Wednesday - 20 August 2014

Book dealers with a light touch – but business at the fair is serious

18 October 2011Written by ATG Reporter

YOU get the impression that the Chelsea Antiquarian Book Fair does not take itself too seriously – the opening page of the website bears the famous Groucho Marx quotation: "Outside of a dog, a book is a man's best friend. Inside of a dog, it's too dark to read."

Organised by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA), this relaxed gem of a fair is now in its 21st year and opens on November 4 and 5 at its usual venue, the Chelsea Old Town Hall on London's King's Road.

It's a good size with more than 75 exhibitors, all members of the ABA or its international umbrella organisation, the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB).

They offer a variety of antiquarian and collectable books, maps, prints and ephemera, from the 16th to 21st centuries at prices from £10 into five figures.

Refreshingly, the ABA is notably transparent when it comes to pricing and all exhibits at the fair will be clearly priced.

It is the range of these prices which attracts an array of visitors from international trade to first-time buyers seeking a more personal alternative to Waterstones for unusual Christmas presents.

This year there will be a number of new and returning exhibitors.

Among them are Tim Bryars, Classic Bindings, Peter Ellis, Natalie Galustian, Grove Rare Books, High Street Books, Holybourne Rare Books, Studio Bibliografico Lex Antiqua, Antiquariat Hans Lindner, Marchpane, Bernard Quaritch, Tindley & Chapman and the bizarrely named Ferret Fantasy.

An aside this year is a selling exhibition of paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures and photography by seven artists, each giving their own interpretation of the printed book - a species under threat in the Kindle age for modern booksellers who must look wistfully at the antiquarian market.

Fair chairman, Leo Cadogan, says: "The Chelsea Book Fair is the ideal place for this kind of exhibition. It's a place where serious book trade and book buyers meet and do business as well as a simply wonderful environment for booklovers with very different budgets."

By Anna Brady

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