New York International Antiquarian Book Fair brings book lovers from South Florida and beyond

Kim Schwink of Lux Mentes Booksellers in Portland, Maine, presents the variety of books the bookseller collects.

This past weekend, more than 200 unique exhibitors attended the 60th Annual New York International Antiquarian Book Fair, where enthusiasts from around the globe – including South Florida – put their most prized possessions on display.

Known as the world’s finest antiquarian book fair, the NYIABF attracts bibliophiles, collectors, scholars, connoisseurs and others interested in antique collections. Vendors present collections that include rare books, maps, illuminated manuscripts, incanabula, fine bindings, illustrations, historical documents, rare prints and print ephemera.

Richard and Dione Meli of Heartwood Books and Art in Fort Lauderdale showcased signed copies of various popular books such as George R.R. Martin’s “A Game of Thrones.”

Dione Meli organizes sets of books inside the bookcase before opening night. (Pablo Alvarez/South Florida Media Network)

“My favorite book as a child was ‘The Maltese Falcon,’ and ever since I’ve been a fond collector of mystery, detective and science fiction pieces,” said Richard Meli. He also emphasized just how important relationships are in the business, as that is how book collectors get access to unique volumes circulating around the bibliophile scene.

A copy of “A Game of Thrones” signed by George R.R. Martin sits in the front shelf of the Meli’s stand, selling for $1200. (Pablo Alvarez/South Florida Media Network)

Another South Florida vendor at the event was Matthew Raptis, owner of Raptis Rare Books in Palm Beach. Raptis started accumulating books as a child and continued to collect and preserve different pieces of history and culture throughout the years. Some of his unique pieces include a signed photograph of Martin Luther King, Jr., a signed, limited-edition copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s “The Little Prince,” and various original versions of historical documents such as the Federalist Papers.

A signed, limited edition of “The Little Prince” priced at $18,500. (Pablo Alvarez/South Florida Media Network)

Many other booksellers from around the country also attended the event, such as John W. Knott, Jr. from Maryland, who had his own share of unique collectibles. One of his more popular pieces was a copy of “The First Men in the Moon” by H.G. Wells signed by Neil Armstrong.

“I absolutely love popular fiction and science fiction and fantasy, so to have a book title like this be signed by Neil, you couldn’t have asked for a better title,” said Knott, who acquired the piece from the wife of a deceased customer who no longer wanted her late husband’s books.

Knott’s copy of “The First Men in the Moon,” signed by astronaut Neil Armstrong, is priced at $12,500. (Pablo Alvarez/South Florida Media Network)

The book fair also hosted booksellers from around the world, with exhibitors traveling from the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Hungary, Russia and many other places. Bookvica, a Russian antiquarian bookstore, specializes in works related to Russia and the USSR, including historic propaganda posters dating back to 1948. One such poster traces to the Marshall Plan, when the USSR suspected that the aid the U.S. was providing to Europe would be used to increase its military power in the region.

A 1948 USSR propaganda poster states, ‘People of the world do not want the repeat of the war disaster,’ referencing World War II. (Pablo Alvarez/South Florida Media Network)

Pablo Alvarez, a Cuban and Puerto Rican American, has interest in writing anything and everything regarding politics, the environment, community stories and much more. He wants to write groundbreaking stories that matter to readers and have an impact on them.