As 2018 came to an end, the BBC featured a rising trend in collecting antiquarian material and how the internet has changed the trade. "The rise of online has helped revive the second-hand book market, but what impact has it had on traditional, second-hand book shops?"
After the Pasadena book fair in February this year I enjoyed a scenic drive up the Pacific Highway to Seattle, where I met up with the local dealers who invited me to come exhibit at the Seattle Antiquarian Book Fair in October. I thought that sounded like fun, so jumped back on the QF93 to attend my first book fair in the Pacific Northwest.
The prize, endowed with 10.000 Euro, donated by the association
Buchkultur e.V., the city of Ludwigsburg and Wiedeking
Stuttgart Foundation, will be awarded in 2019 to German philologist Klaus Völker.
"This is to be a collection without order, drawn from many papers, which I have copied here, hoping to arrange them later each in its place, according to the subjects of which they treat."
Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519)
At Bologna's city centre, Piazza de Nettuno, we are queuing up early one September morning for the coach that is to take us to Ravenna for a day trip. Just then someone from behind sends a relay mail up the queue for me. It is an A4 size sheet of paper folded in the middle and stapled at the top. I unfold the sheet. A review of Geoffrey Nunberg's The Future of the Book downloaded from the net opens out. "The death of the book has been duly announced," says the review, "and with it the end of brick-and-mortar libraries…" I turn back to see if I can spot the bookseller who sent up the review. There is a smiling face deep down the line with a pair of eyes peering at me rather mischievously. The irony of the situation is not lost on me. Here is a California University futurist announcing the death of the book just when this large group of antiquarian booksellers is setting out on a tour of antiquarian libraries in heartland Renaissance.
I've ranted before about lighthouses being one of those subject areas from which collectors have mysteriously vanished. People scrabbling and clawing in the most fearsome way for lighthouse literature and then one day, more or less out of the blue, they don't want any at all. Not even the rarest material. I suspect that in this case, eBay and print-on-demand technology killed the market. The field was largely information driven, and once people got access to cheap reprints or bargain copies of scarce texts, the game was over for dealers like me.
Swimming Rhine maidens, by special permission of H.M. the King of Bavaria – Wagner's "Ring" came to London in 1882. "He planned to open his campaign in London, and visited in October 1881 to inspect the stage at Her Majesty's Theatre, and again in April 1882 with his entire technical staff, just a month before the first performance was to take place. Although the Theatre was in theory ready, it reneged on its contract and it fell to Neumann to arrange everything, from the orchestra and chorus to the advertising (presumably why the flyer here was printed in Leipzig), even the carpets in the foyer."
A breakthrough has been made in attempts to decipher a mysterious 600-year-old manuscript written in an unknown language: The Voynich Manuscript, carbon-dated to the 1400s, was rediscovered in 1912, when the antiquarian bookseller Wilfrid Voynich bought it in Italy as part of a rare book collection. Since then it has defied codebreakers and scientists. Read the full article on BBC News.
My first scent of the world of antiquarian books had also come when I was still at school. Saturday afternoons would be spent in the many-storeyed dusty rooms of Thornton’s in Oxford -not looking for anything in particular, but taking great pleasure in handling an eighteenth century book, as a physical object as much as anything else.
Every year, the presidents of all 22 national antiquarian bookseller’s associations that form the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), meet at the President’s Meeting or an ILAB Congress. For 2017, the Danish Antiquarian Bookseller’s Association ABF has invited the international rare book trade to Copenhagen. This will be a week of formal meetings with reports and updates from each country, but it is also a week of exchanging ideas with colleagues, networking and a programme to visit some of Copenhagen’s cultural and bibliophile treasures!