Book Fairs | May 13, 2024

Firsts London 2024 Highlights

Paul Foster/Firsts London

Arguably the first interactive book published, and certainly the first to use movable tabs, Le Livre Joujou by M. Bres

Firsts London 2024, the rare book fair at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London, runs May 16 - 19 with 'The Art of the Book' as the theme for this year.

The Fair will gather more than 100 international dealers who will be bringing items including bejewelled bindings, pop-up books, Japanese woodblock printing, and illuminated Qur'ans.

Pom Harrington, Fair Chairman, said: "Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair is the once-a-year showcase for the very finest stock from the British rare book trade, as well as some of the best offerings of the rare book world globally. Staging the fair within a strikingly modern setting at Saatchi Gallery has proved a resounding success in allowing rare books to take their rightful place alongside decorative arts and antiques. Now in its 67th edition, Firsts has cemented its position as an unmissable event on the international rare book fair calendar."

Highlights include:

* a beautifully illustrated Art Nouveau book from 1900, Hugo von Hofmannsthal's Der Kaiser und die Hexe, of which only 200 copies were printed. It will be on Michael Schleicher's stand.

* Peter Harrington Rare Books will be showing three stunning bindings by Cedric Chivers who patented his 'vellucent' bindings in 1898 - an edition of Edmund Spenser's Faerie Queene decorated by Louis Fairfax-Muckley from 1897, an 1893 Aubrey Beardsley illustrated Morte Darthur by Sir Thomas Malory, and a copy of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám translated by Edward Fitzgerald published in 1903, finely bound by Cedric Chivers after an Art Nouveau design by the illustrator Herbert Granville Fell.

* Camden Lock Books, known for offering a wide range of miniature books, will offer an English Bijou Almanac for 1841, poetically illustrated by the Hon. Mrs Norton, of which only 14 seem to be in existence around the world

* Paul Foster is bringing a book sometimes described as the first interactive book published, but certainly the first to use movable tabs. Le Livre Joujou by M. Bres (third issue from circa 1875) has 13 hand-coloured illustrated plates with pull tabs to change the image

* Beaux Books will be exhibiting first edition copies of all the books authored by Cecil Beaton during his lifetime and will also display several books with original jackets by Beaton, alongside posters and ephemera

* Among the artists' books at Shapero Rare Books will be an example of Juste Présent, a collection of Tristan Tzara’s poems with illustrations by his long-term collaborator and friend Sonia Delaunay. Published in 1961, a period where Delaunay returned to the styles of the early years of her career, signed by the author and artist, including an additional signed etching hand-coloured in gouache by the artist in the original lithographed chemise and slipcase

Firsts London 2024 has an extensive talks and tours program this year aimed at new collectors and bibliophiles of all ages as well as events for new book dealers including:

  • Dirk Van Hulle and Mark Nixon talk about their recently published book Write Cut Rewrite: The Cutting Room Floor of Modern Literature
  • David Pearson will explore themes from his 2022 book, Speaking Volumes: Books with Histories
  • Peter Dazeley, celebrated photographer and author of Monochrome, will be chatting with Antiques Roadshow's Matthew Haley about his platinum prints
  • Nicholas Perkins, who curated the exhibition Gifts and Books at the Bodleian Library in 2023, will explore some extraordinary gift books in this talk
  • tours include one by The Book Collector on the art of dust jackets
  • Clare Marshall from Marshall Rare Books will explore the popularity of colour plate natural history books
  • Les Ashton will focus on a selection of modern firsts and what makes them a highlight
  • learn about the fundamentals of rare book collecting with Andrea Mazzocchi from Bernard Quaritch