In a world dominated by Amazon, independent booksellers are striving to offer something experiential alongside straightforward retail. Small stores thrive when they offer curated literary stock and environments that make the customer want to linger. It’s something that London-based antiquarian booksellers Ines Bellin and Leo Cadogan want to replicate with their first Ink Ldn event – a book fair on October 21 and 22 (£10 per ticket) that will bring together a carefully selected group of American and European dealers in a central London gothic mansion that was built by William Waldorf Astor in 1895 to house his art collection and library.
“We wanted a boutique fair in a jewel of a location,” says Bellin, of their choice of 2 Temple Place, near Victoria Embankment. The space is certainly a gem, with a plethora of literary motifs, including a frieze of 80 Shakespearean characters, a main staircase bearing mahogany carvings of The Three Musketeers, statues of Rip Van Winkle and Hester Prynne and a series of silver-gilt panels depicting the women of Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur.
The fair’s focus is surprising, exclusive books. “We don’t want dealers with 12 of the same first editions to sell,” says Cadogan. “We are emphasising quality over quantity. We have exhibitors coming from across the globe, operating at the top end of the market in a wide variety of specialities, and bringing their finest pieces; there will be items of museum standard here.”
The event is being sponsored by Abe Books – the online marketplace for vintage booksellers around the world, which, ironically, was bought by Amazon in 2008. Booksellers coming to the first Ink Ldn event include Christian Westergaard of Sophia Rare Books in Copenhagen, which specialises in science publications; Fabrizio Govi of Libreria Alberto Govi in Modena, bringing a selection of early continental books, incunabula and medieval manuscripts; and Pom Harrington of Chelsea’s Peter Harrington, specialists in literature, art, travel and history, among others.
Highlights include a 1906 folio of the first complete photographic survey of the Forbidden City, Peking (£65,000) at Maggs Bros, and a 1664 third folio edition of Shakespeare’s plays (£500,000) at Peter Harrington.