Biblio News & Announcements

Firsts – London’s Rare Book Fair 2019 to be opened by Stephen Fry

Stephen Fry as Malvolio and Mark Rylance as Olivia in Twelfth Night at Shakespeare’s Globe, (C) Simon Annand

It has been announced that Stephen Fry will be opening the Firsts – London fair!

If you are not familiar with the work of Stephen Fry, you are missing out on an ascerbic yet compassionate wit and a wonderfully dry sense of humor. Stephen Fry is an English comedian and actor who is well known for his work on popular shows like Blackadder and QI, for his appearances on BBC Radio 4, for doing an amazing job portraying Oscar Wilde in Wilde, and for being half of the comedy duo Fry & Laurie. As it turns out, Fry is also a book collector as well as an author and is often spotted at book fairs.

Stephen Fry made the official announcement of his participation in the Firsts – London fair with a tweet this morning:

Biblio is proud to be the Official Fair Partner for 2019 Firsts – London and we’re very excited to attend this fair so that we can experience all that it has to offer the eager bibliophile.

To state the obvious draw of such an event: astonishing books from exceptional booksellers. With two-thirds of the exhibitors this year from the UK and the other third from 15 countries around the world (including 13 from the US), it will be wonderfully easy to find something that you simply can’t go home without!

There is also the presence of Shakespeareana to consider. This year, the Charity Partner of Firsts – London is Shakespeare’s Globe. John Wolfson, the Globe’s Honorary Curator of Rare Books, will present an exhibition of 16 extremely rare editions from his own collection together with other items from the Globe which are not usually on display. Wolfson will also give a talk, accompanied by Globe actors, at the Fair. Among the works to be exhibited at the Fair is a first edition of Rima et prosa by Luigi da Porto (1539) containing La Giulietta which is the source for Romeo and Juliet, and a first edition of The Two Noble Kinsmen by William Shakespeare and John Fletcher (1634), a play that was not included in the First Folio (1623) or any of the subsequent Shakespeare folios.

Il Bandello, from the John Wolfson collection

The Fair is more than just a place to peruse and purchase rare books, tempting though those wares may be. Attendees can also participate through hosted walking tours, talks and discussions, and demonstrations of book-related skills. Featured this year:

  • Walking tours of the fair include an introduction to rare books tour, a modern first editions highlights tour, a history of the printed nature book tour, an LGBTQ+ tour, and female writers tour;
  • And a special tour from Biblio! We’ll give you more details on that later;
  • Photographer Adriaan van Heerden will give a talk called “Unreal City: Journey to the dark side of London” which will cover how TS Eliot’s poem The Waste Land was translated into 85 photographs of London;
  • Simon Beattie will discuss his translation of Friedo Lampe’s novel At the Edge of the Night, which was banned by the Nazis
  • Cynthia Johnson from the Institute of English Studies will discuss ‘Collecting the Medieval Book in the Industrial North West’;
  • Calligraphy demonstration by renowned artist Andy Moore;
  • Traditional book binding demonstration by the Royal Bindery’s Apprentices.
  • Virtual Reality! Daniel Crouch Rare Books will use Oculous Go to give visitors a chance to fly over Turgot’s monumental 18th century ‘Plan de Paris’, which depicts the French capital during the reign of Louis XV;
  • A Bible Exhibition at the Fair by the International Society of Bible Collectors that highlights the literary and cultural significance of the Bible. It will include a fragment of the Gutenberg Bible (the world’s first printed book), the Lunar Bible (the first printed book to make landfall on the moon), a 17th century Bible with the bookplate of Charles Dickens, and a rare copy of the ‘Wicked’ Bible (1631) containing the infamous misprint “thou shalt commit adultery”


If you have something special that you would like to have evaluated by rare book experts, make sure to visit on Discovery Day. On Sunday, June 9th from 1-3pm, members of the public can bring up to 5 items to be appraised.

Firsts – London is organized by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA). The ABA was founded in 1906 and is the oldest organization of its kind in the world. It is the senior trade body for dealers in antiquarian and rare books, manuscripts and allied materials in the UK and its membership also includes many leading booksellers from overseas. Members are elected solely on the basis of proven experience, expertise and integrity and they guarantee the authenticity of all material offered for sale and ensure all items are properly described. The ABA runs book fairs in Edinburgh in March and in Chelsea in November as well as Firsts – London. It is a not-for-profit organization. The ABA Educational Trust works to support a continued awareness of the heritage of the book and the printed word. At this year’s Fair members of the ABA are encouraged to donate books and objects to the ABA’s Benevolent Fund charity shop to raise money for the Fund. www.aba.org.uk

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