Book Fairs | March 15, 2012

Highlights of the Upcoming London Antiquarian Book Fair

A selection of exciting highlights of the 55th London International Antiquarian Book Fair has been announced. The Fair, which will be held for the first time in the bigger and more attractive National Hall at Olympia (London W14) from Thursday, 24th May to Saturday, 26th May, 2012 already has more exhibitors lined up than ever before in its 55-year history.

Among the highlights this year are of course some Charles Dickens' books and manuscripts. A first edition of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby with illustrations by Phiz (Chapman & Hall, 1839) and inscribed on the dedication leaf to the painter David Wilkie, will be on sale for £120,000 at Jarndyce. Another first edition - Great Expectations (Chapman & Hall, 1861) will be on sale by the same exhibitor for £50,000 and A Collection of the Five Christmas Books, all first editions (1843-1848), for sale at £20,000. In addition Jarndyce also offers a holograph manuscript of Martin Chuzzlewit, written by Dickens in 1847 in order to raise money for Leigh Hunt's Benefit. The humorous series of caricatures is told in the first person by Mrs Gamp, the character from Martin Chuzzlewit (£80,000). For £15,000, collectors can also buy a letter from Dickens to fellow author Wilkie Collins from 1858 in which he proposes 'a house to let'.

Other English classics on sale at the Fair will be Samuel Johnson's A Dictionary of the English Language from 1755 (£17,500/ Peter Harrington) and The Works of William Shakespeare in eight volumes collated and with explanatory notes by Mr Theobald (1757/ £1,400/ Bow Windows Book Shop) and of course a George Allen 1894 edition of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice from 1894 (£1,000/ Bow Windows Book Shop).

There will be many first editions of classic novels available, but among the ones that are probably most sought-after are Virginia Woolf's The Waves published by her husband's Hogarth Press in 1931 and with a dust jacket designed by her sister Vanessa Bell (£1,850/ Bow Windows Book Shop). The first UK edition of Samuel Beckett's How it is is one of a limited edition of 100 numbered copies signed by the author. This one is inscribed by the author to his close friend actor Patrick Magee (1964/ £2,750/ Peter Harrington). In addition, an inscribed copy of The Soul of a Bishop by H.G. Wells from 1917 is inscribed to poet and novelist Sylvia Lynd, who was married to Robert Lynd, the Irish writer and Nationalist (£395/ Graham York Rare Books).

Among other first edition highlights are Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection...(1859/ £75,000/ Peter Harrington) and a set of the first editions of Captain Cook's three voyages (1773-84/ £37,500/ Daniel Crouch Rare Books LLP). Peter Harrington is selling The Heart of Antarctic by E.H. Shackleton, a first signed limited edition, number 193 of 330 (£27,500).

A rare 2nd edition of Nicolaus Copernicus' De revolutionibus orbium coelestium, one of the most influential works in astronomy, from 1566 will be on sale through Swiss Antiquariat De Paul Kainbacher for around £ 90,000 (??110,000).

Many collectors have started their collection by buying one of their favourite books from their childhood and there are lots to tempt at the fair. Whether it is Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, or What Alice found there by Lewis Carroll, all first editions bound by Bayntun (1866-72/ £10,000/ Paul Foster) or J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings - all three volumes are first editions (1954-55/£16,500/Paul Foster).

With the current interest in Sherlock Holmes, why not get a first edition of one of his best - The Hound of the Baskervilles from 1902 by Arthur Conan Doyle (£6,500/Paul Foster) or get the first edition of the book that inspired the musical Cats, T.S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats from 1939 (£750/ Jonkers Rare Books). Other children’s classics available at the Fair will be a first E.H Shepard illustrated edition of The Wind in the Willows (1931) by Kenneth Grahame (£1,300/ Bow Windows Book Shop); a beautiful first edition of J.M. Barrie's Peter and Wendy (£700/ Bow Windows Book Shop); a first edition in exceptional condition of The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry (1943/£3,250/ Peter Harrington); a signed copy of Michael Bond's Paddington helps out (1960/£725/ Paul Foster) or Walter de la Mare's Desert Islands and Robinson Crusoe, illustrated by Rex Whistler from 1930 (£90/ HM Fletcher).

For those who would like to go back to children's rag book days, there will also be an edition of Our Railway Book by Raphael Tuck & Sons from around 1906 (£195/ Nicholas Goodyer).

