Antiquarianism (Marilyn Braiterman Rare Books)

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I’ve been going to the annual ABAA (Association of Antiquarian Booksellers of America) for years. My mother is a professional book dealer, and I used to help set up for fair and pack up at the end of fairs in California when I was in grad school. These days, family commitments keep me from being of much use, but I always like to go for an afternoon at the New York Fair to hang out with her and drop in and talk up other dealers with whom I have grown friendly over the years.

My mother started Marilyn Braiterman Rare Books, selling books out of the house when my younger brother and I were in high school. She buys and sells mostly illuminated books dealing with art, architecture, travel, design, and photography mostly from early twentieth century German, French, British, and American books. She used to sell Judaica (Hebrew primers designed by artists from the Bezalel school, illuminated Song of Songs, Songs of the Ghetto, modern Haggadot by Steinhardt and Lissitzky, anti-Semitica, wooden synagogues). 

I like the antiquarian book business and going to fairs. It was one of my first introductions to the aesthetics of Jewish modernism when my scholarly interests took me in that direction. I like the culture of the fairs, the dealers from Virginia and New York and the European stores, the gossip and the back and forth. The dealers are really smart. They know a lot in a more worldly way than you will find among most academics. This probably has something to do with the combination of erudition, business, and money.

Marilyn Braiterman Books (as well as Eric Chaim Kline and Michael Weintraub) introduced me to the little corner of the antiquarian book-world in which Jewish books cohabit with bigger world of super old books, modern first editions, autographs, maps, anatomical and zoographical and ethnographic pictures books from the 18th century. Each year I go to the fair, the books are pretty much all the same. I’ve seen them all before, year in and year out, and yet there’s something so thrilling entering into the New York Armory to see them all. I would have never known such a world existed.

For more visuals, you can find catalogues online at Marilyn Braiterman’s website,

For all things Judaica, go to

The website of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, see

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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