Tags: Bookstores, Collecting, Rare Book Market Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting Labor Day Weekend in Baltimore. For those who decide to stay in town, and there are not many, this weekend is a time for sitting on a rooftop deck (the yuppie version of the good old stoop) and cracking Natty Bohs while deciding whether to head down to Obrycki’s to crack a couple dozen steamed Blue Crabs. The Ravens’ season is just one week away, and thankfully the Orioles season is almost over. Tourists flood into town for one more walk around the Inner Harbor. Down at the convention center just off the harbor is another rite of summer, the Baltimore Antique Show held this year from August 30 to September 2. Baltimore must be something of an antiquing paradise, because the Antique Roadshow pulled into town at the beginning of the summer to tape an episode. Just outside of Charm City, there are a handful of oases, like Ellicott City, for those partial to that which is old and worn. Meccas, like Adamstown and Kutztown in Pennsylvania, are just a couple hours away.
The antique bug never took hold of me although it was not for lack of opportunity. Many a weekend of my youth was spent in an antique mall in Adamstown with my father. Yet the Baltimore Antique Show is must-see TV, due to a small booksellers section that never fails to surprise and inform. I must admit that on entering the Convention Center I never expect much as it is largely a regional affair. There is a strong local flavor, think Old Bay with a splash of John Waters. There is much Chesapeake Bay material. There is much Wateriana, if such a category exists. The local sports teams of yore are prominently displayed. Signed copies of the Johnny Unitas Story or the Earl Morrall autobiography sprinkled with Orioles memorabilia from when Brooksie protected third and Palmer ruled the hill. Superfan Wild Bill Hagy died this summer, and Baltimore’s relationship with baseball is very much in danger as well. Football is now America’s game, and the Ravens clearly rule in Baltimore. Although for the collector it is all about the Colts. For the more literary minded, there is Edgar Allan Poe who died in a gutter outside the present day The Horse You Came In On bar in Fells Point. Word around town is that the bar is not long for this world either having been sold earlier this year. Yet there will always be a place in Baltimore for H.L. Mencken. Decades later Mencken’s critical voice is as much a part of the city’s vocabulary as calling someone “Hon” or exclaiming “Ain’t the beer cold!”
Beneath all the local color, I always seem to find a few items that fit in nicely with my collection. Years ago I passed on a complete run of Black Mountain Review for $400. Looking at it now that is quite a deal as single issues post on the internet for double that. I am still cobbling together a complete set of this legendary little magazine. If only… This year presented another little magazine, one even more iconic than Black Mountain Review if that is possible. Joe Maynard had a full run of transition, Eugene Jolas’ testament to the glory of Modernism. The price was $4500 (a bit high) with some tasty ephemera thrown in. Maynard was ready to haggle a bit. The magazine would have provided a nice sense of tradition to my collection, but I passed. I am sure I will regret it.