Notes from Sydney - The ILAB Internship in Australia from October to December 2011
By Pavel Chepyzhov
Here I am reporting from sunny Sydney where I am highly enjoying my ILAB internship. I am a student at the Moscow State University of Printing Arts where I participate in the courses about the antiquarian book trade held by professor Olga Tarakanova. My internship is part of the program which is organized by the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers to give a hand to young booksellers like me to get in touch with foreign colleagues. So I got lucky to go to Australia, and I want to write about my experiences here in the form of brief posts to keep you informed about what is going on down under!
I have already been staying in Australia for three weeks. Most of the time I have spent with Paul Feain - the owner of Cornstalk Bookshop and the General Secretary of ILAB. Paul is amazing. He is sharing the secrets of a bookseller's life with me, and believe me: after more than 30 years in the trade he knows all about it. Right now Paul is in Hong Kong preparing the 5th Hong Kong International Antiquarian Book Fair which will start on December 2, 2011.
For now I would like to tell you about the place where I am working at the moment. According to Paul the owners of this bookshop “are definitely some of the best booksellers in the world”. Their place is called Hordern House, and they belong to the leading specialists in voyages, travel books and Australiana.
Working here is a pleasure and priceless experience. Hordern House is the place where the travel books feel at home. The people who work here know everything about taking care of them. The subjects of Hordern House's books are very wide and very specific at the same time. Here you find books on voyages in all imaginable languages including Swedish, Russian, and Chinese. A special delight was to discover a Russian book on the shelves. It is a very important account on the Russian exploration of East Siberia.
Although Hordern House deals with very expensive books people here always manage to keep smiles on their faces and every now and then roars of laughter can be heard. I have to admit that jokes here are as good as books. The rare book dealers behind these jokes and these books are the charming Anne McCormick, Derek McDonnell and Matthew Fishburn.
Hordern House publishes amazing catalogues which are in themselves collectable items. Among them you find very specific ones like the catalogue on books about James Cook's third voyage or a catalogue on books about imaginary voyages.
As you can see I m really enjoying my time in Australia. I have already learnt so much and I am looking forward to learn more. I can only thank ILAB, Eric Waschke, Olga Tarakanova, Paul Feain and everybody who is involved in the ILAB Internship Program for giving me this opportunity.
Yesterday the Sydney Antiquarian Book Fair started. I am going to write about it a bit later after it will have finished, because I want to tell you all the details and highlights of the event.
This post is dedicated to the man who made it possible that I could make my internship in Australia. I am talking about Paul Feain of Cornstalk Bookshop, the ILAB Secretary and former president of the The Australian and New Zealand Association of Antiquarian Booksellers (ANZAAB). I am spending the majority of time here with him, and all those priceless things about bookselling and life I learn from him. So I will tell you about Paul and his bookish life.
When I opened Matthew Fishburn’s book of Hordern House, which is placed on one of Paul's shelves at home, I saw Matthew’s dedication: 'To the best bookseller in Sydney'. It was the day before I met Paul and now, after spending a month with him, I can really see why Matthew got it right.
Being in business for more than 30 years Paul is still as energetic as he was in his 20s, says Brisbane bookseller Harri Peltola of Read’s Rare Book Shop who knows him from that times. Indeed it is hard to imagine how one man can possibly do all these things at the same time - running a shop, organizing the Hong Kong Book Antiquarian Book Fair and running Sydney Rare Book Auctions.
The interesting thing is that in all these projects everything which has to be done is done because of Paul. Or as Sally Burdon told me the other day: 'The Hong Kong Fair wasn't something that was waiting for a man to rule it. It was hard work and Paul had to start from the very beginning'.
Today the Hong Kong Fair is one of the most promising and fast-growing international book fairs with exhibitors from all over the world and fantastic sales. The market there has a huge perspective and booksellers should be eager to develop it more and more, because the connections between the Asian and the Western rare book trade have not always been that good.
Nevertheless, Paul always finds time to enjoy himself and to do what he wants to do in his life. Last weekend he ran a half-marathon, his fourth of fifth this year. And he actually won the over-60 competition. No matter how busy his day is going to be, Paul runs every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 5.30 am. I had the pleasure to accompany him, and I can tell you that with Sydney's climate and the Australian nature the runs in the Centanial Park are amazing, they are like a piece of art. It is the combination of morning mist, cockatoos and other exotic birds, British lawn and the view of the city's buildings in the distance which gives you a truly aesthetic pleasure.
Immediately after the half-marathon on Sunday, Paul walked into the local bookstore where he managed to sell several boxes of books to the lady who looks after the store. I am not sure how many deals Paul already made while he was running the half-marathons, but I suppose it could be several according to his enormous energy. The secret of it lies in Paul's motto:
'Whatever you do in your life you should always find a time to stop and sniff the daisies on the way'.
I'm still in Sydney enjoying my ILAB internship and I am still doing fine and enjoying every moment of it. Today, I want to tell you about the Sydney Antiquarian Book Fair which took place a week ago.
I was involved in the book fair all the way until it was finished and even some time afterwards. Actually most of the time during the fair my hands were occupied by lifting boxes with books, arranging books on the shelves and shaking the hands of colleagues. I enjoyed the latest with great pleasure because the Fair was a big chance for me to get to know the booksellers from all over Australia. On the fair there were representatives from Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra, Perth, Adelaide, Brisbane, Tasmania and even two international exhibitors - Ursus Books from New York and Classic Posters from Switzerland. And, of course, we should not forget the magnificent Nigel Firth of Addison Publications who came all the way from London.
The most important thing for me was the outstanding atmosphere of comfort and friendliness. Sally Burdon, the President of ANZAAB, says that for her the fair is both fun and bookselling. And that's what the Sydney Antiquarian Book Fair was about.
One thing that caught my eye was an item displayed by Douglas Stewart from Melbourne - it was a Japanese manuscript Kankai Ibun from the 1850s describing the adventures of two Japanese sailors who got shipwrecked in Russian American lands and made a trip from Okhotsk to Saint Petersburg. Then the Japanese took part in the first Russian circumnavigation on the famous ship Nadezhda. The coloured pictures in the manuscript are not very accurate, but at the same time they are quite cute and some of the views of Saint Petersburg made me feel homesick. Anyway, the manuscript was sold for about US$ 20 000. The outstanding thing about the Sydney Antiquarian Book Fair was that it was held in one of the most important libraries of Australia - the New South Wales State Library. If there is a rivalry between booksellers and librarians you cannot feel it in Australia. The relationships are very close and it is a joy to witness how booksellers and librarians care about the books.
In the meantime I have returned from Canberra where I spent some absolutely outstanding day with Sally Burden in her shop Asia Bookroom. Three piles of Russian books were waiting for me there to sort out and I was happy to get my hands on them. Sally's bookshop is probably the most specific and unique. I will write more about it very soon.
See you later,