Enjoy unlimited access: just £1 for 12 weeks

Subscribe now

Running from May 24-26, it is one of many events, including talks, walks, auctions and the PBFA Fair, see opposite, taking place under the Rare Books London umbrella.

This year the ABA fair has upped sticks from the Olympia Exhibition Centre in Kensington, its long-time former venue, and is now set to open at Battersea Evolution, a trendier, greener location south of the river in Battersea Park.

The change in location is accompanied by a rebrand. Formerly the London International Antiquarian Book Fair, it is now the ABA Rare Book Fair London, a snappier title, more inclusive and perhaps less intimidating for the first-time shopper.

Returning exhibitor Clare Trimming of Beaux Books is positive about both developments.

“The move to Battersea is really exciting. It’s such a good area and it will be nice to get out and walk around the park,” she says.

She offers books on the art and culture of the 20th century including design, fashion and photography.

“The name change helps, since I wouldn’t classify myself as specialising in antiquarian material, and that can be confusing for the novice buyer,” she adds.

Many newcomers

Trimming is among more than 186 exhibitors, including 35 newcomers, attending this year, up from last year’s 166.

Maggs Bros, Neil Pearson Rare Books, Bauman Rare Books, Peter Harrington, Daniel Crouch and Librairie Rodolphe Chamonal are among the dealers.

Signalling its ongoing drive for wider appeal is the fair’s extensive educational programme which includes demonstrations of traditional bookbinding, typesetting and calligraphy. Talks on book collecting take place at the inaugural ‘Vintage Corner’ and on the Saturday there will be half-hour tours for children aged seven and older.

Organisers have emphasised that this year’s edition includes a number of female book dealers, countering the sector’s masculine image: Charlotte du Rietz, Janette Ray, Sophie Dupre and Valerie Jackson- Harris of Quadrille are among the contingent at the fair.

“The name change helps, since I wouldn’t classify myself as specialising in antiquarian material, and that can be confusing for the novice”

Laura Massey of Alembic Rare Books stands at this year’s fair offering material on science, technology and women’s history.

But even as an established dealer she adds that “there are challenges” to not matching the traditional perception of a rare books enthusiast. “For a long time the book trade has presented itself as male,” she says. “You want to know that you’re going to be taken seriously when you engage about material you want to buy. That doesn’t always happen initially.”

But over the past few years, she says, “there have been more young women getting involved in the rare book trade. They are being vocal about the fact that they are here and they can be dealers in their own right.”


Helen Rosenau’s 'Woman in Art: From Type to Personality' (London: Isomorph, 1944) is offered by Alembic Rare Books for £750. It is the first and only edition of this early work of feminist art theory by a leading British art historian.

Various schemes to encourage female participation now exist on both the buying and selling sides.

Networking events for women have been arranged around various international book fairs, including those in California and New York.

In the US the annual Honey & Wax Book Collecting Prize is for female collectors. And at the upcoming London fair, dealer Deborah Coltham is set to present a talk on women booksellers.

In part, Trimming credits the flexibility of the online book trade with an apparent recent rise in female participation. “Previously the only option was to work from a bookshop, but now there’s the chance to trade online and make your own business.”

In her experience, buyers are still predominantly male.

“In the past, men have just been more into collecting generally. I still have male clients predominantly,” she says. “A growing number of women booksellers might help pull in female buyers, though. And the fair this year is an opportunity to draw in a new crowd of people.”


All images are copyright of their respective dealerships.