Today’s book dealer can only fantasise about owning a complete Caxton; most would be satisfied with a single leaf from a tome by the English language’s pioneering printer.
It would be easy for dealers, collectors and curators to feel wistful about those early days of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, when collecting was a growing pastime, masterpieces were yet to disappear behind institutional walls and the definition of ‘rare’ was tightly framed as being pre-1800.
But the market has had to evolve to embrace new audiences and this supplement, now in its second year, casts the net wide to chart fresh trends in the books, prints and maps scene.
Much as dealers strive to be more accessible, we too have selected topics reflecting old and new collecting areas, from low to mid and upper ends of the market. We focus on modern maps, but we also celebrate Old Master prints. In assessing the influence of literary anniversaries, writers considered range from Jonathan Swift to JK Rowling.
The ‘greying’ of the book trade is being offset by a new generation of dealers, of both sexes, who exploit the web but observe older maxims, such as the importance of condition and the need to handle rare books in person. There are myriad opportunities to do so, as our extensive calendar of events attests.
What would those venerable dealers of 1912 make of today’s more egalitarian scene? They may be disappointed that their ‘club’ has become less exclusive and would no doubt be baffled by modern realities.
But overall we suspect they’d be happy that their association successors are working hard to preserve the trade’s professionalism, while expanding the boundaries and ensuring the future of this fascinating area of collecting.
“What would the dealers of 1912 make of today’s egalitarian scene?”