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Featured Exhibitor: Andrew Lenoir

“We buy and sell evidence.” New York-based Ellipsis Rare Books owner, Andrew Lenoir, perfectly encapsulates the importance of rare booksellers.

Lenoir recounts how being in the book trade strengthened his knowledge and appreciation of history. Recently, in Pennsylvania, he came across pamphlets on bananas from the 30s. An untrained eye would pass off the pamphlets as just information about bananas. Fortunately, Lenoir has an Olympic-trained eye and knew the historical significance of these banana pamphlets.

Due to his historical knowledge, he recognized that these pamphlets were from the United Fruit Company. “These were leftovers from the banana wars where US Marines were helping the United Fruit Company take over Honduras and Guatemala,” Lenoir said.

“That's when some unfortunate acts of US foreign policy occurred on behalf of this fruit company. At the time, this was published for the use of American schoolchildren.” Lenoir further explains.“So when you take that into context, it changes what this object is.”

This is one of the reasons why Lenoir loves being in the book trade; the history you come across never seizes to blow you away.

Lenoir's journey into the book trade began at 19 when he studied fiction at Brown University. After he completed his freshman year, he sought a literary-adjacent job in his hometown for the summer. He worked with notable booksellers, Glenn Horowitz and John McWhinney, who had a seasonal bookshop out in East Hampton, New York.

“One of my bosses pulled a book inscribed to JFK from the Bishop of Boston. I'd never seen an association copy with that sort of provenance before,” Lenoir said. “It just opened my eyes to what we're talking about when discussing rare books. From there, I just fell in love with the [rare book] trade.”

Each booth at a book fair is an invitation to witness the distinctive taste of each bookseller. Lenoir couldn’t agree more. Ellipses strongly reflect Lenoir’s background as a writer and researcher. Lenoir prides himself in bringing in-depth historical research and storytelling to each item in the Ellipses’ inventory.

“I want to understand what a book is. I want to understand why it's important. I want to understand who owned it, who held it, and what situations it passed through,” Lenoir stated with passion and vigor.

Lenoir is excited to share a diverse amount of material that will stand out at the Boston Rare Book and Ephemera Fair. They will include a collection of 50s bodybuilding magazines, a 1580s alchemy book, and a book about a supposed Viking settlement.

“It was an antiquarian sort of fever dream in the late 19th century where the author believed he had determined that there had been a Viking settlement just outside Boston. He'd found all of the evidence for it,” Lenoir expands.

Lenoir is fond of spiritualist books and collections, so it would only be natural if he brought a handwritten spell book from the 1780s, called the Key of Solomon Grimoire, that teaches you how to make a flying carpet.

While booksellers often have collections that show the transformation of the world, we rarely get insight into how they have transformed as individuals working with such materials.

“I think I had a more ego. I thought I was going to contribute objects that should be collected. I was 19.” Lenoir reflects.

“I shifted from my initial interest, which was almost exclusively in history books and occult books, into an increased appreciation of literature, specifically self-published and countercultural literature.”

Lenoir has also come to appreciate the full spectrum of the historical context of a book. Not only is the book's author important to him, but he is also interested in the printer’s story.

“The contexts have become more interesting to me that all of the details start to take on new meaning,” Lenoir said.

Written by Samourra Rene in October, 2022

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