Covid be damned - Stuttgart (Virtual) Rare Book Fair live now through February 3rd

- by Thomas C. McKinney

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For the past 60 years, the Stuttgart Rare Book Fair has taken place in January in the southern German city from which it takes its name. It’s fair to call it “well established” in the trade. But like so many aspects of life and other book fairs that we’ve covered at RBH, the 2021 fair is different. The in-person fair was cancelled, and in its place a virtual fair emerged. The Verband Deutscher Antiquare (Association of German Antiquarian Booksellers, and the organizer of the fair) fortunately did not leave this decision to the last minute. The physical fair was cancelled back in August, so planning went on since the end of summer. By the time you’re reading this article, the virtual fair will already be underway and open until February 3rd.

A printed catalog has accompanied the Stuttgart Rare Book Fair every year, and this year is no different in that respect. Angelika Elstner, from the Verband Deutscher Antiquare’s Press & Public Relations department told me that there was never any question that there would be a printed catalog this year. It represents a commitment to printing and the history of the book, something that is deeply embedded in German culture. This year’s printed catalog is significantly expanded. And there is, of course, also a digital catalog available!

Seventy-six dealers from Germany, Austria and Switzerland, but also from Australia, the US, Great Britain, the Netherlands and France, all members of the German booksellers association or affiliated with the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, will offer some of their best material—both on the specially developed virtual fair platform and the aforementioned printed catalogue.

Whether Dante, whose anniversary of death is celebrated for the 700th time in 2021, early printing, groundbreaking historical figures and works of medicine, politics and philosophy, literature and art up to the present day, the catalog of the Stuttgart Rare Book Fair shows the entire range of the rare book trade. You can view the catalog here.

The virtual fair went live on 29th January 2021 at 12 noon GMT+1, the same time when the annual physical fair would have opened, and will close again on Wednesday, February 3, 2021 at midnight. You’ll be able to move from stand to stand, browse by author and subject area or do specific research using a full-text search. The virtual fair does not process direct sales; these are made directly through the dealer.
"In these, for all of us, very unsettling, uncertain and unusual times, we need continuity and consistency. Digital options are available and offer a welcome alternative. Worldwide, numerous art and rare book fairs have moved into the virtual space and the success shows that a large part of our customers support this move," says Sibylle Wieduwilt, Chairwoman of the Association.

Now on to the fair!