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Olympia 2010 attracts serious collectors again

The 53rd London International Antiquarian Book Fair, the oldest such book fair in the world and London's oldest collectors fair, has proven once again that London is a key marketplace for the serious collector and dealer.
Published on 10 June 2010

By Angelika Elstner

The 53rd London International Antiquarian Book Fair, the oldest such book fair in the world and London’s oldest collectors fair, has proven once again that London is a key marketplace for the serious collector and dealer.

Stock of exceptional quality brought by over 150 internationally renowned dealers from 18 countries made this year’s fair, once again, an outstanding event in the international fair calendar. The introduction of a Charity Preview in aid of the Royal Society of Literature resulted in increased visitor numbers on the first day and dealers reported an enjoyable buying atmosphere, being able to entertain specially invited clients in an exclusive setting.

The fair began with a long queue, which had been building up on Opening Day, and progressed with more and more buyers coming throughout Friday and Saturday, as the fair continued. But it’s not simply the number of visitors that indicates a successful fair. This year’s fair suggested that, at the top end of the market, stock of high quality continues to attract serious buyers even in times of global recession, whether they are buying for museums, international libraries or as private collector.

Robert Frew, Chairman of the Olympia Committee: “We will continue to provide the international antiquarian book trade with a platform to trade, to meet new clients and repeat business year on year. During the three days of the fair, I have met with many of my colleagues and dealers from around the world and we can see that the buying is picking up again. Without being allowed to mention names, there were a number of significant 6-figure sales at the fair and a number of dealers expect very good follow on business after the fair.”

The works on display at the fair covered a vast range of collectors’ interests: rare books from the genesis of European printing in the 15th century through to the present day, including first editions, fine bindings, illustrated books, manuscripts, maps, prints and all manner of ephemera.

Organised by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA), the fair is affiliated to the nternational League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), and exhibitors must be ILAB dealers.

Adrian Harrington, internationally renowned London dealer and President of the ILAB: “The organisers proved again that London is a key fair for international collectors and they are capable of organising an event which attracts serious buyers. International collectors and trade fairs such as Olympia are an important marketplace for the antiquarian book trade.”

For the first time the fair offered lectures on trade specific topics and on book collecting for the new collector. These were very well attended, as was the first “Antiquarian Book Road Show”, and are very likely to be repeated next year. The Downstairs section, now in its 2nd year, offered exhibition space to bookbinders, private presses and other affiliated trades and was again a welcome addition to the fair.

Kevin Johnson of Royal Books, USA, reported excellent business, mainly on Thursday and Saturday, with a number of new clients.

Keith Fletcher, exhibitor for 53 years, sold a one volume Hebrew Bible, printed in Venice in 1521, to a private collector.

Wesley Begg from Contact Editions, Canada, reported solid sales and a particularly busy Opening Day.

Susanne Schulz-Falster, based in the UK and specialising in 17th and 18th Century continental books, Social Sciences and Illustrated books, sold a very rare “Panorama of London” to a private collector.

Michael Silverman, renowned autograph letters and manuscripts dealer from the UK, sold an exceptional letter by Samuel Beckett about James Joyce.

Certainly a highlight of this fair was reported by Brecht Devroe of Sanderus Antiquariaat in Gent, Belgium. Sanderus sold a three volume Incunabula “Koberger Bible”, ca.1480 for £110,000.

Bruce Marshall Rare Books told the organisers that he had a lot of customer interest and a very successful fair across the range, for his medium to higher priced stock.

Paul Foster, UK: “I did a lot better than last year. There were some phases of real activity.”

Jonathan Kearns of Adrian Harrington Booksellers reported a younger audience and a number of new clients. “We had visitors at the stand that had never been to a book fair before.”

Fair dates for 2011 will be announced shortly on the website:

For questions and high res images of the fair, please contact Angelika Elstner ´

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