Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bibliophile Heaven – The Rare Book Fair

This past week in Melbourne has been Rare Book Week and today I went with a fellow bibliophile to the Rare Book Fair which was held at Wilson Hall in our old alma mater, Melbourne University.

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Sculpture above entrance to the Ian Potter Museum on the outskirts of the University.

It has been decades since I last set foot in the university grounds, so before going to the fair we took a trip down memory lane to our old haunts…

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The Old Law building, which leads via a colonnaded cloister …

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…to the Old Quadrangle…

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…and from thence to the Old Arts building, where we both attended lectures and tutorials back in the 1960s.

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The Arts Tower Clock was a handy point of reference in terms of making the aforementioned lectures and tutorials on time.

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Back in the 1960s I didn’t appreciate the wonderful photogenic architecture of the old law and arts sector, and today was very impressed with the beauty of these old buildings.


This tree, a Morton Bay Fig, has been part of the University grounds for decades. It was old when I was student, so I’m glad it’s still alive. I vaguely recall someone doing a Yosarian (from Catch 22) impression in it way back when.

But on to the Book Fair…

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Though I wasn’t tempted to purchase anything, it was a fascinating exhibition of old books, prints, maps, postcards, posters etc. I was most interested to see if any of my precious modern first editions were on sale and at what price they were being sold. I noticed that there was a rare rice paper edition of The Lord of the Rings, of which I have a copy, on sale for $500 and also an edition of an obscure Michael Ende novel titled The Grey Gentlemen selling for $100. I have the same edition in my personal library.

The most notable modern first edition on sale was The Great Gatsby which would set you back almost $200,000.

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So there were treasures aplenty for a dedicated book lover to lust over, but there were no bargains to be had; the books I fancied were way beyond my price range.

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Australiana – worth big bucks these days.

Today was the final day of the Rare Book Fair, so I’m glad I was able to attend, as I only found out about it on Thursday last week. Apparently it’s on every year, or since last year so far.

Rather than go home bookless, we decided, after trooping around the fair and seeing everything there was to see, to drop in on a second hand bookshop close by. There I found a terrific history of the Melbourne Cup (up to 1971) and a omnibus paperback edition of the first three novels in Anthony Powell’s Dance to the Music of Time sequence. Amazingly I do not possess a copy of Powell’s masterpiece, but I have read the entire twelve books, which were loaned to me by a friend. I rather fancy rereading it sometime or other so will endeavour to acquire the other three omnibus editions second hand at a reasonable price.

Bibliophile heaven indeed.


Ann ODyne said...

My Ex did Law at Melb in 1964 and those cloisters and battlements must have made him and his cohorts think they had really achieved something.
Never a Kindle for me.
I love books and they are all over my house. I am not pedantic and neither is The University Of Melbourne School Of Arts if they sign 'Rare Book Fair' which does not means 'Rare Books Fair'.
Isn't that cover art for TGG just perfect? I wonder if it sold.

Anne S said...

Rare Book Fair sounds OK to me. Meant in the same way as the Chelsea Flower Show has a singular flower in the title.

I did not deliberately set out to collect modern first editions, but sort of acquired them at the time of issue, only later in life realising that they could be worth something. It's hopeless trying to sell books in Australia, as they have not the appreciation (in both value & desirability) as they have in the USA. Not that I'm wanting to sell mine anyway.

Marshall Stacks said...

oh yes The Chelsea Flower Show. ha ha.
The www is so perfect for booksearching.
I was gifted a SFE of my favourite Australian book - Time Without Clocks by Joan Lindsay. It is my only FE and I have 2 other copies. Every page is a pleasure to read.
A book has a life - when I walk through my roomful, I see them as little friends sitting around waiting to be petted.
x x AOD

Anne S said...

Just about every room in my house has a shelf or two of books. As the famous title of one of Anthony Powell's novels, Books Do Furnish A Room expresses, I find them cheering as well.

Despite loving my Kindle, I still prefer the physical book.

Quinn said...


steve said...

Such a nice book fair...
We loved the combination of the onsite and online bookfair. The combination was easy to use and gave our parents more flexibility to support our bookfair. I loved the option of having our online orders delivered to our school free of shipping. This service was greatly appreciated by many of our families, allowing them to feel they could order more books through the online book fairs