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Andy Pays A Visit To The Book Fair

Why The Antiquarian Book Fair Is A Reminder Of Civilization's Endurance

The following is a weekly 60 Minutes commentary by CBS News correspondent Andy Rooney.

We're so used to having books around us all the time that we don't think of it but books are one of the greatest inventions of all time. They're certainly ahead of the elastic band or the safety pin.

The New York Antiquarian Book Fair is the best book fair in the world and we went and looked at a lot of old books there. You don't have to read a book to enjoy it. Just having a book is as much a pleasure as having a picture on the wall.

There were booksellers from France, Germany, Italy, England, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Spain - even California. Good old books aren't cheap.

At the book fair, some sellers were offering books ranging from $52,500 to $700,000.

Book dealers aren't like used car salesmen. I think they like their books better than the money.

Bookseller: The Hondius Mercator Atlas from 1637.

Andy: And how much would that sell for?

Bookseller: About $35,000.

Andy: Do you sell many of them?

Bookseller: No, and it takes time to sell them. And when the right person comes along.

Unlike most people with something to sell, you don't get the feeling that they're anxious to get rid of their books.

The earliest bound volumes were published several hundred years ago. Hard to pinpoint a date for publishing.

You wonder who reads some of these, like "British Ferns," Volumes One and Two. I'll wait for them to make the movie of that.

"Nicolls Birds Of Egypt," Volumes One and Two; "The Communications Theory Of Secrecy Systems." It doesn't sound like a book you'd keep next to your bed.

"A Fighting Man Of Mars"—this was written by Edgar Rice Burroughs, who wrote the Tarzan books.

No one knows how many copies of some of these books were printed, probably no more than a few hundred. Today they print a million copies of a bestseller. Don't look for any of them 200 years from now though.

It's easy to get thinking that the world is going to hell sometimes but there are a few things that provide hope that our civilization will endure - the New York Book Fair is one of them.