Book Fairs | June 18, 2013

First Edition of Frankenstein Sells for $172,000 at London Antiquarian Book Fair

Over 1,000 people visited the London International Antiquarian Book Fair on the first day, with a record-breaking queue when the Fair opened its doors at 3pm on Thursday June 13, 2013 at the National Exhibition Hall at Olympia, West London. This resulted in an 18% increase in visitor numbers on the first day compared to the 2012 Fair and this trend continued with visitor numbers up on both of the following two days.

Organised by the ABA (Antiquarian Booksellers' Association), the three-day fair, which is now in its 56th year, is the third largest English-speaking Antiquarian Book Fair in the world, and attracted a record 186* exhibitors from 22 countries. Sales were steady throughout the fair, and exhibitors across the board were happy with their sales figures achieved, which were only slightly down from last year's record numbers with £3.35 million of total sales this year.

Chairman of the Fair, Brian Lake of Jarndyce, based by the British Museum in London, commented: “The ABA Fair was a great success — more exhibitors, more visitors, than 2012 — with attendance up by nearly 20% over the three days, aided by the 'Book Fair Week' promotion that included the PBFA and other fair organisers. The St Bride Institute — our charity partner — and all the other LIVE! area exhibitors made a big contribution to the buzz of the event. The total take was slightly down year-on-year, which was excellent in the current economic climate — it's always nice to break records, but we couldn't quite do it again this year! Dates for the 2014 Fair are provisionally booked for 22 - 24 May, again at the National Hall, Olympia.”

The Fair offered a vast range of rare and antiquarian books, manuscripts, maps and globes, prints, photographs and ephemera including historical items from the early days of printing to modern first editions. One of the highest prices paid on day one was for Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus. In three volumes by Mary Shelley, dating from 1818, it was being offered for sale by Peter Harrington (London) and was bought by a collector from the USA for £110,000.

The Fair attracted several new buyers — Thomas Heneage of Thomas Heneage Art Books (London), sold a rare Watt's Patent Copy Machine to a UK buyer and also commented: "I am extremely impressed by the number of young, interested visitors to the fair, who were clearly here not just to look, but also to buy”. Christiaan Jonkers of Jonkers Rare Books (Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire) said: "We had a visitor coming in after reading Country Life, he got on the train from Bournemouth this morning especially. He didn't buy at the fair, but seemed to be seriously considering a purchase".

Buying from the USA seemed strong with one dealer selling two books he had just bought at the fair to a US buyer over the phone for £125,000 while at Olympia. It also attracted serious buyers from overseas institutions with many foreign librarians visiting, including one from the Library of the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. Private collectors from China and the Continent were also heard to say that that they really valued the fair and rated it as one of the best in the world. 

A retired professor from Shanghai University bought two items from Antikvariat Antiqua from Stockholm, Sweden — one by a Swedish photographer with images from China, published in 1936 "Bilder fran Kina" as well as a set of two books on Chinese architecture by a German author from 1925 for a combined total of more than £30,000.

The overall reaction to the Fair by the various dealers was good. Pom Harrington of Peter Harrington (London) said: "We had a very good fair", while Stephen Foster of Stephen Foster (London) noted: "We had good sales on both Thursday and Friday, but more than doubled our sales on the Saturday".

Edward Bayntun-Coward of George Bayntun (Bath) commented: "We had an excellent fair and sold some great books. Quite a few old customers came back, who we haven't seen for a while. This bodes well for the current climate, I felt sales are definitely on the up again.”

Edward Smith of Pickering & Chatto (London) observed: "There was more enthusiasm and better sales at this year's fair", Maggs Brothers (London) also noted that "We sold expensive books for the price they should go for”, while Jon Gilbert of Adrian Harrington Rare Books (London) and Paul Foster (London) both said they had steady sales.

For more information please visit or follow the Fair on Twitter @OlympiaBookFair.