Home Arts Antiquarian book fair celebrates the word

Antiquarian book fair celebrates the word

by Archives September 21, 2005

For those who have a penchant for literature, The Word is a perfect place to get their fix. A tiny one-room shop crammed with books, the used-book store has been a fixture nestled on Milton Street for over 30 years.

The Word was originally run out of the owners’ living room, and it’s only ever moved a few doors down. As English students at McGill University, Adrian and Lucille King-Edwards opened the shop as a place for students to gather for poetry readings and find sought-after literary treasures.

“Beside the store, there were all these doors that looked the same,” said Adrian. “We put a picture of George Bernard Shaw in the window, so it would indicate that was the door.”

After they graduated, Adrian worked for a couple years as a janitor a few blocks from the shop, and Lucille was a teaching assistant at the university. It was around this time they decided expand out of their living room into a full-fledged business.

They had been paying $100 per month for their rent, and when it was raised to $105 the next year, they decided to move out. The perfect opportunity arose when the laundromat a couple doors down closed.

They live about a block from the store now, and the store’s office is below their apartment. The office is where they keep the most valuable editions, which won’t sell at the bookstore.

Instead, they sell them at Montreal’s Antiquarian Book Fair. This year the fair will be held in the Concordia library building atrium on the downtown campus. Admission to the fair is $6, but they are charging Concordia students only $1. This is the book fair’s 10th anniversary at Concordia, and as a way to give back to Concordia community they will be donating $500 of the profits to the Student Emergency Food Bank.

The fair is run by local book dealers, and books will be $25 and up. Adrian said the fair is the highlight of his year. This year he plans to sell an original 1929 copy of Virginia Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own. If this particular book had no dust jacket it would be worth about $550. Since the jacket is in excellent condition, it is worth $6000.

The shop itself specializes in literature, philosophy and poetry, and is immaculately organized, despite the crowded shelves. Above the shop, there is a second floor filled with doubles and triples of their best-selling books. Each shelf is arranged according to category and author.

The shop obtains their books in one of three ways: people come to the store with books to sell, they go to peoples’ homes to purchase books or they buy them from book scouts, people who routinely go to garage and church sales to get sellable books.

The books in the shop range in price from 50 cents to $10. A crate outside the shop, lined with 50-cent or $1 books, is a real draw. Adrian says these books attract a variety of customers who might not otherwise venture in.

The Montreal Antiquarian Book Fair will be held at the McConnel Atrium, 1400 blvd de Maisonneuve west, Sept. 24 from 12:00p.m. to 6:00p.m. and Sept. 25 from 11:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. The price of admission to the fair is regularly $6, but only $1 for Concordia students.

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