The London International Antiquarian Book Fair is set to make its annual appearance Thursday-Saturday, June 13-15 this year. For the 56th year, booksellers and book collectors will be gathering in London for England's major book show, and one of the most important held anywhere in the world. Over 180 dealers from England and around the world will be displaying their wares in the National Hall at Olympia again this year.
Naturally, displays by the booksellers is the highlight of a book fair, but this fair is more event than the typical show. The three days will be filled with lectures, demonstrations, and exhibitions. Lectures include Carl Williams of Maggs Bros. on collecting counterculture, Leo Cadogan of Leo Cadogan Rare Books on “death and beauty” in religious book art, and Natalie Galustian on book collecting on the web. Glyn Farrow will speak about the St. Bride Foundation, the official charity of the fair. It is devoted to teaching about and preserving the history of printing.
There's an extensive list of live demonstrations you can attend. Among the topics on tap are book care and conservation, calligraphy, making a manuscript book, letterpress, wood engraving, gilding and illuminating, making a rubber stamp, binding, book washing and paper repairs, and digital photography for booksellers and collectors. Also offered is an activity called “guided tours.” Here, booksellers will lead you through selections pertaining to a specific topic. Among the subjects to be “toured” are railway literature, nineteenth century fiction, Shakespeare, 500 years of science books, twentieth century literary heroes, mountain exploration and climbing, and illustrated books and decorative bindings.
One of the most intriguing of presentations is an exhibition called “Books NOT Books.” These are books designed not to look like books, or other objects designed to look like books. For example, there is a circa 1900 cookie tin designed to look like an English Restoration binding, and a recent rebinding that looks like a schoolchild's pencil case. Other examples are a book that looks like a handbag and another that appears to be a model house.
If you don't think one fair is enough to keep you busy, then how about seven of them? This year several organizations have come together to sponsor London Book Fair Week, running from Saturday, June 8 through Sunday, June 16. The week starts with the London Map Fair, put on by the Royal Geographic Society, on June 8 and 9. On June 9, the Ephemera Society puts on their Ephemera Society London Fair, while the Bloomsbury Book Fair also takes place on that day. On June 15 and 16, it will be time for the PBFA London International Antiquarian Book Fair. That's PBFA as in Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association. Rounding out the week will be two fairs on Sunday, June 16. There is the London Photograph Fair, and the Bloomsbury Summer Ephemera Fair.
Hours for the London International Antiquarian Book Fair are Thursday June 13 - 3:00 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.; Friday June 14 - 11:00 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.; Saturday June 15 – 11:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m. The organizers have provided a website and it is filled with information. It describes the demonstrations and exhibitions, lists the booksellers, provides directions, including all of the various forms of public and private transport, and just about everything else you might want to know. There is even a section where you can purchase some of the books in advance, in case you are concerned one you want will be gone. The website for the fair, put on by England's Antiquarian Booksellers Association, is found at www.olympiabookfair.com.
Here is one more reason to visit the website – free admission. You can register for complimentary tickets, or pay at the door. If free sounds better, register at www.olympiabookfair.com/p/more-about-the-fair/register-for-tickets-newsletter.