Alicia, congratulations on your recent election as the President of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of Spain! First, could you share your background with us, how you entered the world of rare books, and describe your business?
I was born into a family of booksellers, my grandfather opened the current bookshop in Madrid in 1947, which was run by my father for more than 60 years. I grew up surrounded by books and I used to spend Saturdays with my dad at the store when I was teenager, but I never thought of it as a living, to be honest. I used to fantasize about having my own collection, but not really about the trade. I went to law school and moved to London to do an internship in 1996. A few months later, I ended up at Christie's, where I had a great time and the opportunity to learn a lot with Tom Lamb and Meg Ford's team. Months later, I was offered a position at Christie's South Kensington, where I carried on learning and “incubating this weird bibliophile disease”!
After a couple of years in London, I decided to go back to law in Madrid, which was what I always thought I wanted to do, but one year later, I started working on the business. In 2008, I took over the family business with my sister Belen and since then, we have been trying to live up to our father, which is not easy. I have never regretted my decision and enjoy almost every single day looking for special books and meeting amazing people, clients, and colleagues all over the world.
Could you provide us with a brief overview of the current state of the rare book trade in Spain? How has the trade evolved over the past few years, and are there notable trends or changes that you believe are shaping the market for rare books?
I believe the rare book trade in Spain has had the same or very similar evolution to what has occurred in other European countries in the last few years, especially after the pandemic. Although the trade in Spain has always been limited, fortunately, it is still alive. There are still private customers who keep their enthusiasm and a desire to expand their collections, institutions continue to make an effort to allocate budget for the acquisition of new pieces, and, in my opinion, there is a growing interest in the younger audience. In recent years, trends have changed, and there is an increasing number of young people who view our market as an attractive and valuable asset. Collectors of modern and contemporary literature, in particular, have emerged with strength and antique books have started to be on the radar of younger art collectors. We have to carry on doing our best to keep growing!
You have been involved in the organization of the Madrid Book Fair for many years. This year, the fair moved to a new location, and we noticed an incredibly positive response by the press. How did you achieve such a remarkable result?
Yes, last November, we held the thirteenth International Madrid Book Fair in a new place, in one of the nicest commercial districts of the city, full of life, art galleries, and restaurants. The outgoing President, Gonzalo Fernandez Pontes and his team did a great job with the press, we had a lot of visitors and very good results.
If any of us plans to visit your hometown, Madrid, besides your beautiful historic bookshop, what should not be missed by a bibliophile?
Madrid is absolutely on fire after the pandemic, so you should definitely come around! There are many amazing libraries to visit: the Alba Collection at the Palacio de Liria, Francisco Zabálburu’s Library, the Royal Palace and the National Library and, of course, the stunning Royal Library of San Lorenzo de El Escorial, designed by Juan de Herrera for Felipe II, with a huge collection of over 40,000 books and manuscripts surrounded by colorful frescoes at the ceilings. Madrid is right now ranked as the third most attractive city in the world, so it is always worth a visit!! Besides the mentioned libraries, you will find amazing museums, as you know, the Prado, the Reina Sofia, the Thyssen-Bornemisza, the Naval Museum, or the Museo de America; great shows, very good restaurants, and great nightlife.
To contact Alicia Bardon, please follow >> this link
Impressions from the 2023 Madrid Antiquarian Book Fair