Rare Book Week West: Manuscripts, First Editions, Photos and Artist Books

California_Bookfair_2015To say that it was a manjar libresco would be an understatement: the 48th California Antiquarian Book Book Fair and the 2015 Artist Book Fair and Symposium, all within a few days, sometimes with overlapping schedules, was all a rare treat that only happens every other year in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The Antiquarian Fair promised “collections and rare treasures of over 200 booksellers from 33 different countries…,” and indeed there were. On the high end, original manuscripts by Octavio Paz, or limited edition books with text by Pablo Neruda shared the exhibit hall with Latin American vintage travel brochures for as little as $35! One of the un-prized items was an oversize black and white photograph of Mexican revolutionaries witha semi-legible text: “V. Carranza.” The seller knew very little about the photograph until I gave some background. “If you have to ask how much it costs, you probably could not afford it,” I had been warned more than once by a veteran curator/librarian. The photo had no price tag and my friend was right!
Viva_Zapata!Among the images of film celebrities there was a movie poster of Viva Zapata, which I used in class one year to point out Hollywood’s peculiar way of casting for the 1952 film, with a script written by John Steinbeck. I noted that Marlon Brando (Zapata) probably looked more like one of the students in class, while the real Zapata was most certainly darker than I. The student later thanked me in an evaluation for comparing him to such a handsome movie star!
The 5th Codex Artist Book Fair opened in the middle of a much needed rainstorm, no deterrent to the more than 1,100 enthusiastic attendees who showed up to admire the work of book artists from all over the world, with Latin America very well represented: from Lia-Libro de Artista, showcasing the work of 22 artists to Eckhard Froeschlin’s atelier in Matagalpa, Nicaragua or that of photographers like Jose Diniz (Brazil) and Patricia Lagarde (Mexico).
lorenacartoneraBooks and art have often been a medium that brings attention to injustices and Codex 2015 was no exception. Mexican photographer Lorena Velázquez reminded us all of the recent disappearance of Ayotzinapa’s student teachers. The cartonero book makers were also present with a similar message clamoring for justice.
Human rights violations has also been the leit motif of CraftPressChile, with Indignity and Resistance as a third work in a series that keeps alive the memory of the desaparecidos and torturados during military rule in Chile.
The fairs were accompanied by a series of related events: an artist auction to raise funds for the families of the missing student teachers in Mexico or an exhibit on the art of Taller de Gráfica Popular artist Elizabeth Catlett catered to various audiences.
The Codex Artist Book Symposium featured author and essayist Alberto Manguel as main speaker. His early evening talk at the Book Club of California (A City Built on Books: Pedro de Mendoza and the Founding of Buenos Aires), was the right excuse to leave work early and the charla did not disappoint.
Adan Griego, Curator for Latin American Collections-Stanford University.
*Lorena Velázquez and Ayotzinapa photo by Yulia Akh