In one year’s time exactly, Bologna will host an event very important for all of us, the International Congress of the ILAB, from September 20th to 26th, 2010. After more than 20 years the Italian association, ALAI, has again the honour – and the responsibility – of taking care of its organization, employing the experienced Noema Congressi, which succesfully organized 6 book fairs in Bologna and the ALAI Book fair in Milan in 2008. Bologna will be the main centre of the Congress, that will include meetings and visits to ancient libraries and works of art also in neighbouring towns.
The book fair will take place on September 24-26th, and it will be an event fully integrated into the Congress: after the trips to Bologna, Ravenna, Modena and Ferrara from Monday to Thursday (including visits to the Malatestiana, Classense, Estense, Archiginnasio libraries), we will have the General Assembly and the Farewell Dinner during the 3 days of the show, while all the accompanying people and the non-exhibitor delegates will have the chance to visit Parma and Mantua.
Bologna is a splendid town, almost unknown to tourists, counting less than 400.000 inhabitants; in terms of quality of life it ranks as one of the top cities in the whole Italy. Its extensive medieval center, one of the best-preserved in Europe, contains a wealth of important Medieval and Renaissance artistic monuments. Over the centuries Bologna has acquired many nicknames: la dotta ("the learned one") is a reference to its famous university, the oldest existing in Europe, founded in 1088; la grassa ("the fat one") refers to its cuisine, one of the most renowned in the Italian culinary tradition. The basilica of San Petronio, where Charles V was crowned Emperor in 1530, is one of the largest in the world.
The Artelibro Festival is held in various locations around Piazza Maggiore, where the Bolognese have their church and city hall, where sacred mixes with profane, culture with the market. It is a great cultural party which involves professionals, collectors and a strongly expanding new public (some 35.000 visitors last year) that enthusiastically take part in all shows, lectures and events. The price of the booths will start from 2.000 €, depending on the number of window-cases, in order to allow even young booksellers coming from far to get their own “window” in the show.
During the recent Vienna meeting (October 2009) the ILAB Presidents voted unanimously to admit the National Associations of China and Russia to ILAB. This was a great historic moment, not least because of the number of potential members that these emerging large nations can bring to ILAB. And more, the program of the Bologna Congress was judged to be of such a high bibliophilic standard that the ILAB General Assembly decided, for the first time in its history, that ILAB would allow some of the Bibliophile’s Associations to take part in the social and cultural activities of this important event. Next year the Colloquium of the Association International des Bibliophiles will start in Brussels on the 26th September. Some of the AIB delegates coming from other continents may well have a strong interest in having the chance to visit some Italian libraries. As there are two daily direct flights from Bologna to Brussels, the attending bibliophiles could leave for Belgium on Saturday at 16.55 or on Sunday at 12.05. Potentially many wealthy overseas customers could visit the book fair, before going on to Brussels. The participation of bibliophiles and librarians, together with the fact that the fair will be an event fully integrated with the ILAB Congress, should help to attract enough attendees to ensure success. The fee for attend the Congress will be about 1.500 € for members and 1.100 € for the accompanying people. A significant discount will be given to the delegates and exhibitors who will apply before December 15th.
The ALAI Committee chose Bologna, instead of more usual touristic places such as Venice or Florence. Its central position in Italy gives a chance to visit incredible places away from the usual touristic itineraries. It is a very important railway and airport hub: trains reach Modena and Ferrara in less than 30 minutes, Parma in 45 minutes, Milan and Florence in 1 hour, Venice in 1h40, and optional trips for small groups can be arranged to any of these destinations.
All of us travel now a lot, for business and for leisure, there are book fairs every month all over the world. In the old times, people were not used to travel so much, and the Congress was the only way to visit new places and to meet the colleagues personally. So, why in 2010 should we apply to an ILAB Congress?
It is not because Italy is maybe the most beautiful country in the world, not because Italian cuisine and wine are among the best in the world. It is not because we will visit the Biblioteca Malatestiana with its enchained incunables and plenty of unknown small treasures of art, having also the chance to reach easily places like Florence or Venice, if we wish. The real reason for which we should come to Bologna is that all of us need and have to rediscover the sense of belonging to our association. We need to forget the websites, the emails and the virtual reality for a moment and to meet each other; talk together; and drink in good company one or two glasses of Sangiovese.
The ILAB must be considered as a real “Internationale” of the love for books and culture, which rejects any difference of race, nation, religion, with a Code of Ethics, its own traditions and history, gathering different people and cultures under the motto – which says it all – Amor Librorum Nos Unit. I attended my first ILAB Congress more than 30 years ago, and I become good friend of many young children of foreign booksellers. Now they have become leading dealers in England, France, Holland, Germany, and with some of them I have been sharing for 25 years experiences of books and friendship.
So, the Congress and the International Antiquarian Book Fair have to be, for all of us, a unique opportunitiy to tackle the problems related to our job and to the antiquarian market, as well as to strengthen relationships, to develop common projects related to business as well as to culture. Our business really needs new enthusiasm and energies, so why not think of inviting your children to this Congress? Maybe they will discover an interest for old and rare books; hotels are not expensive in Bologna, and are all around the pedestrian medieval centre.
The book fair, the social events, and even all the meetings will be hosted in splendid historical buildings; a concert of opera, degustations of wine, parmigiano and culatello, a murder-party played in the world of book trade and even a football match Italy versus Rest of the World, as we still are the champions ... The social program for accompanying people – who will benefit from a lower rate than delegates – will be very rich, including visits to Mantua and Parma, with a cooking lesson inside the Academia Barilla designed by Renzo Piano.
In 1947 the Preliminary conference of the ILAB was held in Amsterdam, while the following year the first Congress took place in Copenhagen; Italy hosted ILAB Congresses in 1953 in Milan, in Ravenna in 1964 and in Venice in 1986. Twenty-three years after the magnificent fair held inside the Scola di S.Giovanni Evangelista, the 23rd International Antiquarian Book Fair of Bologna 2010 will be a chance for the booksellers coming from abroad, to meet personally Italian librarians and collectors with whom they have been in touch until now only by telephone or email.
So, please think about spending one relaxing week in Italy, visiting libraries and museums, walking around untouched medieval centers and, of course, having irresistible lunches and unforgettable receptions; and, maybe, doing some business.
I do hope to meet you next year, in Bologna.
Umberto Pregliasco (ALAI President)
Book Fair impressions from Italy: Umberto Eco and Umberto Pregliasco in Milan 2008
More about ILAB Congresses and Book Fairs