A pre-publication manuscript of JRR Tolkien’s classic tale The Hobbit presented in a bespoke binding of gemstones representing the treasure hoard of the dragon Smaug is among the highlights heading to this year’s Firsts, London’s Rare Book Fair.
The bound set of sheets, collected by the author himself from the printers and given to his Oxford friend Russell Meiggs, is offered with an asking price of £150,000 from Peter Harrington.
After a Covid-enforced break, the 64th edition of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association’s (ABA) annual flagship event returns to a new home at Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.
The contemporary exhibition space – already utilised to good effect by the British Art Fair – will be the event’s home for the “foreseeable future” and is part of an ongoing move by the ABA to invest in its growth long term.
For the ABA’s president and fair chairman, Pom Harrington, the new venue provides a “well-deserved and much anticipated” opportunity to reconnect after nearly two years of pandemic disruption for the rare book trade.
He adds: “While the success of the online fairs proved the format has a permanent place in the antiquarian bookselling landscape, there is nothing that compares to the atmosphere and sense of discovery that a real-life fair provides.”
More than 80 UK and international book sellers from Europe and North America descend on the Saatchi Gallery from October 21-24, taking over three floors and offering a diverse array of specialisms.
These include firsts editions, rare photographs, early and antique maps, globes, hand-signed letters and rare prints dating from the ancient world through to the 21st century.
As part of the revamped return, a champagne reception is scheduled for the first time in several years and takes place on the evening of October 21, coinciding with the preview night.
Collectors of scarce James Bond manuscripts should head to Jonkers Rare Books – the Henley-on-Thames bookstore offers a heavily revised typescript for Diamonds are Forever. Priced at £350,000, it is one of only three full typescripts from Ian Fleming’s major work left in private hands and reveals his working practices as he honed the fourth Bond novel.
Elsewhere, London dealership Maggs Bros showcases two mid-18th century botanical albums containing over 70 depictions of specimens including butterflies and other insects by Countess Mary Macclesfield and her daughter Lady Elizabeth Parker.
Maggs says the albums, priced at £225,000 for the pair, display the “unmistakable influence” of Georg Ehret, the pre-eminent botanical draughtsman of the 18th century who tutored a number of aristocratic wives and daughters in flower painting.
Further highlights include a firstedition set of four volumes containing the adventures of AA Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and Christopher Robin priced at £14,000 through London bookseller Paul Foster Books; a large-scale plan of London by Christopher Greenwood, published 1845, on the stand of Daniel Crouch Rare Books; and a first UK printing of William Nicholson’s The Square Book of Animals signed by the artist and dated April 1900, available through Ashton Rare Books of Market Harborough priced at £2950.
Other UK exhibitors include Blackwell’s Rare Books, Justin Croft Antiquarian Books, Henry Sotheran and Shapero Rare Books.
Travelling from Tbilisi in Georgia, Bookvica brings a complete twoset volume of Fyodor Dostoevsky’s (1821-81) publishing project A Writer’s Diary, priced at $12,500. Probably the least known of all his works outside Russia, this collection of non-fiction and fictional writings has been described as an “encyclopaedia of Russian life”.
Also making their way from the continent are Antiquariat Inlibris (Austria), Librairie Clavreuil (France), Charlotte Du Reitz (Sweden) and Antiquariat Michael Banzhaf (Germany) among others.
Tamino Autographs, Bauman Rare Books, and Imperial Fine Books visit from New York.