxes” series, and Marcel Duchamp’s objets trouvés. James Cummins Bookseller brings a reconstruction of Wolfe’s worn copy of the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett. It’s unusual, to say the least—all the more so in that this is one of the few first editions in Wolfe’s book collection. The asking price is $75,000.


Three Gouaches by Loïs Hutton
Librarie Le Fue Follet

Three Gouaches by Loïs Hutton. Courtesy of Librarie Le Fue Follet.

Three gouaches by Loïs Hutton. Courtesy of Librarie Le Fue Follet.

French book dealer Librarie Le Fue Follet is selling a set of three gouaches by Loïs Hutton. The avant-garde artist and dancer started her career in the 1920s as part of London’s Chelsea art circle before settling in the French Riviera with her partner, the Surrealist dancer Hélène Vanel. It was there, in Saint-Paul-de-Vence, that they shared their bohemian life with the artists, writers, and poets who visited them and attended their torchlit performances, including Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, and Salvador Dalí. Around this time, Hutton and Vanel published a manifesto titled Rythme et Couleur, defining a new kind of rhythmic art. These three early gouaches—inspired by Cubism and Vorticism—feature dance choreographs from the couple’s performances. 


Sol LeWitt Woodblock Prints
Jonathan A. Hill Bookseller

Geometric woodblock print by Sol LeWitt. Courtesy of Jonathan A. Hill Bookseller.

Geometric woodblock print by Sol LeWitt. Courtesy of Jonathan A. Hill Bookseller.

Bookseller Jonathan Hill has gotten his hands on a rare suite of four woodblock prints bearing geometric figures by Sol LeWitt, each numbered and signed by the artist. The prints were executed on Echizen-Kizuki-Hosho paper by the Adachi Institute in an edition of 40 copies, 10 per print, to commemorate LeWitt’s 1980 exhibition at Galerie Watari in Tokyo. Printed in bold colors, the works feature a circle, square, triangle, and rhombus, roughly corresponding to the shapes made by the numbers 1, 9, 8, and 0. Another suite from this series belongs to the Carnegie Museum of Art. 


Lily Hildebrandt Children’s Book
Pierre Coumans Rare Books

Lily Hildebrandt, <em>Klein-Rainers Weltreise</em> (1918). Courtesy of Pierre Coumans Rare Books.

Lily Hildebrandt, Klein-Rainers Weltreise (1918). Courtesy of Pierre Coumans Rare Books.

German artist Lily Hildebrandt was the wife of art historian Hans Hildebrandt and the center of a group of artists who included Wassily Kandinsky, Walter Gropius, Hannah Höch, and Le Corbusier. She created an avant-garde children’s book in 1918 about her son titled Klein-Rainers Weltreise (Klein-Rainer’s Trip Around the World). There is only one known edition of the experimental picture book, which includes 14 original lithographed plates in vivid colors and abstract shapes, and book dealer Pierre Coumans has made it available to fair-goers.


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