Jennifer and Bradley Johnson are heading the organising committee of the 2018 ILAB Congress in Los Angeles, Pasadena.
The young antiquarian booksellers are proprietors of a brick and mortar shop THE BOOK SHOP in Covina, about 20 miles out of Los Angeles.
In 2016, Jennifer was awarded a scholarship by the Hungarian Association of Antiquarian Bookselllers to attend the ILAB Congress in Budapest which motivated her to lobby for the next congress to be held in her hometown, Los Angeles.
1. Jennifer and Bradley, why all the extra work and effort to organise an entire ILAB Congress?
As they say, it takes a village and this ILAB Congress is no exception. We are fortunate to be working with a committee of talented and energetic booksellers who are as excited as we are to introduce our colleagues to the cultural treasures, local flavors, and incredible energy unique to this vibrant city. All of us view the Congress as a fantastic opportunity for booksellers from Europe, Asia, Australia, and Africa to establish lasting relationships with their American counterparts. It will also provide a tremendous boost to the California International Antiquarian Book Fair, which has grown to become the largest event in the country showcasing rare books, manuscripts, maps, and more since its move to Pasadena in 2012.
2. We meet at fairs and we communicate in real time across borders - why does your generation of young booksellers feel this is worth the time, effort and cost?
Few, if any, understand our passion for working with antiquarian books and manuscripts as much as our fellow booksellers. We have been fortunate to establish lasting relationships with numerous colleagues, many of which we count among our closest friends. These are the relationships which make this journey all the more rewarding, both personally and professionally. The ILAB Congress provides booksellers with the opportunity to come together without the distractions of home, office, or book fair and share in the discovery, enlightenment, and enjoyment. This was certainly the case for us at the 42nd ILAB Congress in Budapest, where we not only viewed and handled many Hungarian treasures of the printed word, but also met booksellers like Sally Burdon, Frank Rutten, and Mats Petersson for the first time, and shared memorable experiences with others we don’t see often enough, including a trip to the Gellert Baths with Peter Blackman and Simon Beattie. It's little wonder that this tradition of gathering for ILAB congresses dates to 1947. We are honored to be a small part of it.
"If you can’t find your people in Los Angeles, they probably don’t exist"
3. For months we have followed your postings on social media and your updates on the Congress' website and we can see what pride you take in organising the congress in your hometown! What makes Los Angeles a special place for you to live and to work in?
You can’t shovel sunshine. But if you could, those of us in Los Angeles would have a Sisyphean task on our hands! Weather aside, there is so much to love about the City of Angels. It is a true international city – residents of Los Angeles represent 140 countries and speak nearly 100 different languages - and remains a land of opportunity for those who want to invest in new technology, further their education, or reinvent themselves. As the entertainment capital of the world, few cities have had as profound an influence on the 20th century as Los Angeles. Los Angeles is also a relatively young city, youthful and vibrant, where you could start the day at the beach, stroll among the shops on Melrose, grab lunch from a food truck, spend a few hours at LACMA, take in a Dodger or Laker game, and enjoy a cocktail at one of Downtown LA’s rooftop bars all in one day. There is so much life to embrace and culture to explore and as we say, if you can’t find your people in Los Angeles, they probably don’t exist.
Huntington Library - The Getty - The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Margaret Herrick Library ...
4. Please share some highlights with us and why they were chosen for the programme?
When we began preparing our bid for the 43rd ILAB Congress, two of Southern California’s premiere cultural institutions, The Huntington Library and The Getty, immediately offered their support. One could easily spend an entire week or more exploring The Huntington’s gardens and collection, which includes the Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, among many other treasures. The Getty Center features pre-20th century European paintings, including van Gogh’s Irises, and among the finest collections of medieval manuscripts in the world. We are also excited to share with our guests The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science’s Margaret Herrick Library, which few here in Los Angeles ever have the opportunity visit. Our attendees will also be able to tour the private libraries of two of the country’s leading collectors and the recently renovated William Andrews Clark Memorial Library. We have a few more surprises up our sleeves, but you’ll have to register to find out!