Derek Walker of McNaughtan's about the new Rare Books Edinburgh Festival
Rare Books Edinburgh is a new festival taking place from 20th to 30th March 2017, which brings together ten different institutions and organisations to celebrate book culture, collecting, and the history of the book.
The programme includes talks, workshops, and exhibitions, and incorporates the Edinburgh Book Fair, jointly run by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association and the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association. The Edinburgh Book Fair is the largest antiquarian and collectable book fair in Scotland, this year featuring over forty specialist booksellers from around the UK. They will be offering for sale rare and collectable books and printed material of all kinds at a wide variety of price points. The fair will be opened by bestselling author and ‘king of tartan noir’ Ian Rankin OBE, creator of Inspector Rebus.
We spoke to Derek Walker of McNaughtan's Bookshop, bookseller in Edinburgh and one of the organisers of the festival.
Derek, why Rare Books Edinburgh? What is the idea behind the festival?
Rare Books Edinburgh is intended to highlight the remarkable richness of bookish culture here in Edinburgh, as well as Scotland more widely. The city is not only historically important in the development of the book trade and intellectual culture in the Anglophone world - think of the Scottish Enlightenment, or the innovations in publishing and marketing of works of literature during the 18th century that were made possible by the lax enforcement of copyright so far from London - but is still full of incredible collections, institutions, societies, and groups that are doing great things today. It seemed to me that simply coordinating one small activity from each of these would fill a festival schedule - and so it has proved.
The programme is still being developed, are there any highlights you would like to share for now?
The centrepiece of the festival is the existing Edinburgh Book Fair, which this year will be the largest it has been in many years. This fair pioneered joint activity between the Antiquarian Booksellers Association and the Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association - a model which was later used by the Dublin fair for a time and is now being tried in Bristol as well. The result is one of the broadest ranges of material that you can find at any rare & antiquarian book fair in the country, with top ABA dealers as well as local PBFA members who you won't see at other fairs.
I myself am particularly looking forward to the National Library of Scotland workshop at which they will allow people to get up close and personal with a selection of their incunabula, but one great element of Rare Books Edinburgh is the range of events we've been able to schedule. For those who are new to the study and collecting of books, Dr Tom Mole will be giving an introduction to Book History, while Blackwell's will be hosting remarks from one of their rare books specialists titled 'Rare Books: Where to Find Them and How to Sell Them'. On the other hand, if you have some relevant academic interests you will find much to chew on in William St Clair's talk on how publishing and book illustration contributed to a sense of national identity in Victorian Britain, and if you want to dig deeper into the physical structure of books then Surgeons' Hall has a workshop on sewing exposed spines.
Do you give advice on accommodation in Edinburgh?
Edinburgh is a city full of incredible buildings that is accustomed to welcoming strangers for short stays - it is often said that the city's population doubles in August (it certainly feels like it) - so while there are plenty of standard hotel chains it is almost a shame not to try looking beyond them. Websites like AirBNB have recently popularised short-term stays in regular houses and flats, but EdLets.com has been offering a similar service specific to Edinburgh for over 15 years, and there are numerous other websites catering to visitors in similar ways. Practically anywhere in the city is a great place - the centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for both the Old Town's medieval street plan featuring tenements on narrow sloping wynds as well as New Town's carefully-planned broad 18th-century streets and Georgian squares. Areas slightly further out have their own charms - Stockbridge is lovely, Leith has fantastic restaurants, and the area around the University is always buzzing.
How will McNaughtan's Bookshop & Gallery participate in the festival?
I've mostly been working behind the scenes, reaching out to potential participants and coordinating timing and occasional collaboration (linking speakers and venues), as well as building the website. McNaugtan's will also be exhibiting at the Book Fair, in the Dunedin Suite (upstairs) with the ABA booksellers. On the evening Wednesday 22nd we are also hosting a reception for customers and colleagues - this year is the shop's 60th birthday, since it opened in 1957. Any ILAB members who will be in town are welcome to drop in (but please RSVP to email@example.com if possible).
As a local, what must a new visitor to your city not miss?
One of my favourite things to do is just wander different parts of the city, especially the Old Town - though I should specify this is for its wynds and closes and hidden areas, and you have to learn to ignore the oversupply of tourist-targeting tartan shops. Visitors should definitely walk up at least one of the city's hills and take in the world-beating views - Calton Hill is a good place to start.
Derek, thank you very much for the interview. We wish you and all participants a memorable and succesful festival, hopefully to be repeated in 2018!
>> To contact McNaughtans Bookshop, please go here.
The Antiquarian Booksellers Association will also be able to give further information, please contact:
>> Rare Books Edinburgh Website: click here for festival details.
>> 24Hours left to explore Edinburgh? Find some inspiration here!.
Published since 21 Feb 2017