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Rare Books and the Rare Book Trade
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ALAI History

ALAI History 1947-2011

Published on 01 Dec. 2010
On an autumn day in 1947, a small group of book dealers met in Milan to give life to the Circolo dei Librai Antiquari. They were not many, but they were set on granting a cultural dignity to the trade of antiquarian bookselling, on fostering friendship and understanding with foreign colleagues, on cooperating with libraries and institutions for the conservation of cultural property, and on providing collectors with a code of ethics that guaranteed a fair and professional relationship between rare book dealers and their customers. In 1971, the members of the association had increased to a few dozen when the Circle became the Associazione Librai Antiquari d'Italia. The history of the ALAI, the Italian Antiquarian Booksellers' Association, by:
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From the Vault

A sneak peek in our archives

Article

Voices of Science - The lives of British scientists recorded in a new British Library oral history archive

"Voices of Science" tells the stories of some of the most remarkable scientific and engineering discoveries of the past century. The scientists talk about their motivations, frustrations and triumphs, as well as their colleagues, families and childhoods, and the social, economic and political circumstances under which their researches, inventions and discoveries took place. Additional information is given by personal biographies, photographs and links which provide the context for each scientist's life and work.
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Article

The Best Lack All Conviction. Part 1

For some reason (and this is what I'm thinking about, not how people don't understand me and I must run off and play some Smiths), people are happy, ecstatic even to buy a car, or a watch, or a vase or a pair of shoes for enough money to feed me for six months … but when they look at a book; they don't see it. It doesn't say "You want me. I'm your treasure." It doesn't make them not want to eat for six months so they can own it ... Apart from feeling like I'd failed slightly, as if I'd somehow let down my vocation by not being able to represent it properly (a recurring theme), it occurred to me that my world is an arrogant one in many respects. Rare book people can often be like teenagers in love, they'll burn the world down for the objects of their desire. Which made me ask; why? Why are we like this?
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Article

„Vom Autographensammeln" - The First Modern Handbook on Autograph Collecting

„Vom Autographensammeln. Versuch einer Darstellung seines Wesens und seiner Geschichte im deutschen Sprachgebiet" was written by Günther Mecklenburg in 1963. It was the first modern handbook on autograph collecting - and still is THE German book on this subject. In various chapters the author describes all the basics of autograph collecting, gives definitions of common terms and abbreviations used in catalogues as well as a list of relevant bibliographies, catalogue raisonnés and archives. Günther Mecklenburg explains how autograph collections are built, how they are described and valuated. He lists resources to identify the handwritings of artists, authors, politicians and scientists and gives valuable advice how to differentiate between the original autograph and forgeries.
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Dedication Copies and the Antiquarian Book Trade

How much is it worth? This question is most often asked by book collectors. And most often, there is not a precise answer. Although it is quite common nowadays to discuss rare books "as investments", the value of a book can hardly be counted in Dollars and Euros. It is even more difficult to measure the "worth" of dedication copies. Is the book inscribed by the author? Is this author famous and important, dead or alive? To whom is the book inscribed? Which words did the author choose to express his gratitude or sympathy? Eberhard Köstler, autograph specialist, gives examples of dedications by George Bernard Shaw, George Orwell, Franz Kafka, Thomas Mann and many other authors, and he shows that nothing is binding when it comes to the "real worth" of dedications.
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Article

Fine presses and the bookseller

The recent CODEX Foundation book arts festival and symposium The Fate of the Art: The Hand Printed Book in the 21st Century, or Kochfest as I like to call it, was by all accounts a highpoint for the fine press community. It provided a well-deserved spark to all who attended and participated, being the most significant event for the trade in many many years.
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