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London book fair announces theme for May event

  • March 23, 2024
  • 3 min read
London book fair announces theme for May event

Firsts London 2024, the rare book fair at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea, London, runs from the 16th to 19th May. This year, the theme for Firsts is ‘The Art of the Book’ and will bring together the best the market has to offer when it comes to beautiful books. The Fair will gather over 100 international dealers in the appropriate setting of the Saatchi Gallery, promising to be an exceptional demonstration of the book as art and the art of the book. 

From bejewelled bindings to pop-up books; from Japanese woodblock printing to illuminated Qur’ans; in books, the visual arts meet literature, and beauty may be admired in illustration and illumination; in calligraphy and cartography; in typography and photography; in printmaking and paper manufacture; and within the art of bookbinding itself. Book design represents shifting tastes and conventions through the centuries and across cultures, as well as revealing socioeconomic factors which influence their production. 

Pom Harrington, Fair Chairman, says: “Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair is the once-a-year showcase for the very finest stock from the British rare book trade, as well as some of the best offerings of the rare book world globally. Staging the fair within a strikingly modern setting at Saatchi Gallery has proved a resounding success in allowing rare books to take their rightful place alongside decorative arts and antiques. Now in its 67th edition, Firsts has cemented its position as an unmissable event on the international rare book fair calendar.”

Visitors can look forward to some exceptional highlights, such as a beautifully illustrated Art Nouveau book from 1900 – Hugo von Hofmannsthal’s Der Kaiser und die Hexe, of which only 200 copies were printed. It will be on Michael Schleicher’s stand and has an asking price of £7,680. 

Peter Harrington Rare Books will be showing three stunning bindings by Cedric Chivers, who patented his ‘vellucent’ bindings in 1898. A particularly attractive edition of Edmund Spenser’s Faerie Queene, pictured and decorated by Louis Fairfax-Muckley from 1897 (£12,500); an 1893 Aubrey Beardsley illustrated Morte Darthur by Sir Thomas Malory (£12,000) and a superb copy of the Rubáiyát of Omar Khayyám translated by Edward Fitzgerald, this one published in 1903, finely bound by Cedric Chivers after an Art Nouveau design by the illustrator Herbert Granville Fell (£9,500). 

Camden Lock Books is known for offering a wide range of miniature books including a beautiful English Bijou Almanac for 1841, poetically illustrated by the Hon. Mrs Norton, of which only 14 seem to be in existence around the world (£1,950). 

Paul Foster is bringing a book sometimes described as the first interactive book published, but certainly the first to use movable tabs. Le Livre Joujou by M. Bres (third issue from circa 1875) has 13 hand-coloured illustrated plates with pull tabs to change the image. 

Beaux Books will be exhibiting first edition copies of all the books authored by Cecil Beaton during his lifetime and will also display several books with original jackets by Beaton, alongside posters and ephemera. 

Among the artists’ books at Shapero Rare Books will be a superb example of Juste Présent, a collection of Tristan Tzara’s poems with illustrations by his long-term collaborator and friend Sonia Delaunay. Published in 1961, a period where Delaunay returned to the styles of the early years of her career, signed by the author and artist, including an additional signed etching hand-coloured in gouache by the artist in the original lithographed chemise and slipcase (£22,500).

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