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Book fair attendees navigate the Craneway Pavilion on the first day of the Codex International Book Fair.

Codex International Book Fair attracts Bay Area bibliophiles

on February 12, 2013

Bibliophiles from throughout the Bay Area gathered Sunday at Richmond’s Craneway Pavilion for the first day of the Codex International Book Fair, which will be open until Wednesday, February 13. The fair was hosted by the Codex Foundation, a not-for-profit group that partners with book arts organizations around the world to preserve the hand-made book as a form of art. The fair featured 180 exhibitors who came to Richmond from around the world to display and sell their creations.

The fair, the fourth of its kind, took about a year to organize, said Codex Foundation director Peter Koch. “We found these artists and publishers from around the world and encouraged them to come here,” he said. “We are reportedly the greatest fair on Earth for this kind of thing.”

At table after table of museum-worthy books, small, delicate illustrated booklets with poems in German followed large books with cutouts of Beijing’s financial district or editions of poems by the 13th century Persian philosopher and mystic Rumi translated into Braille. Attendees, given a pamphlet with a list of the exhibitors and a map of their placement in the pavilion, walked through the rows stopping here and there to listen to an artist talk about how they painted this book or used letterpress printing to create that poster. Items were priced from $5 to several thousands of dollars.

“We’re hoping people come by the thousands to see the fair, but we’ll be happy if the right 50 attend,” Koch said. “We want people who love books enough to spend as much on them as they would spend on a couch.”

Leilei Guo was one of the artists who came to the fair from across the world, all the way from Beijing. Her pieces were interactive. One book, called “Nest-Soho,” used silkscreen print to depict buildings in Beijing. The pages, each with windows drawn on it to show the windows of Beijing high-rises, were held together by a single screw in the corner, so that, when pulled out, they rotated around the screw and formed a nest-like circle of windows. When circled back into the book, they became a plain skyline of the buildings. Another book, “Sparkling,” opened up to a photo of water that quite literally sparkled thanks to small LED lights which turned on when the reader pressed a button inside the book. “I’ve been creating art since I was 4, and hopefully I’ll continue,” Guo said.

Mary Ann Maggiore, co-founder of Five 4 Five, an organization that assists at-risk youth with getting through college and finding work, who is also the former mayor of Fairfax, California, came to the fair because she is looking to create a book herself one day. “This is like being in a cathedral of learning,” Maggiore said. “Books are tactile things; it’s wonderful to have a Kindle but it’s nothing like having a book in your hands.”

Koch said that he hopes the organization and the event will grow in the future as people desire books for their beauty, rather than just for finding information.

“As long as human beings aspire to do the best they can and have spiritual wealth and health – as long as that condition is the human condition, then I think we’re going to see more and more interest in the physical book,” Koch said.

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