Field Trip: Toronto Old Book and Paper Show

At the end of March, the family visited the one day Old Book and Paper Show. A bit like Scriptus, but slightly less crazy–or maybe it just seemed like that because we weren’t behind the tables. It’s a one-day show that showcases and sells old books, postcards, pamphlets, magazines, tickets, photographs and other vintage papery things.

It took place at Artscape Wychwood Barns, on the west end, a beautiful venue, and it was $10 a ticket to get in, with Caleb and Naomi coming in free.

The bulk of what was available were boxes of papers, although I seem to mostly have taken pictures of books, which is not a very accurate depiction of what was available. The papers and cards and pamphlets were sorted by geographical region, time, topic – think: Hamilton, Ontario, trains, train stations. Like collectors of fountain pens, collectors of vintage ephemera are often looking for something specific.

It was a lot of fun to browse through some of the older or obsolete materials, and see how things were ten or fifty or more years ago. Manuals for typewriters, cookbooks, old magazines with advertisements for (!) fountain pens.

It was also fun to see how many people came out to see this stuff, both young and old. You could tell the seasoned veteran vendors, and the sense of community that has been around for probably ages, but everyone was friendly and welcoming and incredibly knowledgeable.

As everything moves digital, and much of it not without good reason, it’s interesting to consider what value these physical items will hold as the world barrels continually forward into the clouds. Perhaps a lot of it as a novelty or a curiosity, but also, I hope, much of it holding the character and secrets of our stories and our past.

For us and our family, we have literally thousands of photographs existing on our phones or on memory cards, but it’s the ones we have physically printed that we cherish and look at the most often. While some of you may have heard about my ongoing debate about getting an e-reader as we plan for travels ahead, there is nothing like holding a physical book in your hand. These old magazines, books, postcards from a time machine.

And of course I spent most of my time looking at the books. There were some lovely old editions of classic children’s books, but alas my children require robust books that stand up to tug of war, being crushed under sleeping bodies and the occasional milk spill. Perhaps one day!

We ended up with a few comic books, and Caleb picked out a train postcard. I myself know nothing about comic books, and I picked some relatively inexpensive ones (under $10 each) for Caleb, seeing also ones for $25, $50 and more.

I also got a pulp copy of Huckleberry Finn, for when Caleb is a bit older.

It was a great day! The kids survived a trek into an unknown and crowded place. While I sometimes wonder about how Caleb will spend time digging holes, climbing trees and eating bugs in the city, I can say for sure that we appreciate all of the interesting and unique things there are to do in a city like Toronto.

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