A View from Europe: the Bibliomania Paris Book Fair
After a busy fair in Amsterdam, there was just time to repack my stock and change my socks before heading off to Paris for the autumn edition of Bibliomania. This is a large event held in the Espace Champerret. Conveniently located just on the peripherique, we checked our bags into our apartment and went to set up.
This is a long fair. Starting on a Tuesday morning, and with traders coming into the fair to buy during set up, the fair continues until Sunday evening. Fortunately, we had decided to share a stand, so we could each take a little time off to enjoy Paris.
The fair is also large. Spread across two large halls, there are over 100 dealers, many with sizeable stands. The range of stock was particularly varied. Some tables were flowing with magazines and newspapers. Others had art prints, posters, and photobooks. Others again had traditional "book stands" with old, rare, and scarce texts. Almost everyone had a selection of erotica. I felt that we were missing out with our innocent Anglo-Saxon stock. What was almost universal, was the dominance of the French text. Not surprising, given that this is a French fair I guess.
Whilst we were at the fair, we were approached by a team creating a video about the booksellers at the fair, and asked to appear. Naturally, we said oui and once 'miked up' we talked about English bookselling in Europe (well how we do it anyway). Of course, their main interest was Brexit, and they seemed quite disappointed that I didn't know what is going to happen.
Once of the great things about a French fair is the laid-back approach to selling, and the importance of lunch! Each day, at around 1pm, several tables were pushed out of the way (along with any customers who happened to be standing there) and a spread was laid out by some of the exhibitors. This was proper "fine dining" with tablecloths and napkins, bread, cheese, grapes, dessert, a variety of wines, soup, casserole, etc. For the next hour or so, the booths looked after themselves, whilst the exhibitors relaxed in between the stands. The occasional customer continued to forage for books without interrupting the proceedings.
In the evenings, there were further drinks and entertainments. One of the parties I was involved in was at the Catawiki stand, which held a drinks reception for sellers. Catawiki also held a special auction of French items belonging to exhibitors, and held a raffle, where three lucky winners could obtain a Jules Verne Hetzel first edition. Very nice! This certainly generated a good crowd, and kept Kurt and Frederic busy for the evening.
Drawing the raffle was the magnificent Erika, who is the ever-calm fair manager. She managed to keep control of over 100 exhibitors, deal with the cars in and out, and keep everyone happy for six days--no mean feat. On top of that, she kept her sense of humour through it all.
All in all, Bibliomania is definitely on the recommended list. Friendly, enjoyable, and very different from most of the other fairs we do. We made several new friends and customers, and look forward to coming back here again.
--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.