Fairs | March 2023 | Alex Johnson

Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair Returns to Saatchi Gallery


Firsts, one of the world's leading rare books fairs, returns to the capital's Saatchi Gallery May 18- 21 where more than 100 leading UK and international dealers will showcase specially selected items.

Firsts is the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s premier annual fair and attracts a wide audience of collectors, dealers and enthusiasts. It is organised in collaboration with the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) and the stands run across three floors of Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London.

This is the 66th edition of the fair and the theme for the 2023 is Shakespeare: 400 Years of Influence, celebrating the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s First Folio. Last year’s theme was Banned Books.

“With an incredible wealth of material which spans centuries and continents, exhibitors attending Firsts London are uniquely placed to demonstrate the breadth of Shakespeare’s influence on the printed word, which has explicitly and implicitly shaped many of the stories we tell about ourselves, and the language we use to tell them," say the organisers.

"The wide-reaching marks of Shakespeare’s pen take us to some unexpected places: from the plot devices of Jane Austen to the poetry of Maya Angelou; from a mobile forest marching to war over the plains of Middle Earth to the tercentenary celebrations of Shakespeare’s life held across the Arab world in 1919. This year’s fair gives exhibitors the chance to showcase items which bear the bard’s inky fingerprints, however faint. As Nelson Mandela said (referring to the copy of the Collected Works that was his companion throughout his 18-year incarceration on Robben Island), “Shakespeare always seems to have something to say to us.”

More information and ticket details here. Tickets for preview night and first day of the fair will be available shortly with free entry on May 20 and 21.