A View from Europe: ABA Chelsea Book Fair
One of the nicest fairs in the cycle of our year, is the Chelsea book fair. This is managed by Graham York, on behalf of the ABA, and is held in Chelsea Old Town Hall. This is a beautiful venue, with tapestries and paintings from English history adorning the walls, and oozing with that easy charm that this part of London does so well. We were all slightly less "easy" this year, as the town hall has just been fully refurbished. It looks beautiful, but we were slightly nervous about damaging the paintwork!
We arrived on the 1st November, and soon had our stand set up and prepared. This year, we focussed on showing more art and posters, which made for a rather complex arrangement of frames to display them. Nevertheless, Marcia and I managed it, and were able to look round and see what everyone else had provided.
Chelsea is run by the ABA, so naturally, we expect a high standard of material from all of the exhibitors. This time, I thought I would focus a little on the "non-book" items that crop up at an ABA fair! It goes without saying, that alongside these items were many many, many wonderful books, maps, prints and other paper collectables.
First stop was to Graham York. With his wife Jan, he runs a lovely bookshop in Honiton in Devon. Part of their offering this year was a lovely microscope (in its case), a selection of miniature books and a very nice Italian atlas.
Next door to them, was the irrepressible Christopher Saunders, the ABA's Cricket specialist. Naturally, he offered many cricket books this year, but he also displayed this bat, signed by 27 of the players involved with a 1926 tour of the Australian Cricket team to England. A snip at only £450 for a whole wedge of cricketing history.
I think the strangest item for sale at the fair, was a whole tray of (hopefully unused) glass eyes. Presumably intended for the doctor to choose the perfect match to a patient's other eye, this rather macabre, but nevertheless fascinating collection was certainly eye-catching (sorry).
As ever, it was great to catch up with friends, colleagues and relatives whilst in London. A great end to the year's season in the UK, although we still have the Mechelen fair to go in Belgium; hope to see some of you there.
--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.