A busy week – indeed too busy to post until now. A flying trip to Edinburgh for the joint ABA/PBFA book-fair last weekend. Trying to navigate your way round Edinburgh’s Waverley Station all but impossible with all the new work going on – I eventually emerged from an exit which appeared to be nearer Leith than where I wanted to be. And the streets above no better with all the tram-works – by the time anyone found the Tourist Office at the top of the Waverley Steps they would probably have technically ceased to be a tourist.
But I eventually arrived at the fair in its new location at the Radisson Blu right on the Royal Mile – not quite the same ambience as the Assembly Rooms on George Street, but busy and central enough and the fair’s presence flagged up by attractive young ladies with sandwich-boards.
All seemed well and harmonious – the ABA discreet and decorous upstairs. An elegant display of books – time and space enough to talk to everyone. Good to see old friends and new, including a couple of happily browsing map-librarians of my acquaintance. Bought a book or two. Chatted happily or at least said hello to most of the exhibitors: Peter Miller (Ken Spelman), Elizabeth Strong (McNaughtan’s Bookshop), Alan Grant (Grant & Shaw), Alex Fotheringham, Janette Ray, Cooper Hay, Ian Marr – rather far from his home in Cornwall, George Newlands (McLaren Books), Christopher Saunders, Ric Latham (Bow Windows), David Brayford (Jay Books), three of the Westwoods (Petersfield Bookshop), as well as a few people I’d not yet encountered on my travels – Steve Liddle, Joe McCann (Maggs Brothers), David Edmunds (John Drury Rare Books), Nigel Phillips, David Steedman (Robert D. Steedman), Keith Fletcher (H. M. Fletcher), and Ted Hoffman and (the only one I’d not actually met before) Elisabeth Grass (Bernard Quaritch).
Descended downstairs (very, very, careful here not to say below stairs) to the PBFA room – rather more books and exhibitors down here and plenty more (if not quite as many) familiar faces. Bought a rather nice first edition of Diary of a Nobody from Anthony Smithson of the Keel Row Bookshop in North Shields – and I mention him in particular because he was then awaiting the outcome of his application to join the ABA. I am very pleased to say he was duly elected a few days later and very glad indeed we are to welcome him. I’ve not been to the shop yet, but everyone speaks very highly both of it and of him. Looking forward to a visit in the summer.
Kicked off the evening with an aperitif in one of Edinburgh’s most elegant and costliest cocktail lounges (not quite true, it was that haunt well-known to the book-trade – the Oxford Bar in Young Street, if you must know). Adjourned across the road to have an excellent and jolly supper with an assorted dozen or so of the above-mentioned – thank you all for your company. Splendid evening. Pottered around the fair again for an hour or two on Saturday morning and then caught the train home for an even more strenuous evening at a sixtieth birthday party.
Tuesday evening saw the second in the new seminar series at Senate House – four good young (at least in book-trade terms) booksellers discussing Book Collecting and the Web. Only three of them were actually there at the top table with Nicolas Barker (who was chairing proceedings) – perched above them all on a big screen was the fourth. In a wholly appropriate touch, Natalie Galustian was addressing us from the ether via Skype – rather like an Orwellian Big Sister from where I sat. It was claimed that she was coming to us from Trinidad or Tobago or somewhere like that – but I could see no palm-trees at all and wasn’t fully convinced that she wasn’t just holed up in her London flat – but she spoke well, making the case that nothing can ever actually take the place of a real shop (amen to that). Simon Beattie led off, Justin Croft followed, and Jonathan Kearns (Adrian Harrington) finished up – all of them interesting, articulate, witty and buzzing with ideas. The audience – the room was packed, standing room only at the back – a very mixed bunch of booksellers, academics, librarians and genuine book-collectors lapped it all up, responding eagerly and joining in with a will to what turned out to be an extended debate. We are promised some summaries for the ABA website – and those who couldn’t be there will look forward to that. A very good evening for the book-trade – a very good evening for book-collecting. Really rather proud of our four contributors, they served us very well and I thank them heartily for it.
Down to earth with a bit of a bump the next day – but the brightest parts of the ABA Council meeting were that I could welcome George Newlands (McLaren Books), in his capacity of chairman of the PBFA, to sit in and take part – and that for the first time ever we could welcome a member to sit in with us for most of the afternoon. Barbara Grigor-Taylor (Cavendish Rare Books) turned up to our first “open” meeting and immediately came up with two simple suggestions that were immediately adopted. Thank you very much, Barbara. And we elected and warmly welcomed two new members, Anthony Smithson (Keel Row Bookshop) already mentioned above, and Sebastian Hidalgo Sola from Buenos Aires. Many congratulations to him too. Glad to have you with us.