World Rare Book Day

world-map-communicationsI naturally like to regale the family over the supper table with all the latest news from the world of rare books.  The family is slightly ambivalent about this: stifled yawns sometimes remain unstifled; eyes are exaggeratedly rolled; fathomless stupefactions of chronic boredom are elaborately mimed, and silent departures from the table to go and have a lie down are by no means unknown.

A recent pop-up fair in Australia

A recent pop-up fair in Australia

Imagine then my surprise, my triumph, when I announced the concept of Pop-Up Bookfairs – and not just one or two, but a worldwide rolling twenty-four hour programme to celebrate a World Rare Book Day – fairs popping up all over the place, time-zone by time-zone, on a single day – right across the globe and all backed-up by the full might of social media.  Tweet-pop, tweet-pop, from Australia to L.A. and beyond.  Pictures, videos and reports on the web,  YouTube, Instagram and wherever else anyone can think of.  “That’s brilliant. Absolutely brilliant”, said Daughter No. 1.  “Oh, you are soooo twenty-first century”, said Daughter No. 2.  “We’ve got a trestle table”, said my dear wife, fondly imagining that the number of books in the house might actually decrease if I popped out for a pop-up.  Incredible.  I had managed to hold their attention for – oh – thirty or forty seconds. Well, twenty anyway.

I’d like to take credit for the idea, but of course it’s not mine.  It’s the brainchild of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) – and it’s really going to happen.  World Rare Book Day – 23rd April 2015.  Shakespeare’s birthday (of course) – and already for the last twenty years or so designated as the International Day of the Book.  Vladimir Nabokov’s  birthday too, come to that.  And J. P. Donleavy’s.  And St. George’s Day.

And look who popped up! It's our Honorary Member Nicolas Barker.

And look who popped up! It’s our Honorary Member Nicolas Barker.

The idea is that the venues will be somewhere unexpected, imaginative, quirky or newsworthy – where we can expect to meet people who would never normally find us.  A hotel lobby, a theatre foyer, a railway concourse, a town hall, a banking hall, a shopping mall – anywhere where there are people in plenty with a few minutes to spare.  Even a bookshop if imagination fails.  An old woolshed in Victoria has already been earmarked.

Sally Burdon

Sally Burdon

It’s the brainchild in particular of the redoubtable Sally Burdon of the Asia Book Room in Canberra and the equally excellent Barbara van Benthem, who runs the very impressive ILAB website.  Here’s Sally at the York Book Fair a couple of years ago (she was born on Tyneside and is really one of us) – and Barbara preparing to take yet another high quality picture for the website.  They will be co-ordinating the event worldwide.

Barbara van Benthem

Barbara van Benthem

It  will all present an opportunity for booksellers, whether or not they have a shop, to meet potential new customers face to face.  And there really is no greater delight for a bookseller than to present someone with their first genuine encounter with a rare book.

© Holybourne Rare Books

© Holybourne Rare Books

A book they can handle, touch, fondle, smell and experience at first hand – the crackle of hand-made paper, the patina of a fine binding, the original edition of a favourite book.

© George Bayntun

© George Bayntun

And what riches we have to offer – you know we do, of course we do:  here are a couple of beautiful bindings currently available from ABA members, each priced at around £500 – one a little more, one a little less.  I could show you thousands more.   Tens of thousands of fabulous books available from booksellers affiliated to ILAB worldwide.

© Bernard Quaritch

© Bernard Quaritch

Here are a couple of topical titles from Bernard Quaritch – ideal farewell presents for a soon to be failed politician we may think (naming no names and making no assumptions, but we don’t entirely live in the past).  It’s an opportunity for booksellers worldwide, whatever the size, scale or style of their business, to combine together in a single if widely dispersed event, which is bound to be well publicised.  We reach out to a new audience.  We reach out to young collectors.  We engage.

© Bernard Quaritch

© Bernard Quaritch

The ILAB World Rare Book Day pop-up bookfairs will be easy to organize – some booksellers, some books, some tables and a big sign.  Just liaise with ILAB on the publicity.  No-one has to travel far or be away from base for too long. They can last all day or just an hour or two.  Imagination and invention are the only limitations.

It has not been confirmed yet but the idea is to tie it all in with an appropriate international charity – a literacy project of some kind would seem to fit the bill.  Collectors all start as readers, after all.  Each of the pop-up fairs will display a poster of a symbolically empty bookcase.   Visitors will be offered the opportunity to ‘buy’ an image of a symbolic book (or better still a set of books) to adorn the poster and fill the bookcase – donating money to support the charity.  ILAB will provide everything necessary: poster, book pictures, a price list, fundraising information, a press release and clear suggestions on running the event.  As the day progresses there will be online reporting of how the global Mexican Wave of pop-up fairs is going and what they have raised.

World in LettersAs Sally says, “Pop-up fairs are great – you bring very little stock, just a few good books, put them out on a table and you are not exhibiting for long. The advantage is that they will be low or no cost for the dealers to take part in and will not require anything like the organisation of the traditional fairs”.  So – it’s over to you.  We know when – Thursday 23rd April 2015. The where is up to you.  What can we come up with across the UK?  Let’s get going.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice first introduced in 1997 (and its recent update), served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute, the National Library of Scotland and at Gresham College and Stationers' Hall. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. Essays on the British map trade are also appearing in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers”, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011. He also contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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5 Responses to World Rare Book Day

  1. garethjames says:

    May I suggest a pop-up outside Amazon offices worldwide. Obviously 0.1% of profit will have to go to this poor company to help them with their taxes. Balham comedian Mark Thomas will help you with the principes of guerrilla tactics (he turned Regent St Irish to make tax-dodging Apple feel at home).


  2. Pingback: Laurence Worms on book fairs, especially this one! | London Pop-Up Bookfair 2015

  3. Pingback: Pop-up book fair in aid of UNESCO World Book and Copyright Day 23 April 2015 | AVOA LTD

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