“It doesn’t matter what your interest, you’re bound to find a book about it at Chelsea!”
The Chelsea Book Fair - “the most visually attractive and undoubtedly the friendliest event in the UK book trade calendar” - took place on November 6th to 7th, 2009, at the charming venue of the 100 year old Chelsea Old Town Hall, with nearly 80 exhibitors from the UK and overseas, and a special exhibition about the fascination with the “exotic East” in the late Victorian England. Edward Fitzgerald's translation of the magnificent 11th century Persian poem, “The Rubaiyat” of Omar Khayyam, was published 150 years ago. Ignored on its first appearance, Fitzgerald’s translation was 'discovered' by Rossetti and Swinburne and rapidly became a best-seller. It was produced in hundreds of editions in all sizes and shapes, many of them illustrated. The London Library holds one the most comprehensive “Rubaiyat” collections, donated by Edward Heron-Allen. Representative samples were on show during the Fair.
The Cream Rises to the Top
Increased visitor numbers and strong sales across the board made this year’s Chelsea fair a success for its exhibitors and the organisers, the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA). The Antiquarian Book Fair at Chelsea showcased 75 UK and international exhibitors. The fair’s unique charm was enjoyed by a record number of visitors, 1,390 in total, which was 12 % up on last year. Looking at sales results after the fair, the ABA reported an increase in sales to the trade by 13% and to private clients by 22%. These came mainly from the UK but were also to Russian, US, Canadian and European buyers with an interest in English as well as foreign books. The fair is well known for its breathtaking range of rare books, prints, atlases, maps, photographs, ephemera, letters and manuscripts. Conveniently located in its central London venue, the Chelsea Old Town Hall, this year the fair also accommodated a loan exhibition by the London Library, which celebrated Edward Fitzgerald’s first publication of the magnificent 11th century Persian poem, The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
The majority of booksellers confirmed that there was a good mixture of private, academic and trade buyers. Patrick Marrin of Marrin’s Bookshop, Kent, reported his busiest fair in four years with more than 30 individual sales this year. Justin Croft sold a very rare copy of Domenico Angelo: The School of Fencing with a general explanation of the principal attitudes and positions peculiar to the art., published in London in 1787, which was undoubtedly a highlight of the fair. Emma Doyle of Peter Harrington reported, as many dealers did, strong sales on Friday, increasingly to private clients. The exhibiting German dealers confirmed London again as a key market place in the international book buying calendar. Roger Treglown, Chair of the Chelsea Fair: “I am thrilled about the good results for our exhibitors and members of the association. It is encouraging that sales were significantly up on last year and that we have increased visitor numbers. It gives a confident message to the trade.”
(The official review has been published on www.chelseabookfair.com by Angelika Elstner on behalf of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association. It is presented here, with our thanks, by permission of ABA President Julian Rota.