John Pazmino
 NYSkies Astronomy Inc
 1987 August 1
    You may have wished to have for yourself those older astronomy 
books you hear or read about, but never actually see, You can refer to 
them in large libraries, but it's not the same as owning them yourself, 
    You can acquire that Sacrobosco, Newton, or Messler right here in 
good old New York! Without travelling to Katmandu or Elephantine. 
    Go to the antique bookfalrs. 
    These fairs are like meteor showers, each with its own peak and 
radiant, date and place. Enough fairs work the City and its surrounds 
that one surely comes up in the next  month or two. Just in Manhattan 
there are four or five bookfairs in a year's time. 
    Announcements are placed in the local community and literary 
journals. You can pick up a flyer or card from your local book dealer. 
If you are a steady client, you'll get ads in the mail. 
    Bookfalrs are typically held in a school or church with the 
procedes often supporting some social or medical cause. Lest the 
notion of "antique" conjure foppy people in lace and tails, the 
admission is really quite modest. For one day it's about $4 and about 
$10 gets you a weekend ticket. The latter invariably includes a Friday 
evening reception with light refreshments. 
    You can show up directly from work. Just be neat and clean and 
keep pleasant deportment. If you want to dress up, a collegiate cut is 
entirely proper. Please, leave the cutoffs and halters home. 
    Deposit your coats and bags; pick up a floorplan at the entrance. 
Hold on to the ticket stub for if you step out, you'll need it to 
reenter. And you will want to step out for air, lunch break, or to 
deposit stuff you bought so far. 
    Booths are deployed thruout the exhibit floor and my own scheme is 
to poll each for "astronomy". Do pronounce "astronomy" distinctly. 
Against the background din you may be shown material on cooking 
(gastronomy), fortune-telling (astrology) or farming (agronomy). Try 
saying "stars, planets, Moon, &c" if confusion sets in. 
    After about twelve years of book collecting I have my special 
contacts, but merely circularizing thru all the exhibits will turn up 
some gems. Also, while you're at it, ask for books on your other 
interests. I picked up many, many old maps and prints at these fairs 
of New York's subways and eIs! 
    To prepare for your visit, compile a wishlist based on your 
astronomy knowledge and specialty. You won't want to miss out on an 
important work shown to you due to oversight or ignorance, would you? 
    The attendant will offer specimens from the display for you to 
examine. Handle the books gently -- they ARE ol and fragile! Is the 
work suitable for your collection? Consider the bibliophilic and 
astronomy values, the book's influence on later astronomy, the 
importance of the author, rarity, illustrations, binding, collation, 
and language. 
    By the way, much of the early material was written in Latin. 
Believe me, holding Tycho's "De Stella Martis" is one hell of an 
inducement to brush up on your Latin! Luckily I still retain much of 
it from City College. 
    Now, what good is a Renaissance treatise on the planets in the 
face of today's space explorations??  You'll be astounded at how very 
much of early astronomy is still quite applicable to modern amateur 
    Books on constellations, navigation, telescopy, planet-finding 
depict -- as modern books rarely do -- the heavens as viewed thru our 
small telescopes. When you gaze at an engraving of Jupiter, so tender 
and mild, by Cassini in the 1600s, you know what your own telescope 
will reveal. Today's books are schmaltzed with NASA photos and jazzy 
    You'll get tired, maybe hungry. Every fair has a snack & rest 
area. 8it down, refresh yourself, relax, savor your finds. For fear of 
spills, please do not eat or drink among the exhibits. 
    Exhibitors with no astronomy books on display will note that they 
have some in their depots. Leave your card for a catalog or referral. 
The dealers at these fairs are thoroly honest and erudite. Doing 
business with them after the fair Is essentially riskfree. However, 
just before sending in your order, do call and verify the availability 
and price of your selections. 
    The price? You are acquiring a piece of heritage In the noblest of 
sciences and hobbies. Hence, If you are new to falrgrazlng, you may 
plotz at the quotations. Definitely bring your checkbook and cardfold. 
After upteen years of riding this cockeyed world, don't you deserve a 
treat for yourself? 
    But not to excess. Buy with your head, not over it.  Allot a block 
of change and aim to stay within Its bounds. I myself allocate $500 
per fair. No!, I don't gun to spend it all! It's just that I aw then 
assured of tomorrow's coffee break. Just stay within your own proper 
    The attendant will wrap your purchase and give you a receipt. For 
security, the gateguard may match the receipts against your books as 
you leave the fair. Bring strong shopping bags with you. No one at the 
bookfairs seems to have any. 
    At day's end you're on the train going home. Instead of reading 
the carcards, you are immersed in Lowell's "Evolution of Worlds". You 
may well miss your stop!