Abroad in Bloomsbury

Bloomsbury Book Fair“Hello!  Are you going to write us all up your blog?”  Well, that’s the sort of greeting that was always going to get Hedley Morgan (H. J. Morgan) a mention – and a photograph too. 

Hedley Morgan

Hedley Morgan

And the sub-plot was that it slowed me down enough to look at his books with care and attention.  Soon changing hands were a Thomas Hardy, a Wodehouse, and an unusual 1902 novel of fraud, wrongful conviction and incarceration on Dartmoor – the book suitably cased in a prison-grey cloth with the arrow-marks of convict garb.  Can’t recall ever having seen it before – some mileage in this one – but then Hedley has been exhibiting at book-fairs far too long to be caught out bringing uninteresting  or over-priced books.  

Yes – a visit to the monthly Bloomsbury Book Fair at the Royal National Hotel last Sunday.  A somewhat attenuated visit as an invitation to lunch from our younger daughter beckoned (and excellent it was).   A fair in rude and rugged health – comfortably over 100 exhibitors – plenty of visitors.  A fair not monitored by any trade association – anyone can (I believe) exhibit for the cost of a table, which gives it an edgy kind of suspense as to who and what might appear.  There certainly seemed to be plenty of buying and selling going on.  And some spectacular deal-mongering.  Lots of books conspicuously marked down.  I was offered the entire remaining contents of someone’s display shelves for £200 (I won’t say whom – but you would be very surprised).   Couldn’t be tempted (nowhere to put them and I don’t think the price included delivery) – and on to have a word with Richard Hodgson about the proposed York Antiquarian Book Seminar (see York Book Fair 2012 – Saturday below) – all seems to be shaping nicely.  He regales me with a rather pleasing story of a bitterly disappointed haggler who missed out on a book he had been looking for over many years (always a popular theme with booksellers).  Why do people do it?  Who do you think gets first offer on the very best and scarcest books – the perennial and persistent haggler or the collector who simply says, “Yes please, thank you very much” and promptly pays up? 

Tom Biro

Tom Biro

A quick chat with Kevin Finch (Peter Harrington) – looking remarkably philosophical at being left to run the Bloomsbury stand while his colleagues were away at the rather more glamorous fair in New York.  A word with Tom Biro (Collectable Books), an ABA member whom I have somehow contrived not to mention before.  Some good early cookery books on display – but he’s excited about something else he has recently been offered.  Something he’s not seen before.  Something that needs some research.  We compare notes on how satisfying it all still is – something fresh to learn and discover every day.  Happy in our work.

Brief hellos to an aisle of map and print-sellers – Angelika Friebe, Simon Hunter, Lee Jackson, and my old colleague Philip Sharpe.  Really altogether too much to look at here in a brief visit – a fair full of possibilities.  A hello to Amanda Willis in another corner.  Marc Harrison (Ellwood Books and Harrison-Hiett Rare Books) is having a clear-out – when the corridors become impassable it has to be time to have one.  Every book a fiver.  He takes some money from me (Evelyn Waugh, Ted Hughes) on behalf of an absent neighbour.  My carrier bags are filling up.       

Steve Baxter

Steve Baxter

And here’s another ABA member I’ve not mentioned before – Steve Baxter.  He’s someone I always seem to be able to buy from at fairs – and so it is again (John Hadfield, Dorothy L. Sayers).  He reluctantly accedes to a photograph.  The fair seems to be going pretty well all round.   But it’s Sunday – and a Sunday roast calls.

Off to York tomorrow for the Annual General Meeting – and to my final bow as President of the ABA.  Twenty-three months soon gone.  Regular readers will know how much I have enjoyed it all.  Thank you everyone for making it such a pleasure. 

There have been quite a few requests to keep the blog going – and so it shall, here at the same internet address, but obviously with a slightly different title.  And the safari will continue too – still parts of the country to visit (and revisit), still fun to be had, still books to be found.  The Bookhunter on Safari – coming soon to a screen near you.

About Laurence Worms - Ash Rare Books

Laurence Worms has owned and run Ash Rare Books since 1971. He represented the antiquarian book trade on the (British) National Book Committee from 1993 to 2002 and has been six times an elected member of the Council of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association. He was largely responsible for drafting the Association’s Code of Good Practice introduced in 1997, served as Honorary Secretary of the Association from 1998 to 2001 and as President from 2011 to 2013. He is a former member of the Council of the Bibliographical Society and continues to serve on the Council of the London Topographical Society. He writes and lectures on various aspects of the history of the book and map trades, and has lectured at the universities of Cambridge, London, Reading and Sheffield, as well as at the Bibliographical Society, the Royal Geographical Society, the Warburg Institute and at Gresham College. He teaches annually at the London Rare Books School and also organises the monthly Book Collecting Seminars at Senate House, University of London. Published work includes the compilation of fourteen ‘lives’ for the “Oxford Dictionary of National Biography”, a number of articles for “The Oxford Companion to the Book” and the chapter on early English maps and atlases for the fourth volume of “The Cambridge History of the Book in Britain”. A major essay on the same subject also appeared in “The History of Cartography” published by the University of Chicago Press. His long-awaited “British Map Engravers, co-written with Ashley Baynton-Williams, was published to critical acclaim in 2011”. More recently, he contributed the numerous biographical notes to Peter Barber’s hugely successful “London : A History in Maps”, co-published by the British Library and the London Topographical Society in 2012.
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