"Rare Books Get Me High," the young man's T-shirt said.
It's an expensive high. But the Washington Antiquarian Book Fair, which is at the Ramada Inn in Rosslyn through 5 p.m. today, has been drawing large numbers of book junkies.
Their heads are all cocked at a funny angle - for reading rows of titles. They can do incredibly slow plies on the way down to the bottom shelves.
Their behavior is restrained, compared to that of other types of bargain hunters, because they don't really expect to find what they want. So they gasp when they inevitably do discover - if not the one they were looking for, another book they must have, even if they hadn't known before of its exitense - is the more dramatic.
This is the second year of the fair, which is a benefit for the Concord Hill School in Chevy Chase. Unlike that other great spring event, the Vassar Book Sale, the wares are not a cross-section of donated books - some bargains and some trash - but volumes exhibited by dealers.
There are 49 dealers participating this year, from various East Coast states. There was a definite pattern noticeable in what they selected to bring - a lot more politics and Washington than you would expect to find in old book stores.
Guidebooks and old prints of Washington were everywhere. So were copies of Rudyard Kipling's "Puck of Pook's Hill," which has nothing to do with anything in these parts, but has that nice, local place-name.
And by going from stall to stall you could get an idea of current evaluations of different Presidents. An autographed "Six Crises" by Richard Nixon was $100; an unsigned "Why England Slept" by John F. Kennedy was $125, and a framed letter from Harry S. Truman, declining an invitation to the Washington Bible Society on the grounds that he was going to the Retailers' Association that day, for $100.
THere was a 1910 "White House Cook Book," subtitled "Cooks, Toilet & Household Recipes, Dinner-Giving, Table Etiquette, Care of the Sick, Health Suggestions, Facts Worth Knowing, Etc.," for $25. Written by the steward of the White House with a co-author, it includes the remedies for ring-worm, lockjaw, frowing pains and leanness, but not the gossip about who in the White House was suffering from these ailments.
Non-Washington political material included George Orwell's "Road to Wigan Pier," an account of mining conditions in England marked on the cover "Not for Sale to the Public," for sale to the public for $50; and an unpublished Civil War diary, containing water colors and maps, for $2,100.
The sale also features the usual amount of Hemingway, Steinbeck, Lewis, Fitzgerald and even Michener, so that veteran book addicts can shake their heads over the rare book status of things they remember buying fresh.
And because book dealers are also book buyers, you could find "A Book Hunter's Holiday," a three-volume "Bibliography of Prohibited Books," and "The Private Papers of a Bankrupt Bookseller."