A View from Europe: The Cambridge PBFA Fair

Having shaken the dust of Stuttgart from our proverbial shoes, this week Marcia and I packed up our Volvo with stock, and set off for Dunkirk, the ferry to Dover, and eventually the PBFA Cambridge book fair


This is one of our favourite fairs of the year. Cambridge is a beautiful city, full of excellent restaurants, the occasional college, and my cousins. The fair is ably run by Phil and Sarah from the Haunted Bookshop, a lovely children’s bookshop in the centre of town. Having set out our wares, we made our way to G David, the city’s other antiquarian bookshop (just over the Square from the Haunted Bookshop). The evening before the fair opens, there is traditionally a “bit of a do” in David’s antiquarian room. This year, they outdid themselves with the catering -- including the first time I have ever seen a “sausage tree.”


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The next day, the fair began in earnest. There were some lovely exhibits this year, and the Guildhall looked at its finest. It was good to catch up with some of my old colleagues from the UK. I spent quite a while chatting to Graham York from Honiton. Graham and Jan always have interesting stock, and this year was no exception. Nestling amongst the books was a lovely antique microscope.


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I was persuaded to purchase a couple of Russian prints from David Maynard, which will no doubt appear in Maastricht next month. David also had a fabulous Salvador Dali item, Dix Recettes d’ Immortalite. Although incomplete, this lovely items still contains a number of pop ups and etchings by Dali, including four signed by him. A large and impressive piece.


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Back on the Haunted Bookshop stand, I was shown a beautiful large plate of the East Window of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge by Joshua Kirby Baldry. Executed in 1809, the colours are as fresh today as they ever were.   


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My own favourite item from this year’s fair, was offered by John Underwood. He had a beautiful collection of hand-painted wooden soldiers, by E.V. Howell. Painted in 1929, these were created as small samples for larger museum exhibition items. Against all probability, John found another dealer at the fair who had a collection of original paintings of these same figures, which the artist had created in preparation. Naturally he acquired those pretty quickly!


And so the fair ended. Being polite, we paused to thank our hosts and the PBFA for organising the event, and we set off again for the continent. Our next stop is the SELAC fair (Salon Européen du livre ancien et de la gravure de Colmar) on the 3rd and 4th of March. Hopefully we shall see some of our new, and old, friends there. 


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

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