Welcome to the sixth annual supplement produced by Antiques Trade Gazette showcasing the world of rare books and works on paper.
These past 12 months have undoubtedly been the most challenging period in so many of our lives; indeed, it remains the case that the tragedy of Covid continues to blight so many regions of the world. However, and in the spirit of optimism, I look forward to the months ahead with a growing confidence that we in the UK appear to be emerging from the worst.
On the whole, the book world seems to have coped remarkably well with the difficulties imposed by lockdowns, social distancing and other necessary restrictions.
Nascent ‘virtual’ bookfairs alongside ‘behind closed doors’ and ‘online only’ auctions have thrived and expanded audiences. Certainly, we at Forum have observed a considerable increase in first-time buyers utilising some of their newfound spare time to discover the joys of book collecting.
I dare say another silver lining emerging from recent experiences has been the streamlining of client services and improvements in post-sale fulfilment. I can almost imagine a time when successful bidders are delivered purchases by a daily release of squadrons of carrier drones from our rooftop!
As I reflect on our trading highlights of the past five years, many of which feature in this supplement, it is striking how much the market has changed. The efficiency and apparent ease with which my colleagues plough through the cataloguing and illustration of our near-weekly online sales disguises the detailed attention that ensures our presentation of lots is consistent, regardless of whether a £100 mixed lot or a £100,000 masterpiece.
With selling rates in excess of 90% and realisations always exceeding mid-estimates, the ‘timed online’ sale format pioneered by Forum in 2016 is now the work horse of our sales calendar.
Looking ahead to the summer I am equally struck by the diversity of properties we are preparing for auction. Alongside the mixed disciplines of our weekly timed auctions are single-owner entries ranging from the David Beazley Collection of Angling Prints to a fascinating selection of space photography from the renowned Stephen White Space Collection.
I am equally excited at the expectation that our landmark ‘traditional’ live sales will be emerging from behind closed doors and returning to The Westbury Hotel from July, and it is fitting that our 250th auction falls on the fifth anniversary of our first such event in July 2016.
A highlight amidst our rich calendar of forthcoming sales is an immaculate single-owner collection of inscribed and association copies of modern literary treasures.
I, for one, cannot wait to be raising my gavel again to an audience of room bidders in preference to the impersonality of the video camera transmitting into the ether.
I feel it is fair to observe that the pandemic has not compromised our enduring aim to offer buyers and sellers alike the optimum platform, service and experience for handling the sale at auction of books and all other works on paper. As ever, we warmly welcome hearing from our established clients, and I enthusiastically offer my assurance to those readers who have not yet dealt with us of our unfailing focus on fulfilling any requests made of us to the very best standards.
I end by making the cheery observation that the seemingly universal consensus among economic commentators predicting a post-lockdown consumer-spending spree will benefit our niche world as much as the wider economy over the coming months.
Very best wishes for the summer.
Rupert Powell, deputy chairman and head of books, Forum Auctions