This first edition of Tales of Terror published in 1899 brings together a series of supernatural fiction stories by Dick Donovan. At the PBFA’s London International Book Fair at the ILEC Conference Centre in SW6 on May 27-28 it is priced at £1750 by Jonathan Kearns Rare Books of London.
Back in 1958 when 28 members of the British Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) were fudged together for a specialist fair in London, few anticipated what would soon follow. The ‘international’ rare book fair was born and equivalent events would soon follow in New York, California, Boston plus others in Europe – all destined to become annual fixtures on the book collecting calendar.
Canadian dealer Bernhard Lauser of Voyager Press Books will bring this archive of 77 propaganda documents to the ABA’s Olympia fair. Priced at £1570, the documents from 20 different counties mainly promote political and war ideologies, including communism and fascism, but also endorse and initiate women’s liberation, gender equality and peace campaigns from the 1940s to 1960s.
This year – when bibliographic anniversaries including the death of William Shakespeare abound – the London International Antiquarian Book Fair runs for the 59th time at the National Hall, Olympia from May 26-29. For the first time it comes under the marketing umbrella Rare Books London, a joint initiative with the Provincial Booksellers’ Fair Association (PBFA) whose own flagship event, the London International Book Fair is held concurrently at the ILEC Conference Centre in SW6 on May 27-28. The two events (united by a dedicated shuttle service) have a mood and a price point of their own but together they showcase just under 300 dealers in west London across three days.
Illuminated manuscripts owned by Belgian industrialist and collector Maurice Burrus (1882-1959) will be offered by Christie’s King Street on May 25. The undisputed highlight is this copy of the works of the French poet Alain Chartier (c.1386-c.1430) decorated in early 15th century Paris by the Dunois Master. It is expected to bring £1.5m-2.5m.
Nearby in the Olympia Suite of the Olympia Hilton hotel, new book and works on paper auctioneer Forum Auctions, launched only this month by key former members of London’s Bloomsbury Auctioneers, will introduce their brand and show items from forthcoming sales, while on May 25 Christie’s will conduct the sale of illuminated manuscripts from the collection of Belgian industrialist and politician Maurice Burrus (1882-1959).
Their whereabouts unknown for many years, these medieval survivors include a stellar copy of the works of French poet Alain Chartier (c.1386-c.1430) embellished by the Dunois Master, the leading painter of miniatures in Paris in the early 15th century. It is expected to bring £1.5m-2.5m.
There’s no doubt the book trade is changing. Launched in 1996 with the listings of just four bookstores, the giant online portal Antiquarian Book Exchange (AbeBooks now owned by Amazon) is 20 years old this year. Millions of out-of-print books are now available to click and collect.
The use of the internet to sell rare and collectable books has, in a matter of two decades, created a marketplace that would be scarcely recognisable to those 28 post-war London pioneers.
Well-suited to the search term, the trade in centuries of written thought and literature is arguably more customer-focused than ever before. However, even in the age of ‘Abe’ and Kindle, when dusty second-hand book stores are disappearing from British and American high streets, it is still predominantly at the fair and in the shop where dealers meet clients and establish the brand loyalty that can so often be lost when just another trader on a portal site.
The momentum surrounding Rare Books London underlines that new technology will not replace all the old ways.