In 1985, a 28 year-old novice named Naioma Walberg, who had never attended a book fair,
decided that an antiquarian book fair in Denver was a good idea. She and her mother hand-addressed
more than 400 letters to prospective exhibitors and arranged to rent space in the Grand Ballroom
of the Fairmont Hotel. Exhibitors had to bring their books through the kitchen of the Fairmount
and share a single freight elevator to reach the exhibit area. Naioma and her family staffed the show,
which was attended by 1500 paying customers. This is how the Rocky Mountain Antiquarian Book Fair was born.
The Fair has gone through many changes over the years, but a handful of the original exhibitors are
still regular fixtures. The Fair was held in several downtown Denver venues over the ensuing years.
In 1995 the Fair moved to the Denver Merchandise Mart to take advantage of easy access and parking,
as well as a modern and secure facility that is specifically designed for this type of show. The Fair has
been owned and operated by the Rocky Mountain Antiquarian Bookseller's Association now for more than a dozen years.
In an effort to broaden the appeal to both collectors and exhibitors, the name of the event was changed to
The Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair in 2006.
In recent years, the number of exhibitors has been in the range of 75- 85, but has been as high as 100.
The range of specialties that are represented grows and changes every year. The significant and extraordinary
items that have been exhibited over the years are far too extensive to innumerate. The list of experts and
authors that have graced the Fair includes author Nicholas Basbanes, Georgia Barnhill of the
American Antiquarian Society, novelist and local bookman John Dunning, and many, many more.
In its 25th Anniversary celebration the fair brought to mind the great Silver Rush in the Rockies 150 years ago.
Anniversaries always mean a look into the past, whether it is to read the first hand accounts of the times or
to see and collect the ephemera and maps that were in use then. That year we had a special link to the history
with our very notable guest Wes Cowan of the PBS program "History Detectives".
In all cases, history informs our present and our future. The history of the Rocky Mountain Book & Paper Fair
has hundreds of fascinating stories to tell, as will its future. We welcome your participation in the ongoing narrative.
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