World's largest rare book fair coming to Oakland

The 50th annual Antiquarian Book Fair returns to Oakland

The 50th annual Antiquarian Book Fair returns to Oakland Feb. 10-12 at the Oakland Marriott, steps away from 12th Street/Oakland City Center BART Station.

Did you have a favorite story book growing up? Or, maybe a work of fiction that rocked your world when you were a teen? These are the hooks that attract and snag future book collectors. On Feb.10-12, the International Antiquarian Book Fair returns to downtown Oakland with hundreds of domestic and international vendors displaying and selling rare books and ephemera, including first editions, posters and propaganda materials.

With catch-all terms like “fake news” and “alternative facts” making headlines today, a copy of Thomas Paine’s revolutionary pamphlet, Common Sense, might resonate with today’s collectors. That, along with other then-controversial publications, remind us that history always repeats itself (and that we might consider collecting some of today’s hot-topic ephemera).

The book fair is considered to be the largest rare book fair in the world. Above, the Les Enluminures Vulgate Bible in Latin.

Just about every genre of literature will be represented, and it’s a rare opportunity to explore books you love and books you never knew about.

For the nostalgic set, there’s Beatrix Potter’s first set of illustrations, bound with pink silk tassels.

Those interested in San Francisco politics should look for Harvey Milk’s first failed campaign poster.

A campaign poster from Harvey Milk’s first failed attempt for San Francisco supervisor. 

Many vendors will also be selling photography, including a photographic album of Costa Rica, circa 1927-8, including Charles Lindbergh’s visit to San Jose. Several of the photos include Lindbergh next to his aircraft, the Spirit of St. Louis.

And, an array of punk scenes from ‘70s era Britain will be available for sale, including magazine covers featuring The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and the Clash.

The book fair will also include memorabilia from the punk scene during ‘70s-era Britain. 

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the fair, sponsored by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, a special exhibit will be showing a collection of detective fiction, fantasy and science fiction, and western fiction from the Bancroft Library.

An exhibit featuring detective fiction, fantasy and science fiction from the UC Berkeley Bancroft Library will be on display. 

Both Saturday and Sunday offer attendees a full day of lectures and presentations. Some highlights include:

  • California Rare Book School presents: Bound for El Dorado: Collecting California and the Far West. Presented by Gary F. Kurutz, director of the special collections branch, California State Library (Saturday at 11am)
  • California Rare Book School presents: Printers, Collectors, Bibliographers, and the Inquisition: A Brief Introduction to the History of the Book in Hispanic America. Presented by Daniel J. Slive, head of special collections at the Bridwell Library, Perkins School of Theology, Southern Methodist University and David Szewczyk, proprietor, Philadelphia Rare Books & Manuscripts Co. (Saturday at 3pm)
  • Book Collecting 101, Learn from ABAA member Vic Zoschak, Jr., Tavistock Bookshop to create a strategy for collecting books, as well as how to spot a “first edition,” judge a book’s condition, and learn bookish terms and jargon. (Sunday at 12:30pm)

There will also be a time window for appraisals (for up to three books) on Sunday afternoon.

Fair hours are Friday from 3 to 8pm; Saturday from 11am to 7pm; Sunday from 11am to 5pm. Tickets are available online and at the door. Friday admission is $25; Saturday and Sunday admission is $15 with return admission for both days. Pre-sale tickets are $13-$23 and students passes $10-$20 and are available here.

1001 Broadway
Oakland, CA 94607
Nearest BART Station: 
12th St. Oakland City Center
Walking time: 
3 minutes
Friday, Feb. 10, 3 to 8pm
Saturday, Feb. 11, 11am to 7pm
Sunday, Feb. 12, 11am to 5pm
Nearest BART Station: 
12th St. Oakland City Center

Plan Your Trip

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Author: Sophia Markoulakis
Sophia Markoulakis is a Bay Area-based freelance journalist covering lifestyle and human interest topics. Her first memory riding BART was while attending UC Berkeley when she would ride the train to the Powell Street station when she needed a break from studying and her 7 roommates and to window shop. She still window shops and finds BART the best way to get to Union Square.

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