Tim White of Australian dealership Books for Cooks is returning for his second edition of Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair this year.
The event hosts more than 100 dealers at Chelsea’s Saatchi Gallery from May 19-21. It is a major event for UK dealers, and continues to pull in a healthy crowd of overseas exhibitors despite rising costs and (in the case of continental exhibitors) Brexit challenges.
This year, White comes armed with several highlights including the first and second Australian cookery books: the first, published in London 1864, The English & Australian Cookery Book, and the second The Australian Cook by Alfred J Wilkinson published in Melbourne 1876, which was the first to be published in Australia.
White says: “Australia’s publishing history is closely entwined with British publishing and much of the stock we handle has a British connection or origin.”
Although he started exhibiting at fairs only recently – mostly virtually during the pandemic – he hopes to make Firsts a yearly appointment.
He adds: “I have decided to exhibit at Firsts to meet new customers, acquire new stock and connect more closely with the trade.”
Other overseas exhibitors at this edition include Le Feu Follet from France, Kagerou Bunko of Japan and Italy’s Bibliopathos.
There is always a good selection of UK dealers, too. Maggs Bros, Shapero, Peter Harrington and Bernard Quaritch all show along with Julian Roberts Fine Books, The Plantagenet King and Beaux Books.
The theme for this year is ‘Shakespeare: 400 Years of Influence’. It marks the anniversary of the publication of the First Folio and celebrates the Bard’s – considerable – influence in literature ever since.
Jonkers Rare Books offers a copy of the Third Folio. Known as the Milltown Park copy, it is in late 19th century red Morocco, and though it lacks the portrait leaf, it is otherwise in good condition. The third is considered to be the rarest edition of the four folios since the warehouses where they were kept were destroyed in the Great Fire of London.
The copy in question has a provenance to William O’Brien (1832-99), an Irish judge and book collector whose bookplate is on the front pastedown. On his death he bequeathed it to Milldown Park. It is offered for £187,000.
There will be a talk on the great playwright, titled In Love with Shakespeare, presented by Justin Croft and Geoffrey Munn, as well as a tour around the fair focused on books relating to food in the world of Shakespeare, led by Suzanna Beaupré of Peter Harrington.
These are just part of a longer events programme including presentations on Lambeth Palace Library and ‘Routes into Rare Books’, which is led by members of the York Antiquarian Book Seminar.