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ILAB Internship in London. Part I: Olympia Antiquarian Book Fair

In 2011 the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers initiated an internship program which enables young books to spend some time in another country. They are hosted by ILAB booksellers, work in their businesses and learn a lot about rare bookselling. Valentina Rudnitskaya is one of four ILAB Interns from Russia who travelled to the United Kingdom, Hungary, Austria, Germany, Netherlands and Australia. Read her report.

Published on 17 Feb. 2018

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By Valentina Rudnitskaya


I am a rare book specialist from Moscow where I attended the courses held by Professor Olga Tarakanova at the Moscow State University of the Printing Arts. I finished my studies in 2009. For some years I had been working both in the antiquarian book trade and in the advertising business. Now I am a third year PhD student writing my thesis about advertising in the Russian antiquarian book trade.

To take part in the ILAB Internship Program is a great honour and a great opportunity for me. From 21st May to 18th June 2012 I spent four weeks at Christopher Sokol Books in London. The accommodation was provided by Mr. Anthony C. Hall, a specialist in Russian and Eastern European Studies, including books in Russian.

First of all I would like to say that I am very grateful to Laurence Worms and the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (ABA), to Norbert Donhofer and the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB) and to Christopher Sokol and Anthony C. Hall for the organization of this internship. Also I want to thank Olga Tarakanova, Alena Lavrenova, Eric and Alisa Waschke for giving me the opportunity to take part in this internship.


The London International Antiquarian Book Fair


The first week of my internship was full of impressions. It was the week before the oldest antiquarian fair in the world opened its doors to visitors: the London International Antiquarian Book Fair. So I was lucky to attend the fair as a member of an exhibitor’s team. It was a great experience.

I arrived in London late in the evening of May 21st, and my internship started early in the morning. One could imagine what a busy time it was! Christopher Sokol's team was preparing the books for the Olympia fair. They should be transported to the National Hall at Olympia that morning.

For me it was the first time to take part in such an event. And I had the chance to compare it with Russian fairs, especially with the Moscow Antiquarian Book Fair. The London Fair gave me a great opportunity to meet more than 150 booksellers from all over the world at one place, to observe how they prepare for the fair, what they prefer to exhibit as the best part of their stocks, how they promote their businesses and how they establish relationships with prospective buyers and colleagues.


These are some aspects which I have noticed:


1. The London International Antiquarian Book Fair at Olympia is an exciting show for booksellers and collectors and at the same time it is a great cultural event. Besides being a market place, it is also a place where various lectures, demonstrations and activities are held by dealers, bookbinders, authors and collectors.

2. On the book fair website www.olympiabookfair.com the exhibitors have the opportunity to show the highlights of their offers. Thus they are able to attract the attention of their customers already before the fair. And the customers have the chance to contact the booksellers and to ask for more detailed information or to buy a book even before the book fair is officially opened.

3. The book fair organizers collect an enormous amount of anonymous data for their book fair statistics. They intend to monitor the book fair’s general success as well as the sales figures for each day.

For me it was especially interesting to observe how booksellers promote their businesses and how they established contacts with colleagues and customers.

4. Most booksellers prepare a special list - or even a well designed printed catalogue - of the books, manuscripts, autographs and prints offered at the fair. Full descriptions of each item are available upon request. They also distribute promotional material such postcards, bookmarks and recently published catalogues. Some of these ads are really creative!

5. During their conversations with customers most booksellers ask about their special interests. They inquire if they wish to receive catalogues by mail or whether they prefer digital versions via email. Many dealers also send out individual lists with interesting new arrivals from the fields of interest of their customers. That’s why they ask collectors and colleagues to leave their contact details. After the fair most exhibitors have collected lots of new information for their customers’ databases.

All these observations were really useful for me, and I am sure that my experiences at the London International Antiquarian Book Fair will help me to establish my own business relations in the future.

>>> Learn more about the ILAB Internships

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