Fairs | February 2018 | Marc Harrison

Postcard from the Stuttgart ILAB Fair

One of the reasons my wife and I chose to move to The Netherlands was so that we could easily travel to more of the many European book fairs and have bibliographic adventures. Last weekend we did just this -- flying from Amsterdam to visit the 57th Stuttgart Antiquarian book fair, organized by the VDA (the German national bookseller association, which is a member of ILAB). We were also looking forward to the short trek to Ludwigsburg to visit the wonderful shadow fair in the Musikhalle (pictured below).

ludwigsburg above copy.jpgBeginning in Ludwigsburg, we were pleased to immediately bump into our old friends Ralf and Susanne Lorych from Berlin. They were offering their usual fascinating range of books in English, French, and German, and I was able to add a nice little pamphlet on Belgium to my stock.
colonialwaren copy.jpgAnother great find at Ludwigsburg was the stand of Kunsthandel Brugsch und Lehmanns Colonialwaren, also from Berlin. They had a wonderful and eclectic display of curiosa and grotesques (pictured above). From shrunken heads (which they assured me were not real) to iconography, globes, and gothic artworks. The overall effect was that of entering a fascinating Dickensian grotto. We were very pleased to persuade them to sign up the for PBFA London Antiquarian Book Fair. This is the premier book fair that we manage in May. Very exciting, as we now know that our visitors to that event can look forward to the spectacle.

luther copy.jpgThe highlight of the trip for me was being able to examine (but sadly not afford at ??450,000) a lengthy handwritten letter by Martin Luther written in 1543, and offered by Kotte Autographs of Rosshaupten (pictured above). Although I dislike the antisemitic diatribe of the letter, one couldn't help but be awed in the face of a manuscript by a man who had such an impact on world history. Published in the same year as Luther's letter, Kotte also offered a beautiful first edition of De humani corporis at ??950,000 (pictured below).

vesalius copy.jpgAccompanied by my friends Kurt Salchli and Horst Kloever, book specialists from the online auction Catawiki, Marcia and I moved on to visit the "official fair" at Stuttgart and were soon surrounded by another profusion of beautiful objects.

Hatry of Heidelberg had a lovely display of books on swimming, including De arte gymnastica libris sex, from 1587 at ??1,400. They also had some beautiful children's pop up items.

tenschert hours copy.jpgBibermuhle of Ramsen, had a wonderful collection of incunabula and Books of Hours, including that of Jean Troussier at ??880,000, and I had to spend a while gazing at the illuminations on this stand (pictured above).

After a brief interlude plotting ways of gaining more exhibitors for the Amsterdam book fair with Laurens Hesselink from Asher/Forum Rare Books in 't Goy (near Utrecht), and catching up with Robert Frew from London, we continued our tour of the fair.

There seemed to be many excellent collections of art and lithographs this year, and one of my favorites was that of Kunstkabinett Strehler of Sindeltingen, who as well as an excellent collection of signed works by Picasso and Chagall, had a beautiful display of Maria Sibylla Merian whose botanical illustrations are as fresh as they were in 1679.

My last dash round included a much closer look at the fabulous Japanese and Chinese material of Hans-Martin Schmitz and his wife, who had traveled from Koln. I think there is something about the 'last chance saloon' feeling of the final half an hour of any fair. The clock is ticking and I am always tempted into purchasing a large number of pieces...

And so ended our foray into Germany. We returned arms (and luggage) full, back to the Netherlands, where poor Marcia will now have to catalogue our purchases and prepare for the next adventure. Cambridge here we come in two weeks' time.

--Marc Harrison and his wife Marcia run Harrison-Hiett Rare Books in The Netherlands. Images courtesy of the author.