Your chance to peruse, purchase rare books returning to city after 20-year absence

Your chance to peruse, purchase rare books returning to city after 20-year absence

The Rare Book Fair attracts experts from top libraries, universities, and other institutions, and others who want to expand their knowledge of a particular subject, a passion for binding, an author, or just a love for beautiful things.

Cat Makino image

Cat Makino

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May 18, 2022

All books are a good investment. Still, some are worth more money than others.

Case in point: In 1994, Bill Gates paid $30.8 million (equivalent to over $53 million today) for Leonardo da Vinci’s Codex Leicester, one of the rarest books in the world. A miniature book of poems written by Charlotte Brontë at the age of 13 – titled A Book of Rhymes — sold for $1.2 million.

Collecting books is not just for billionaires, and on Friday and Saturday you’ll get your shot at finding a few gems locally when the Rare Book Fair returns to Palm Springs for the first time in 20 years.

Prices usually range from $200 to $100,000, but some go for less – and a few go for more. The fair attracts experts from top libraries, universities, and other institutions, and others who want to expand their knowledge of a particular subject, a passion for binding, an author, or just a love for beautiful things.

Books have assumed a new importance for many over the past year or so, bringing comfort, knowledge, and pleasure to many who have rediscovered the joy of reading.

“We decided to bring [the Fair] to Palm Springs because it’s the hub for art, culture, architecture and history,” said Jen Johnson, co-producer of the event. “It will be like visiting 40 rare book shops at once, without traveling to New York, Salt Lake City or LA.”

At the event, collectors will be able to examine all kinds of treasures offered for sale by dealers from all over the country. Besides rare books, there will be original maps, illuminated manuscripts, historical documents, fine bindings, zines, ephemera, photographs, and lobby cards.

“Normally people would not see these,” Johnson says. “It opens their eyes to a whole new realm of collecting.”

David Brass Rare Books, a family-run business that has been going since 1876, will be showing some rare first editions, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Return of Sherlock Holmes (1905), and Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol (1844). They will also be offering some older children’s books — some with illustrations by celebrated artists such as Arthur Rackham.

At past rare book fairs some amazing books have sold.

“A San Francisco bookseller sold one of Beatrix Potter’s earliest books in the Peter Rabbit series for $100,000, and a Los Angeles bookseller sold a signed copy of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novel titled On Her Majesty’s Secret Service for $40,000,” says Caroline Brass, one of the owners of David Brass Rare Books.

Brass explains that many of the company’s customers are in the entertainment industry.

“They get their ideas for films, plays, and music by reading these books,” she says. …“The fair opens people’s eyes to a whole new realm of collecting. People collect all sorts of things. Some even collect bottle caps. So it’s fascinating for collectors to see what other people like to collect.”


More information: The Rare Book Fair will be at Hotel Zoso, located at 150 South Indian Canyon Dr. For more information about special events, tickets, and a list of exhibitors, please visit the Rare Books LA website at www.rarebooksla.com.

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