The Annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar: Turning the Page on the Antiquarian Book Trade


Calling all antiquarians: the annual Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar (CABS), is accepting applications for its 2019 session taking place July 14-20 Colorado College, Colorado Springs. 

Now entering its 42nd year, CABS provides a fundamental learning and networking experience for people in the antiquarian book trade. Past CABS attendees include book trade rookies as well as seasoned sellers interested in keeping their skills and knowledge fresh; collectors and librarians are welcome, too. CABS director and antiquarian bookseller Lorne Bair explains: “We are fulfilling an important role in preparing booksellers for the trade who don’t have any other avenue.”  

“CABS was the single most useful thing I did when I was starting up my own business. It forced me to think through every aspect of running a bookshop,” said Heather O’Donnell, founder of Honey and Wax and faculty member at CABS. 

The seminar provides a comprehensive look at everything necessary for launching a career in the antiquarian book trade. Participants take two compulsory tracks: one focuses on bibliographical matters such as the history of books and bindings, while the second course discusses the nuts and bolts of running a business: maintaining a database, cultivating customers and how to research market prices for books are a few of the topics covered. The curriculum helps booksellers fill in gaps, refresh old skills, or learn new ones.   

CABS also welcomes librarians and collectors interested in understanding the buy-and-sell side of the book trade. “CABS is a place where the book trade, the rare book librarian world, and the private collector come together and learn from each other,” says Bair. It’s also ideal for people thinking about joining the profession to see what kinds of skills and mindset are needed.  

CABS is an opportunity to network with people who love what they do, as O’Donnell explains: “During that week, you bond intensively with a group of ambitious, forward-thinking booksellers who then go on to really interesting work in the trade.”  

O’Donnell’s advice to first-timers is to commit wholly to the weeklong intensive. That means staying in the dorms and spending time with other CABS participants after hours. The best conversations can happen at 11pm in the dorm parking lot. The success of the seminar itself depends on the participation of the students. 

Would-be CABS participants in need of financial assistance can apply for scholarships including the opportunity for a free booth at the upcoming Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair. Some due dates are coming up as soon as April 26th, while others are in May. Registration for the seminar is open until June 30th. Additionally, Bair says that CABS is “making serious efforts to create a welcome world and more diverse for women and people of color.” In other words, anyone interested in working with antiquarian books should consider adding CABS to their summer itinerary.

Elisa Shoenberger is a researcher and writer. She has published articles and essays at the Boston Globe, the Rumpus, MuseumNext, and other outlets. She is a regular contributor to Book Riot and is the co-editor and co-founder of The Antelope: A Journal of Oral History and Mayhem.