One of the highlight sales from the new PBFA Preston Premier Book Fair was the result of a happy coincidence.
A colourplate book of flowers sold to a visitor from New Zealand for £2000 from Lucius Books of York.
The visitor to the Brockholes Nature Reserve in Samlesbury, near Preston, had not realised that the two-day fair was taking place and popped in on a whim, leaving pleased with their purchase.
The setting of the new fair, running from July 7-8, was itself a highlight: not only did it encourage new customers who were just visiting the reserve but also some of the dealers had signed on encouraged by the location.
Josh Green from Green Ink Booksellers in Hay-on-Wye said: “I like being here – not local – and I came for the location. I saw the picture and thought there is no chance of missing this.”
Christian White from Christian White Rare Books (Ilkley) shared similar sentiments and said: “It’s a perverse experience of setting up all our lovely books overlooking water but in this case we’re on an island. Just to be exhibiting books here is so exciting.”
Many visitors had specific titles and genres in mind.
Prof Nick Bosanquet, a retired professor of health economics from York, popped in to find anything for his collection of inter-war period health services and northern England achievements.
He picked up multiple books and pamphlets but was particularly pleased with a copy of the British Health Services Report from 1937 that he had found for £45.
He said: “I’m a satisfied customer as the prices at the PBFA fairs are more reasonable than the shops.”
Alongside some public purchases, trade buying was booming. There were 41 dealers exhibiting in total, including from London, Scotland and south-west England.
Organiser of the new fair, Neil Summersgill, purchased a signed copy of Robert Curzon’s Armenia from Worlds End Bookshop (London) which had a £250 asking price. This was one of the 14 books that Worlds End sold within the first hour to the trade and had only arrived last week from the collection of a British diplomat.
Dealers Roger Treglown from Roger Treglown Antiquarian Books (Cumbria) and Sarah Keys from the Haunted Bookshop (Cambridge) also lauded great trade sales. Keys said: “I’ve sold a bit and bought quite a lot… If you put the right 25/40 dealers in the right place, they’ll buy books from each other.”
Graham York from Graham York Rare Books (Devon) agreed trade buying had been good and also said that he “did very well from the Highlights before the fair started” (Highlights is the online selection of books promoted ahead of the fair on the PBFA website).
As it was the first time at this venue, some teething issues included the removal of the parking fee not being advertised and a bit of confusion due to the fair operating across two buildings on site. Visitor numbers were not tracked but overall this first PBFA Preston Premier Book Fair was judged a success.
Glenn Miller from Deep Neutral Books (York) said: “I’m happy with the turnout. I wasn’t expecting huge amounts because it’s a new fair but it’s been well supported.”
Adam Yates from Grove Rare Books (Skipton) added: “I’m standing at this one to a degree because Neil is setting it up and it’s a huge effort to do things from scratch.”
That effort seemed to have paid off: after the fair Summersgill was pleased with the footfall and said the café on site had even sold out of food which showed that the venue was busier than expected.
He said 80% of the exhibitors were keen to exhibit again and he is planning to run the event in 2024, which will be advertised on the PBFA website when a date is set.