Firsts Returns and Special Guests prepare for The International Rare Book Fair in Paris

Special Guests at The International Rare Book Fair in Paris
by Sarah Bennett

The ABA's second virtual fair of 2020, Firsts Online, is returning this week from 10-14th September.

Over 110 exhibitors from 16 countries will each offer up to 20 highlights on the Firsts website which will be live from 2pm on 10th September, through to midnight on 14th September.

New items will be added throughout the event so the ABA encourage visitors to check the website regularly so as not to miss out on the newly added highlights.

Next year, Firsts London's Rare Book Fair will finally welcome visitors in person from 21-23 May 2021 at their new venue, the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square.

We are very lucky to have this kind of fair… it’s not elitist, it’s not specialist, you don’t have to be a scholar, you just have to be someone with an immense thirst for the glory of books.” - Stephen Fry, actor, writer and book collector.


The International Rare Book Fair is scheduled to take place next week from 17th to 20th September 2020, at The Grand Palais in Paris, having been postponed from earlier this year.

The Cinémathèque française will be a guest of honour at this year’s fair, showcasing a selection of rare or distinguished items that exemplify the wealth of cinema's heritage 'from Georges Méliès to Martin Scorsese'. Founded by visionary Henri Langlois in 1936, the Cinémathèque française is one of the finest cinematic foundations in the world. Langlois is considered the first person to think of cinema as an art to be preserved, restored and showcased. Now, eighty years later, in a bold, modern building designed by Frank Gehry, the Cinémathèque is a hub of different cinematic tastes, constantly revisiting cinema throughout the ages, across the world and including all genres. Their extensive collection includes 40,000 films, 3,000 costumes, 23,000 posters, 14,500 pieces of art, 2,300 items, 6,000 pieces of equipment, and much more.  

L'atelier du Livre d’art & de l’Estampe, a vibrant studio within the Imprimerie nationale, will be demonstrating punchcutting, type founding and typesetting during the exhibition on Friday, Saturday and Sunday between 2pm and 6pm. The studio prints books from contemporary artists and authors ‘in the fine French tradition of excellence that stretches back five centuries’. They are also responsible for the digitisation of historical printing typefaces and the creation of exclusive made-to-order contemporary fonts.

Les Cent Une will be exhibiting at Booth H20-i10, in the South Nave. This book lovers’ association was founded in 1926 by princess Schakowskoy after a conversation with a member of the Société des Cent (the Society of One Hundred, a former book lovers' society)...

‘Over dinner, the princess asked if there were any women members of the association. The expression she received in return told her all she needed to know about the esteem in which women's intelligence was held. Somewhat insulted, the princess declared that she would found a book lovers' society for women. In response, the gentleman said he doubted she would find many women interested in a good book. "I won't just find one hundred, but one hundred and one," she shot back. Surely enough, she did.’

The society's publications include the following highlights: Suzanne and the Pacific by Jean Giraudoux, illustrated by J.E. Laboureur (1927), Alexis by Marguerite Yourcenar, illustrated by Dali (1971), Adriana Mater, the first edition of Amin Maalouf's opera libretto, illustrated by Miguel Condé (2006), and its latest creation: La Maison du Lys de France by Gérard Manset, illustrated by François Schuiten. After over 90 years, Les Cent Une is one of the oldest book lover's associations in France, after the Société des bibliophiles françois (1820) and les Amis du livre contemporain (1903). The society is the only one that is exclusively for women.

Present for the eighth consecutive year under the dome of the Grand Palais will be the Association Culturelle des Bouquinistes de Paris - the umbrella organisation for the majority of bouquinistes who work along the quays. This community of unique booksellers – a cultural exception and one of the very last small Parisian trades still active – was added to the French intangible cultural heritage list in February 2019 in recognition of its specific traditions and know-how.

“The presence of these open-air booksellers on a famous and much-visited promenade in the heart of Paris together with the rich and varied content of their boxes (more than 300,000 works) lends a vibrant feel to the four kilometres granted to them along the banks of the Seine.”

Every year since 2015, the bouquinistes have offered visitors to the fair the opportunity to discover an exhibition relating to the world of books. Following last year’s collection of 130 prints on the theme of the bouquinistes plying their trade on the quays of Paris (created especially for the occasion by more than sixty artists), the 2020 edition will present a collection of paintings, prints and miscellaneous documents relating to the world of these curious booksellers. The exhibition essentially includes items from the personal collection of a couple of enthusiasts, Géraldine Lalouette and Antoine Py, who are bouquinistes on the Quai du Louvre.

Click here to view a full list of Exhibitors to the fair >

Click here for full event details, including COVID safety measures > 

The Book Collector Podcasts

Articles from our Archive brought to life in audio - listen now via

Subscribe    -    Current Issue    -    Podcasts

Flower Icon