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But No Matter, The Road Is Life … The London International Antiquarian Book Fair

The June book fairs are mostly in May this year. The Antiquarian Bookdealers Association: Scheduling perversity a speciality since 1906. The Olympia International Antiquarian Book Fair (for which I am feverishly preparing, ie: shaving, because I have to speak to humans) begins on the 24th of May and ends upon the 26th. Full schedules, locations, lists of lectures etc. can be found here: Olympia Book Fair.

Published on 20 Feb. 2018

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By Bibliodeviant


The June book fairs are mostly in May this year. The Antiquarian Bookdealers Association: Scheduling perversity a speciality since 1906.

The Olympia International Antiquarian Book Fair (for which I am feverishly preparing, ie: shaving, because I have to speak to humans) begins on the 24th of May and ends upon the 26th. Full schedules, locations, lists of lectures etc. can be found here: Olympia Book Fair.

Now, book fairs have a purpose. Well they have more than one, but as far as you are concerned there’s one major one. Hands up any of you who have actually laid hands on a Hypnerotomachia Poliphilii? (Well it looks like this, and it’s an amazing piece of renaissance printing, and it’s full of secret codes (!) and sex, and it’s way more complicated and mysterious than Lost, only without the utterly banal ending.)

It roughly translates as the “Struggle for Love in a Dream”, although if you look it up on wikipedia, they refer to it as The Strife of Love In a Dream. It was published in 1499 in Venice by a man who was to publishing what Joss Whedon is to triumphant comebacks.


I want one of these like Dante wanted Beatrice, like astronauts want to go back into space, like browncoats want a second season of Firefly, like this book is gravity and I am a little tiny falling thing…You get the idea. It’s a thing I really like.

(I mean, really, look at this thing.)

I saw my first copy a few years ago at the Olympia International Book Fair; Heather O’Donnell of Honey and Wax showed it to me and, like Legolas seeing the sea, I was done. My heart made a little ringing sound and hasn’t let me entirely rest since. I mean, I even read the damned thing.

Then there’s this sort of thing:

You’d sell your soul to the Devil to produce something this beautiful, and he’d get the irony.

And this:

This is from Martayan Lan (not a Star Trek character) and will be at the fair next week.


That’s without considering the Sherlock Holmes first editions, the Harry Potter collections, the giant books full of intricate and wondrous engravings of long disappeared mathematical and navigational instruments, the multi-volumed histories of lands that have been engulfed by tides both literal and metaphorical, the first editions of Dracula and Pride and Prejudice and Nineteen Eighty-Four and The Hunger Games and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Then there’s Samuel Pepys, and Lord Rochester, and Oliver Cromwell (never liked the man myself) and Jules Verne and Charles Dickens and some utterly bizarre paintings of sea monsters by a man whose relationship with sanity was clearly more of an acquaintance.

As a very last resort you can laugh at bookdealers, just supposing any of them are doing anything funny. (“Then he said: But that’s average size for an Octavo!”)

Book fairs are an invaluable opportunity to lay hands on and lose hearts to a vast array of art forms and artefacts that otherwise you’re only going to see on Tumblr with some rather pointless fact about boyfriends photo-shopped over the top of them.

I understand your reluctance.
At their worst book fairs oscillate wildly between a car boot sale taking place in the parking lot of a Little Chef on the Fifth Circle of Hell, and an intensely aggravating exercise in pointless elitism from a group of people who a) actually believe that clothes maketh the man or woman and b) cannot rid themselves of the erroneous belief that selling something wonderful, important and clever somehow makes them wonderful, important and clever. They also occasionally believe that saying “I don’t think you can afford it.” counts as customer service.

I have experienced both of these extremes, in all fairness this could be because I’m scruffy, poor and have a low boredom threshold. I have however not experienced them at Olympia (or Chelsea or any of the fairs I actually go back to endlessly, because they’re good, and they have good books and good book dealers).

The Olympia International Antiquarian Book Fair is one of the best and brightest in the world, dealers and customers travel from all over the planet to exhibit, buy and drool over some of the most stunning books you’ll ever see.

So basically, you must come to the fair. You will be most welcome. I can supply you with as many free tickets as you want. If you desire a tour of the fair, feel free to ask, there are lectures, demonstrations and all sorts of other bits and bobs. These are the droids you’re looking for.

(Posted on Bibliodeviancy - book lust unbound … Presented here by permission of the author.)
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