Print fair turns conference center into colorful hubbub of collections and conversation

UMSL Daily

Charles Brown has been to more than a few versions of the St. Louis Fine Print, Rare Book and Paper Arts Fair over the years. But for him the annual event has never gotten old – and it keeps getting bigger, too.
Joel Minor and his daughter, Madeline, explore a booth at UMSL during the fair earlier this month. (Photos by Evie Hemphill)
As he perused the wares at more than 30 booths at the University of Missouri–St. Louis last weekend, Brown noted that the fair “continues to grow by leaps and bounds.”
“I’ve seen dealers from New York, Virginia, New Mexico – and that’s just a fraction,” said Brown, a 1975 UMSL alumnus and longtime reference librarian for the St. Louis Mercantile Library, which organizes the effort. “That’s a good sign when you get both the returning vendors and the new ones.”
The hubbub filled the university’s J.C. Penney Conference Center May 5 to 7 as hundreds of interested collectors and browsers descended on campus to explore everything from fine art and photography to rare books and contemporary letterpress prints.
John Hoover, director of the Mercantile, said he was “very happy” with the quality of this year’s dealers’ stock as well as the overall turnout and welcoming atmosphere.
Among visitors, primary reasons for their respective trips varied. Washington University Libraries employee Joel Minor and his young daughter, Madeline, paid particular attention to the book offerings and also took in Sunday afternoon’s live letterpress demonstration by Firecracker Press.
A dealer chats with John Hoover (at left), director of UMSL’s St. Louis Mercantile Library, on the final day of the event.
As Eric Woods prepared a relatively lightweight press for the demo, he offered those gathered a brief history lesson on St. Louis’ role as the first major type foundry city in the Midwest.
“In the late 1800s …

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