Firsts London's’ inaugural digital book fair - over 150,000 pageviews!

Firsts London 2020 Highlights
by Silke Lohmann

Covid-19 has changed our daily lives in many ways and for book fairs it has certainly meant a speedy transfer online. ‘Firsts London’, the prestigious and highly esteemed book fair, due to take place in early June, decided to go digital instead. It was the first such venture for the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association and deemed such a whopping success that the organisation will be exploring the potential of holding more fairs online - or at any rate while social distancing is still in place.

Over 125 dealers from fifteen countries took part, each displaying up to twelve items at a time on the website. Launching at 2pm on the 5th June and continuing till the 11th, the website saw over 150,000 pageviews and 13,000 sessions throughout the week. The ABA has spoken to the  exhibitors following the event and it was projected that total sales for the fair were over £800,000, including post-fair sales from catalogues and follow-ups.

Among the highlights sold during the event were:

• First edition of J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone (1997), with pictorial paper covered boards designed by Thomas Taylor. Sold by Jonkers Rare Books for £75,000. 

• A first Trade edition of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie and illustrated by Arthur Rackham (1906). Sold by Ashton Rare Books for £1,950. 

• An unusual essay titled Pogonologia, or A philosophical and historical essay on beards by Jacques-Antoine Dulaure (1786) [translated from French]. Sold by Roger Treglown Rare Books for £365. 

• First UK edition of V. Nabokov’s Speak, Memory published in 1951. Sold by The Plantagenet King for £500.

• A complete twelve volume set of Anthony Powell’s series A Dance to the Music of Time, complete with James Broom-Lynne dust jackets. Sold by Beaux Books for £650. 

• In 2018, Simon Beattie translated Gottfried Benn’s Morgue (1912) and had only 250 copies printed. Some copies of this sold during Firsts London online for £12 each. Morgue was the first of Benn’s work and shocked readers at the time. Perhaps it was for this reason that the 1912 edition of 500 copies sold out in eight days.

Planning for ‘Firsts London’ 2021 is already taking place. 21-23 May is the trysting date unless social distancing is still in force. is the place for all the latest news.

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