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The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s flagship fair Firsts London brings together more than 100 dealers in west London’s Saatchi Gallery and is one of the main events of the rare books season.

Running from May 16-19 it offers a huge selection of books, manuscripts, prints and maps from an international group of top dealers.

This year’s theme is The Art of the Book, which puts the emphasis on the physical appearance of the dealers’ stock. From illumination and illustration to bindings and endpapers, the theme is pitched to encompass offerings from each exhibitor as well as to attract a wide range of buyers and other visitors.

Relocation result

Pom Harrington, chairman of the fair, says: “Relocating Firsts to the Saatchi Gallery several years ago has facilitated the rare book fair’s ability to attract an audience appreciative of the allure of books as objets d’art.

“Moreover, while there has also always been a sense of pride and privilege in stewarding a rare book, we are seeing a growing inclination to exhibit these treasures, whether through commissioning bespoke display cases or building entire rare book libraries, both privately and publicly held.

“At Firsts this year, visitors can expect to see some of the most beautiful examples of book production through the ages.”

Among the exhibitors attending are Maggs Bros, Bernard Quaritch, Blackwell’s Rare Books, Adrian Harrington Rare Books, Thomas Heneage Art Books and Lucius Books, all from the UK.

From farther afield come Antiquariat Inlibris Gilhofer (Austria), Alessandro Borgato (Italy), Douglas Stewart Fine Books (Australia) and Antiquariaat Schierenberg (Netherlands).

A series of talks is also taking place, most on the top floor of the venue, including an introduction to book collecting with Andrea Mazzocchi of Bernard Quaritch, an examination of books with interesting provenances with David Pearson, and from photographer Peter Dazeley, a talk on his book Monochrome.

On Saturday, May 18, the ABA is hosting a network brunch for early career and emerging booksellers in the Saatchi’s café followed by a tour of the book fair by Euphemia Franklin.

The fair’s partner this year is the Bodleian Libraries.



The annual London Map Fair, which bills itself as the world’s oldest and largest specialist antiques fair, runs June 15-16 at the Royal Geographical Society in Kensington Gore.

Established in 1980, it has a global reach hosting exhibitors from the US, Australia and Europe as well as the UK.

Among the exhibitors this year are Clive A Burden, Garwood & Voigt, Geographicus Rare Antique Maps and Robert Frew.

One of the lots on offer is a London Suburban Lines Route Diagram by Henry (‘Harry’) Charles Beck (190274) British Railways, EasternTwentieth Century Posters will be selling a large collection of original British railway and travel maps, including this rare map by the pioneer of diagrammatic wayfinding, Harry Beck.

Internationally famous for the influential London Underground diagrammatic map (1931), Beck designed very few maps for other transport organisations, and this map of the London Suburban Lines appears to be the only one published during his lifetime.

It depicts the suburban lines out of Marylebone, King’s Cross, Liverpool Street and Fenchurch Street railway stations, similar in scope to earlier maps produced by George Dow for the London & North Eastern Railway.

The map, priced at £1250, was included in the accompanying passenger timetables brochure for 1949, and appears to have been republished in the timetables for 1950 and 1951 but without the 1949 date.



The Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association stages its annual London summer event at the same time as Firsts as usual, but this year there are some temporary changes to the format.

Due to ongoing works at its regular venue in Earls Court, it will instead take place for one rather than two days on May 19 at the Holiday Inn, Bloomsbury.

Around 60 dealers will attend, offering the familiar assortment of books, maps, prints and ephemera at a range of price points, though generally lower than those at Firsts.

Among those exhibiting are The Antiquarian Book Company, Sky Duthie Rare Books and De Bry Rare Books.

This year marks the PBFA’s 50th anniversary.

Organiser Andrew Saidi of White Eagle Rare Books (also exhibiting) says: “I will be looking forward to this fair achieving record sales and ensuring that all our visitors go away with something they can be happy with until they come again to visit one of our fairs in the future.”



The Ephemera Society’s summer fair is scheduled to return to Holiday Inn London Bloomsbury this June with more exhibitors and events than ever before in the society’s 49 year history.

Fairs secretary John Robertson says there will be 30 exhibitors with 60 tables at the June 23 event, a 20% increase on previous events, including newcomers Scott Mclean of Explore History, selling stamps and ephemera, and Lin Johnson bringing old postcards.


A poster of Olympia Grand Ballet Brighton by Pal Les Maîtres de l’Affiche 1896 with an asking price of £110 at Kiki Werth’s stand at the Ephemera Society’s summer fair.

Another addition is a promotional stand from advertising and ephemera collector Robert Opie (as featured in ATG No 2631) who will be promoting The Museum of Brands London and his new book.

The one-day fair offers a huge range of rare, unusual and historic printed paper items from as little as £2 to more than £1000. Members of the society are offered an early entry preview between 10-11am.