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Professional Education of Antiquarian Booksellers in Russia

Professional Education of Antiquarian Booksellers in Russia Professional Education of Antiquarian Booksellers in Russia Professional Education of Antiquarian Booksellers in Russia

By Alisa Semina


Unlike most European countries, where the professional associations of antique book dealers play the role of the educational centers in the field of antiquarian book trade, in Russia, which hasn't had such organizations until now, another practice has formed. The educational centre for the specialists in the field of book trade as a whole and the antiquarian book trade in particularly is the institution of higher education - Moscow State University of Printing Arts (MGUP, until 1993 the Moscow Institute of Printing). It is the unique high school in Russia where one can get an education in the field of the publishing industry and book trade: it graduates engineers, mechanics, technologists and economists of typographic manufacturing, journalists, publishers and editors of all literary styles, graphic artists and computer designers, specialists in the field of advertising, booksellers. The total number of students is up to 7000. The university cooperates with more than 20 foreign high schools, including the Leipzig Higher Technical School, the London College of Communications, Oxford Brookes University, the Beijing Institute of Printing, etc. Among its' partners there are the largest international typographic enterprises such as «Heidelberg» (Germany), «DuPont» (USA), «Koenig & Bauer AG» (Germany), «Gallus» (Switzerland), etc. In the university the Museum of History of Printing Arts and Book Publishing was created, where rare printed books XVII-XVIII centuries, manuscripts and archival documents are collected. Since 1986 professor A.M. Tsyganenko has been the chancellor of MGUP.

The future booksellers master their profession at the faculty of publishing and journalism, acquiring a liberal education. Among special disciplines they study history of the West European and Russian book, bibliography, bibliology, the organization of book trade, management and marketing, accounting in book business, advertising of book production. Certain courses consider specific sections of book repertoire, for example, fiction and children's books, natural science and technical, educational books.

The students study of old and rare books begins with the course «Antiquarian Book Trade» in which they study the history of the antiquarian book trade in Russia, its current organization, issues of antiquarian book classification and pricing. All elements of the book influencing its rarity and contemporary market price (various types of book cover and paper, types and especially ways of reproduction of illustrations) are studied very carefully. While studying, students have to complete two practical works. The first concerns the analysis of trading-technological process of a selected antiquarian bookshop and revealing shortcomings of their work, the second - the comprehensive study of a specified copy of antiquarian book.

For students interested in receiving a profound education in the field of the antiquarian trade the book business department of the specified faculty has organized the specialization «Antiquarian trade», consisting of a two-year education under the special program. Besides other book-selling disciplines it includes 4 basic courses: «History and organization of antiquarian trade», «Antiquarian book», «Antique objects» and «Expertise of antique objects». During studying of the first course students consider questions of history of collecting and trading antiques in Europe and Russia, they also study features of the organization and the basic technologies of today's antiquarian book trade in the leading European countries: France, Germany, Great Britain and in the USA. Special attention is given to studying of internet technologies, the analysis of the basic national and largest foreign sites on the trading of antiquarian books, sites of the professional associations of antiquarian booksellers, bibliophiles and the biggest museums and libraries.

Today in Russia, antiquarian books are offered for sale mainly by antiquarian shops and galleries which sell various antique objects. In this regard the program of specialization is added with the course «Antique objects» in which students receive knowledge of jewels, graphic works, icons, decorative and applied arts objects, furniture, etc. The antiquarian book is also studied more carefully: topic-wise, the chronological periods, diverse printing production (for example, engravings, postcards and maps), etc. In the last discipline students consider in detail not only elements of the book, but also art styles, which help to identify editions, the most important bibliographical editions for books evaluation, the system of contemporary Russian magazines on antiques, works of the outstanding book artists.

All studies in the listed disciplines are provided with visual materials in the form of copies of antiquarian books, samples of book covers and paper, exlibris, bookseller's stickers, advertising materials, booksellers and auction catalogues, which are kept in the fund of book business department. Leading Russian antiquarian booksellers and bibliophiles regularly conduct master-classes with students. Besides lecture rooms, studies are organized in antiquarian bookshops and museums of Moscow.

In the course of study students do several practical works: they analyze the selected antiquarian book with estimation of it's rarity, valuation and price; study features of art styles; analyze the contemporary press on antiques; search for the bibliographical editions on specific sections of assortment; work with internet sites of the antiquarian enterprises, associations and libraries.

During study students undergo practical training at the branch enterprises. Upon completion of education they pass the state examination and defend their half a year degree work on the problems of antiquarian book trade. The subject area of these works is very diverse, for example, «The Russian children's book of the beginning of XX century on today's antiquarian market of Moscow», «Features of advertising in antiquarian book business», «Playing cards on the national antiquarian market», «History of antiquarian trade in book system «Akademkniga», «Russian engraved editions of XIX century on today's antiquarian market», etc. As experience has shown, mentioned specialization is one of the most popular among the students at the faculty. Every year at least 10-15 students pass their education here and subsequently some of them obtain a job in antiquarian book trade.

This specialization was initiated by O.L. Tarakanova, professor, doctor in history, who was the first to defend thesis for a doctor's degree on the antiquarian book in Russia («History of the Russian antiquarian book», 1994). She is also the author of the whole complex of tutorials on the «antiquarian» subject area which are currently unique in Russia: the textbook «Antiquarian book» (1996), tutorials «Bibliophilic editions» (2003), «Biobibliographic dictionary of Russian antique book dealers» (2004, in the co-authorship with N.G. Kamenskaya), «Trading technological process in the antiquarian book trade» (2005, in the co-authorship with N.S. Gracheva and N.G. Kamenskaya), etc.

Today the book business department is the unique practical and scientific centre of antiquarian book trade in the country. In 2007 the first and unique in Russia «The Directory of the antiquarian bookshops in Moscow» was published here under the direction of O.L. Tarakanova (in the co-authorship with T.V. Panarina). Here advanced trainings for antiquarian booksellers also take place.

The university also offers MA courses and postgraduate studies where candidates defend thesis of «antiquarian» subject areas for a degree in historical and philology sciences. Among the defended theses there are works on «The circle of Russian elegant editions' amateurs» («Kruzhok lubiteley russkih izyashchnyh izdaniy») - the first Russian «official» association of bibliophiles (A.V. Nikolenko, 2000); publishing of Gosznak - one of the best state printing houses of Russia in XIX-the beginning of XX century (N.S. Gracheva, 2004); history of antiquarian book trade in Great Britain (D.V. Gorshkov, 2005) and France (T.V. Panarina, 2009), book auctions in Russia (A.S. Semina, 2008). Now work proceeds on the thesis on history of antiquarian book trade in the USA (V.I. Shuklin), enlightened activities of Russian antique  booksellers (E.A. Lapshina), etc.

In recent years in Moscow a number of commercial educational organizations were based in the field of antiquarian business, among them the biggest Russian auction house «Gelos» and Institute of cultural enlightenment «Kultprosvet». However their courses generally focus on advanced training of antiquarian dealers: these programs are based mainly on practical experience and do not provide fundamental education. Besides, they are focused first of all on studying of painting and decorative and applied arts objects.
Thus, MGUP's program for educating of the high-skilled personnel in the field of antiquarian book trade remains unique in the country. We are very optimistic about the first national association of antiquarian booksellers in Russia and hope that the cooperation of the university and this association will develop a mutually beneficial relationship.

Alisa Semina is Candidate in History at Moscow University. The article is published here by her permission.

More information

Forum Antikvarov Bukinistov (FAB)  

Olga Tarakanova about the rare book trade in Russia

China and Russia admitted to the World of Rare Books

Published since 16 Dec 2009

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