The Hobbit

Frankenstein, Vampires and Byronic Darkness at the Antiquarian Book Fair

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Frankenstein, Vampires and Byronic Darkness at the Antiquarian Book Fair

Seasoned book collectors and amateur enthusiasts will flock to Olympia London Exhibition Centre for three days for the 59th London International Antiquarian Book Fair.

Running from Thursday, May 26 to Saturday, May 28, the event is one of the largest and most prestigious Antiquarian Book Fairs in the world.

The Olympia Fair plays host to over 180 leading international antiquarian book dealers, who bring thousands of rare, unique, and unusual items, with prices ranging from a few pounds to many hundreds of thousands.

This year's theme is The Birth of the Gothic: Two Centuries of Frankenstein, Vampires and Byronic Darkness, which celebrates the bicentenary of the stormy night at the Villa Diodati that spawned Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Polydori's The Vampyre, and popularised the entire genre.

Exhibitors will bring fabulous first editions of gothic classics such as Lewis’s The Monk, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Victor Hugo’s Notre Dame. 

There will be Gothic prints, related ephemera, themed tours, events and a film.

But if Gothic isn’t your thing, there is much else to enthral and amuse: from modern first editions signed by their prize-winning authors, to medieval manuscripts inscribed by monks; from ancient tomes on economics to children’s fairy stories, from fabulous collections of letters to beautiful maps, and more.

Only 1,500 copies of the first edition of J. R. R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit were printed and they contained a typo – the name Dodgson on the rear flap came with an erroneous ‘e’ and each was painstakingly excised by hand. Published on the 21st September 1937, the first print run was sold out by December.  This is a particularly fine example in its original wrapper complete with excised ‘e’.  Exceedingly rare and very popular, it’s priced at £40,000.

This extraordinary journal may be all that remains of John F. Tryon, a young Royal Navy marine and particularly talented draftsman with a keen interest in torpedoes, who served on four vessels whilst keeping this log.

Tryon reached the rank of Lieutenant in 1913, took command of HMS G 8 on 30 July 1917, and perished at sea in January 1918 during the First World War. Fastidiously, Tryon records barometrical readings and nautical winds, duties performed on-board, pertinent news and notable events. The book comprises 196 handwritten pages and 17 hand drawn and coloured sea charts.   £1,250

On a happier note this saucy illustration decorates the front of a menu card for a celebratory Christmas dinner at the Paris restaurant Prè Catelan in 1912. Designed by Georges Redon and in fine condition, it is subtitled: ‘Dinde Truffée’, i.e. roast turkey, and is available for a more accessible £240.

Napoleon was an early enthusiast of these charming miniature travel libraries and took sets with him on his military campaigns.  Produced by Fournier, from 1802 customers could decide the extent and contents of their library and the number of volumes, which varied from a dozen to over fifty.  This one contains 38 tiny volumes, each just 90mm x 65mm, including works by Racine, Voltaire, and Moliere amongst others, all housed in a fabulous faux book     £6,000

The LIVE! area at Olympia is devoted to book-related crafts and services including bookbinding, calligraphy and design.  Experts will be giving fascinating demonstrations and discussing their areas of expertise every day at LIVE!, which is the heart of the Fair.

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