Visitors will also be able to purchase a wide selection of maps and travel books at the Fair including the Atlas Russicus, an extraillustrated example of this amazing atlas from around 1738-80 by Joseph Nicolas de L'Isle et al. (£78,500/ Altea Antique Maps & Old Charts) or the first printed map of Japan to appear in an atlas from around 1603 (£2,250/ Sanders of Oxford). German Antiquariat Buechl-Baur is selling an important Brasilianum. Three volumes of Jean-Baptiste Debret's Voyage pittoresque et historique au Brésil, ou Séjour d’un Artiste Français au Brésil (1834-1839/ £55,000).

For the best of British, there is a fantastic map of London for sale: England's Glory or The Glory of England, Being a New Mapp of the Citty of London, Printed and Sold by Robert Walton, at ye Globes Compasses, just at the west end of St. Paul's-Church from 1676 (£11,500/ Daniel Crouch Rare Books LLP) and very rare Britannia Illustrata or Views of All the Palaces, Several Seats and other Publick Buildings of England from 1724 of which Copac lists only three other copies, one of which belongs to the National Trust Libraries (£2,350/ Nicholas Goodyer). Another interesting London treasure is A Survey of the Cities of London and Westminster, and the Borough of Southwark.... which gives fantastic birds-eye views of London Squares, first written in 1698 and then enlarged, like this 1754-55 edition (£9,500/Nicholas Goodyer). For a nostalgic view of Britain and its traditional shops, the Country Life publication High Street by Eric Ravilious from 1938 will give you a fantastic glimpse of the olden days (£2,250/ Bow Windows Book Shop).

With the Olympics this year, we expect quite a bit of Sports and Olympic interest and there is already an official report of The Games of the Xth Olympiad, Los Angeles 1932 among the highlights, which will no doubt find a keen collector sprinting to the fair (£600/ Nicholas Goodyer).

Animal lovers will be fascinated by the complete set of John Gould's magnificent The Birds of Great Britain from 1873 (£75,000/ Peter Harrington).

With our current economic climate there might also be a lot of interest in John Maynard Keynes' The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (1936/ £950/ Bow Windows Book Shop) or Josiah Wedgwood's advice to his workers not to work in America from 1783 - An Address to the Workmen in the Pottery, on the subject of entering into the service of foreign manufacturers (£3,800/ Ken Spelman Booksellers).

The Fair is not just about books though, you will also find some fantastic drawings, illustrations, posters and even photographs. A highlight is no doubt the charming Victorian watercolour drawing of Ada Byron, the only legitimate daughter of Lord Byron and the world's first computer programmer (c.1850/ £9,500/ HM Fletcher); there are also some beautifully hand-coloured aquatints of St. Petersburg from 1815 mostly after Mornay (£7,500/ Nicholas Goodyer) and famous English animal painter Sawrey Gilpin's sketchbook from around 1800 is also for sale (£850/ Ken Spelman Books). A large paper copy of Edwin Landseer's brother Thomas's engraving Monkeyana or Men in Miniature (c. 1827/ £575/ Nicholas Goodyer) can be found at the Fair as well as coloured plates of golfers from c.1920 (£700/ Nicholas Goodyer) or the caricature by William Heath depicting a duel between Wellington and Winchilsea in Battersea (1829/£250/Sanders of Oxford). The complete yearly issue of an Italian fashion magazine with many illustrations might attract the interest of many ladies wanting to start their collection (1844/ £1,400/ Kunstantiquariat Monika Schmidt) as might the very attractive complete yearly volume of a rare Belgian botanical periodical about Camellia flowers (1851/ £2,100/ Kunstantiquariat Monika Schmidt) or indeed the beautiful Art Nouveau lithograph of a woman with a peacock from 1898 by Louis John Read for L'Estampe Moderne (£1,000/ Sanders of Oxford). For more modern taste there will also be a Salvador Dali designed French travel poster (1970/£125/ Graham York Rare Books) and a Dutch constructivism poster from 1930 (£600/ Librairie Pierre Coumans).

For anyone interested in original photographs, there will be several small collections on sale, including 6 photographs by Fritz Angerer, including some from his travels to Cameroon in 1886 (£1,000/ Antiquariat Dr. Paul Kainbacher).

Organised by the ABA (the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association), the world's premier Book Fair features over 160 booksellers from around the globe selling illustrated books, manuscripts, fine bindings, maps, prints, photography and associated ephemera, from the genesis of printing in the 15th Century to today.

Whether you are an expert collector or trying to find a first edition of your favourite book or simply want to add some style to your interiors with a properly stocked bookshelf of your all time favourites, this year's Fair won't disappoint you.

Details of all the highlights can be viewed beforehand on the website:

Full details of opening hours, location, and travel to Olympia can be found on

Tickets to the Fair may be purchased on the door for £10 each, £15 for two.