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Booklovers descend on Olympia for London International Antiquarian Book Fair


Blue skies at Olympia

Almost every book that ever made a mark on the world appears to be here at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair in the Olympia exhibition centre. It’s rather like the world’s largest lesson in book history. A Paradise Lost here, numerous James Bond first editions there, a liberal sprinkling of Evelyn Waughs across the room.

The event has true international appeal. There are booksellers from at least 10 countries, including Argentina and Russia, and collectors fly in from the US, Germany, Italy, France and many other places to buy books. Many of the rare book world’s most famous sellers are in attendance from Bernard Quaritch of London to Bauman Rare Books of New York.

The fair attracted a solid opening day crowd, with a line-up of people waiting in the warm London sunshine before the doors opened. Walking the floor, it was obvious that books were being sold. It was also clear that this is an event where old friendships are renewed with sellers greeting numerous familiar faces among the visitors.

Alongside the deeply impressive antiquarian books and goodness only knows how many modern first editions, there are also prints, atlases and maps, and art books. I have also seen a couple of signed cricket bats, an antiquarian microscope, globes and a large amount of ephemera.

Although there are expensive books in every direction, visitors are encouraged to handle the books. A mission of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association, the event’s organiser, is to make rare book collecting as accessible as possible.

One of the talking points of this fair is that the event will move to a new location in 2018 after 20 years at Olympia. Located on Chelsea Bridge Gate, Battersea Evolution will host the event next year from 24 to 26 May.

It continues today (Saturday) from 11am to 4pm – come down and see some of the world’s finest rare books.

James and Georgina Hallgate from Lucius Books located in York. Lucius offers rare books and manuscripts with a focus on modern first editions, literature, children’s books, crime and detective fiction, illustrated books and original artwork

Anthony Smithson from Keel Row Books in North Shields. Anthony had a broad range of books from North East-themed books to a first issue of the Viz comic

Pedro Castro e Silva from Lisbon’s Livraria Castro E Silva displays an early Portuguese book. Livraria Castro E Silva, which has an open shop in the centre of Lisbon, offers numerous examples of books about the early Portuguese explorers.

Titus Boeder, a travel and exploration specialist from Maggs Bros Ltd, handles a couple of rare books. Established in 1853, Maggs Brothers is one of the world’s oldest antiquarian bookselling firms.

I turned one corner and spotted these rare medical books, open to these beautiful if slightly gruesome illustrations

Some of the most expensive books at the fair were atlases offered by Daniel Crouch Rare Books. Prices went up to as much as £900,000. This firm specialises in antique atlases, maps, plans, sea charts and voyages dating from the 15th to 19th centuries.

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