Nearly 120 exhibitors are set to attend the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA) flagship event which runs from September 16-18, its second outing at the Saatchi Gallery.
The increase is down partly to a re-opening world. Last year the fair was rescheduled several times before opening in October – rather than its usual May slot – with Covid restrictions still in place and many international exhibitors unable to travel.
ABA president Pom Harrington of Peter Harrington Rare Books said: “The main difference is that overseas exhibitors can now travel and the attitude towards Brexit challenges has calmed down and dealers have got used to it.
“Last year it was a tough show, but the 75 domestic members that stood were only about 10 fewer than what we would normally expect”.
A successful outing last time – including the average take doubling and a £300,000 sale to a walk-in buyer on opening night – meant there was plenty of enthusiasm for this next fair.
A host of major international firms are set to stand such as Inlibris of Austria, Forum Rare Books of The Netherlands, Sophia Rare Books from Denmark and Libreria Bardón of Spain. So is Sam Fogg, the medieval art specialist, for the first time.
Numbers are a far cry from what they were years ago. In the 1980s-90s, when the ABA fair was staged at London Olympia, there might easily be 250 exhibitors. However, as a generation of dealers more attuned to online trading rises and the previous fair-driven ones retire, it was getting more difficult for organisers to fill the intervening venue, Battersea Evolution.
These days, Harrington says, most ABA members are willing to pay more for a central London base that is more accessible than the west London exhibition centres.
This year’s September slot is a one off and the fair will return to its tradition timing in May next year.