We left for the airport, dragging our bags behind us, very early in the morning (not that we weren’t used to getting up early) and said our final goodbyes. This trip was incredible and is an experience I will never forget. Being at the book fair showed me a lot about the side of the book business that I didn’t understand or didn’t even think about prior to being exposed to everything that was there. The book fair, alongside the other day trips we had, came together not only in giving me an experience of German culture and life, but also put it into a more international perspective, both at the fair, and just walking around various places meeting so many Germans who spoke English so well. I have a much better understanding of the book business now, and though I have more questions, I feel I have a much better grasp on what goes on in the book world. I would recommend this class to anyone, as it is a great life experience aside from a great book experience.
Elke, our wonderful, knowledgeable, endlessly energized tour guide throughout our journey went above and beyond her duties on Sunday night, as she and her husband invited us to their home in Darmstadt for dinner. It was a wonderful traditional meal made by Elke’s mother’s recipe. This was followed not only by one monstrous apple strudel made by Elke, but a second monstrous apple strudel made by our very own Meredith Miller! We were stuffed, but there was one last thing to celebrate. Meredith’s birthday! So Elke’s husband brought out a cake made by him for the celebration. The usual “happy Birthday” tune was sung, and we all squeezed whatever last bit of food we could into our bellies.
On the final day of our trip Elke made sure to take us to the Gutenberg Museum. I was so excited to be there and really see mapped out in front of me the history of print and the book. It was interesting to see that the Chinese had actually inventing printing back in the 6th century but as they throughout history have often kept to themselves as a nation, the rest of us had to figure it out on our own. When Gutenberg came around, he changed the history of the world in more ways than he could have foreseen. We got to see the original Gutenberg Bibles, along with a room full of printing machines from varying eras and countries. No pictures were allowed in the museum, so unfortunately I have nothing to show for it aside from a few pictures taken outside and one picture I have from when we were being given a presentation on how to make a book. The experience was really wonderful.
The days after the book fair, we went back to being tourists. We spent the first day in Heidelberg which is a gorgeous city with its cobblestone streets, restaurants, and street performers. We visited an old library and basically spent the day wandering around trying to take in the sights. I took more pictures than I can even post here, but I will try to select the very best of the day.We also saw a German medical library which was very similar to any specialized library one might find in the states and was a great facility for students and doctors alike.
The book fair was incredible. Overwhelming, exhausting, and exciting to say the least. The overwhelming part was to see all the publishers (especially the big-wigs like Random House, Harper Collins, Google, Pearson, and Workman in building 8) sitting down, talking about upcoming releases, making deals, selling rights, and forming connections. I am thankful we were there on the trade days rather than on the days when the general public were allowed in, only because this gave me an opportunity to see what the business end of publishing is really like. The antiquarian tent gave me my first real glimpse into the rare book trade and to be honest, though I was glad to see all the dealers there who appreciate the history and literature they were selling, I found myself a bit disappointed with the lack of excitement I felt there. Perhaps I was just struck by the businesslike quality of the dealers. I suppose everyone has to grow up sometime, and when it comes down to it, everything is business.
After regrouping at the end of the second day, we all had a nice celebration with the German Information Science students at their booth. Then tired and worn out, we started for the hotel.
The second concept that I found at the fair were facsimile copies being made of old manuscripts. We know how important it is to preserve and protect very old and very valuable manuscripts while still leaving them available for research and study. However, new ways have been devised using new technology that allow us to preserve original copies of manuscripts while having copies available for research and study without the threat of further damage to the originals. I met with an Italian dealer of these books who showed me various examples of these facsimiles, but he also explained that once a manuscript has been scanned in to a computer it allows for more detailed study of the words and artwork within the manuscripts than would normally have been possible by studying the originals. Here we see technology working alongside history in order to create a safer way to preserve and study materials which, in other cases, perhaps it would not even be in a condition to hold.
As day one of the book fair was spent wandering through the exceptionally old, the second day at the book fair I spent my time trying to track where books were headed in the future. I found two things particularly interesting. One of these things seemed to me to be a representation of the book holding its own against the e-book. The second was more of a way to use new technology to help preserve the past. The first was a possible change in the way new books are produced. One of the many aspects of the e-book that people are always discussing is the opportunity to bring what would be a large book on a trip in a form that is easily transported. At one booth I found books that were being printed longways rather than down one page and then down another. This, according to the signs up around the stand (there was no one there to talk to) would allow large books to be printed in a much smaller form allowing for easier travel.
I wandered about in awe of what history was before me. There was a letter from Samuel Clemens to another author in which he compares boating on a lake to what good writing should be. Fantastic! Some books were in great shape whereas others could have used some work. I had a brief chat with a dealer form Boston who explained that the prices on these books depend on and reflect a few things about the item itself such as condition, edition, and whether or not it it a signed copy. Rare books are usually acquired in auctions, and book sales such as these, and are often going into the hands of other book sellers or to private collectors. I took pictures, as there was no way I could possibly afford to actually purchase anything there. Actually the antiquarian books are the only books that can be bought all week long at the book fair, while everything else at the fair is only sold on Sunday, the final day of the fair.
I have always loved books. The smell of the paper turned yellow with time, the excitement of finding someone’s name written inside and wondering what their story was, the feeling of losing en entire day in a used bookstore crammed with titles I’ve never heard of before. Books are my entertainment, my silent friends and confidants. For me they will always inspire awe and mystery. What I found in the antiquarian tent was heaven. A little expensive for my taste of course, but heaven nonetheless. Those who were selling their rare books seemed a bit confused when they first saw me approaching. I suppose they were trying to figure out if I were a possible buyer or not. However their stodgy and perhaps a bit elitist attitudes could not ruin my fun in the least.
The two days we spent at the Frankfurt Book Fair were both exhausting and fascinating. The Fair is enormous and can be pretty intimidating, so as was suggested, I chose to spend some of my time at the Fair focusing on the antiquarian section.