Pierre Coumans, Brussels bookseller and owner of Librairie Pierre Coumans, spoke to ILAB about organizing the next Salon du Mont des Arts.
Since its inauguration in 2016, the number of exhibitors at the fair has grown to more than fifty European dealers and it provides book collectors and the book trade with the opportunity to enjoy an international book fair in the heart of the Belgian capital, a country with a rich and long history of printed works.
1. Pierre, you are a bookseller, member of the Belgian Antiquarian Booksellers Association CLAM and organiser of the 2nd Salon du Mont des Arts - the Brussels Rare Book & Print Fair. After a very successful inauguration last year, what are the highlights in 2017?
A small quality fair gathering dealers from many different countries and offering both rare books and rare prints for every collector. The fair is proud to have the support of Belgian cultural institutions through a small exhibition of highlights from the Bibliotheca Wittockiana, the famed book arts and bookbinding museum, and the Archives et Musée de la Littérature, the important center for the study of French-speaking Belgian literature, host of literary archives, rare editions, photographs, writers’ possessions, etc. Founded in 1958, the Archives and Museum of Literature (AML) is a place devoted to the literary, theater and publishing heritage of French-speaking Belgium, with documents relating to Belgian authors (de Ghelderode, Maeterlinck, Bauchau, Rolin etc.) and publishers working in French, mainly from 1815 to the present day. The special collections include Verhaeren, Baillon, van de Velde and the avant-garde writers. The AML also house a superb collection of literary periodicals unique to Belgium (particularly rich in material from Latin America, Italy etc.) and archives relating to Central Africa (Burundi, Congo, Rwanda).
2. Your number of exhibitors is growing which is a very positive sign. We believe there are more reasons for this than just the Belgium hospitality?
Brussels is a cosmopolitan city located within easy reach of many European capitals, thus attracting foreign visitors. We also have the EU institutions and NATO. The increasing number of participants is certainly due to the fact that Belgium has a long book-collecting tradition and active collectors. Among new participants this year, we have L’Arengario Studio Bibliographico (Italy), Libreria El Astillero (Spain), August Laube Antiquariat (Switzerland), Librairie Vignes (France), Librairie Chrétien (France), Meda Riquier Rare Books (Britain), Librairie Walden (France), Galerie Collin (France), Sarah Sauvin (France), Librairie Hogier (France), Librairie Richard (France) and others.
3. How would you describe the book trade in Belgium? Why a book fair if we can trade online?
The book trade in Belgium is a small rather « old style » world, with online business far less important than in the Anglo-Saxon world, hence the interest of a local book fair. The Belgian Booksellers’ Association (CLAM-BBA) has about forty dealers, including three newly elected members.
4. After visiting the fair, perfectly located in the center of Brussels, where should we continue our journey?
Why not cross the street and make it to the « booksellers and art galleries’ district », only five minutes from the fair? In the historic arcade "Galerie Bortier", built in 1848, one can find antiquarian and secondhand shops offering first editions, illustrated books, vintage photos and prints, art books, ephemera and much more. There is also an art gallery showing contemporary livres d’artistes. After visiting the Bortier Arcade, the collector can walk down the adjacent Saint-Jean street to discover a few more shops (including Librairie Van Loock). The neighbourhood is also rich in art galleries and not far from the Sablon and its antique shops.
5. What other bibliophile highlights are there to discover in Brussels this year in June?
A new exhibition to discover at the Bibliotheca Wittockiana: « The Very Rich Hours of the Poor Book », The term “poor book” refers to the process of producing a certain kind of book which does not require any major financial investment: a blank sheet of paper is cut up and folded, offered to a poet invited to add a written text which an artist will then illustrate with original paintings. Its specific characteristic lies in the fact that it remains completely outside the “commercial circuit”, the aim being to expose it to the widest possible public. For the general public, Bruegel Unseen Masterpieces and Rick Wouters exhibitions at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts Belgium, Yves Klein at Bozar, small exhibit of Soviet graphic design at Adam Brussels Design Museum, or Librarium at the Royal Library of Belgium (KBR, Belgian National Library), a unique museum where you can find out all about the history of books, writing, and libraries (until the end of July, focus is on the Apocalypse).
Always something to do in Brussels!
Pierre, thank you very much for the interview. We wish you and all dealers a successful fair!
The Salon du Mont des Arts is the event for antiquarian book and print lovers in the heart of Brussels, with over 50 European exhibitors. Organized under the auspices of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) by the Belgian Antiquarian Booksellers Association CLAM.
DATES: 22 - 24 June 2017
VENUE: Mont des Arts, Le Square 2, rue Ravenstein 1000 Brussels