A page from Semyon Korsakov’s pamphlet on ‘mechanised thought’, the first catalogue on the history of AI, offered by Jeremy Norman & Co for $35,000 at California International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

If the use of AI is a popular topic of conversation these days, one of the highlights of an upcoming American fair shows such concepts are older than you might think.

On sale at at the 56th California International Antiquarian Book Fair is the first catalogue on the history of artificial intelligence published in 1832 by Russian statistician and inventor Semyon Korsakov, a pioneer on the idea of ‘mechanised thought’ (artificial intelligence).

He was a statistician with the Russian Police Ministry and here describes and illustrates his “machines for comparing ideas”.

Designs included the linear homeoscope with moveable parts, the ideoscope and the simple comparator. These would facilitate the search for information stored on punched cards – making Korsakov the first to use these cards for the storage of information.

Running to 22 pages with two folding plates, the pamphlet is available from Jeremy Norman & Co for $35,000.

New location

The fair is run by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA) from February 9-11 at a new location at Pier 27 in San Francisco.

Jeremy Norman & Co is one of more than 120 exhibitors standing at the event including Robert Frew, Maggs Bros, Bernard Quaritch, Janette Ray, Peter Harrington Rare Books and Jonkers Rare Books. Ten countries are represented.

The return to San Francisco follows nearly 10 years in Oakland, and fair director Julia Roper is positive about the current state of fairs. She says: “Post-pandemic, we are seeing resurgent demand for in-person fairs, where a global community of the top dealers offers the most sought-after collections of books, maps, illustrations, and ephemera. The experience of attending in person is like no other – it’s a real-life treasure hunt.”

Aiming to attract 5000 visitors, organisers think the fair could benefit the city. According to an estimate by SF Travel, the event could generate $2.1m in revenue for restaurants and merchants during its three-day run.

Attractions within the fair include several lectures such as Latinos and Spanish-Language Printing in 19th Century California and Typographic Jazz: The Monoprints of Jack Stauffacher.


Priced at $20,000 on the stand of Mark Funke at California International Antiquarian Book Fair is this original cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K Le Guin.

But, as always, the main draw will be the array of exhibitor highlights to admire and buy. Among the stand-outs is the original cover art for The Left Hand of Darkness, a science-fiction book by Ursula K Le Guin which explored the effect of sex and gender on society. Discovered at an estate sale in Oakland, it is now on offer for $20,000 from Mark Funke.


Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings trilogy, first editions, 1954-55, available from Marshall Rare Books for $60,200 at California International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Neatline Antique Map brings a 1911 map of San Francisco, 4 x 5ft (1.22 x 1.52m), made in the aftermath of the Great Earthquake of 1906 ($45,000) and Biblioctopus offers original lyrics for the Beatles in Paul McCartney’s hand ($650,000).


Abraham Lincoln Book Shop offers this ambrotype of its namesake housed in an 1865 period frame with mourning ribbons setting off the ambrotype at the corners. One of the president’s favourite images of himself, this copy is available for $35,000 at California International Antiquarian Book Fair.