For someone who has never been to the Chelsea Book Fair, how would you describe it?
It’s a great occasion for the bibliophile or the beginner to see and purchase books from £10 to £10,000, from the beginning of printing to the twenty-first century. The nearly eighty booksellers who exhibit are all accredited professionals, and are willing to share their expertise. It’s in a beautiful building in a lively and legendary part of central London, and we even lay on a themed exhibition.
What makes Chelsea so different to other fairs?
Chelsea is a medium-size book fair. This makes it manageable and helps it to maintain its own character, where the larger fairs can feel like trade shows. It is large enough though to have the breadth that you expect from an international fair. Very importantly, you will be able to meet people here - either while browsing the stands or even in the very affordable cafe.
What drives a book collector to visit Chelsea?
Many serious book-collectors attend a number of fairs, and this will be one in their calendar. What they may find unique to our fair is its special mix of big London firms, and often small provincial dealers, with some international exhibitors also, all bringing interesting books, of the highest accredited standards.
Please explain to the reader the idea behind the Special Exhibition at Chelsea this year?
The special exhibition this year is on art in a variety of media, inspired by the antiquarian book. The book is and has always been a great subject for art, and today in the age of the e-book it’s interesting to have artists explore it still. We’re expecting to show some strong images inspired by these fascinating objects, which we hope will engage and entertain bibliophiles. All the art will be for sale.
How long have you been involved as Chairman – and what motivates you to put in all this work into the fair?
I’m actually new to the post, and am picking up on years of work (ten in all) by my predecessor Roger Treglown, and the fantastic administration of our trade body, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, led by Marianne Harwood, the ABA’s events administrator. They have made the fair the popular and convivial event that you will see if you attend this year. What inspires me to step into Roger’s large shoes is the knowledge that this fair fills an important place in the antiquarian book world, in this country and abroad.
Thank you very much for the interview.