York PBFA Premier Fair 2016

Another fabulous fair at York this year. The whole York team deserve many thanks and much praise from us all for their continued efforts. Together, they manage to put on the UK’s largest fair, and one which is certainly the “Jewel in the Crown” attracting buyers and sellers from around the world.


Here is the wondrous Tony – one of the fair manager’s, pointing to his house on a rather over-sized map!

And here is proof that I do attend the fairs with some books:


Finally for this week, is my regular video. This one features Lucy, from Daniel Crouch, talking through one of her favourite items. Although about the newest member of the PBFA (at the time of writing), Daniel Crouch is a well known and very established member of the map trade.

Bristol folk

Whilst in Bristol at the fair, in between beating back the busy customers and their wads of cash, i managed to do a couple more of my video interviews with members of the trade. I decided to go with the most senior couple (in terms of book history rather than age !) that i could find, with mr & mrs Lee, and then in a poetic juxtaposition, one of the newest couples to join the PBFA with Robert & Barbara Chalk.

I think this was about my 5th attempt at interviewing the Lee’s – every time we would start, a musician would begin just behind them.  We got there in the end though. Mr & Mrs Lee are well known, having been involved with the PBFA for many years.

Opposite Marcia and I at Bristol, were Robert and Barbara, who only joined the PBFA last year.  their company is called “Rare & Antique Books” and they are based in Exeter.  I am always learning new things through the book trade. This fair has taught me never to let Robert choose the starter in a Vietnamese restaurant !

That’s it for now. Next stop York, for YABS, the big York Premier Fair, and the PBFA’s annual general meeting. Will the joy never end ?


Bristol Fair Pics & Videos – 1

Many thanks to Graham, Will, and everyone else who contributed to a very good Bristol book fair. This year continued the co-operation between the PBFA and the ABA.

Here are a few photographs of exhibitors at the fair.

A little light music is fast becoming a Bristol tradition – and this year the Bayntun’s bindery provided us with entertainment. A little video here shows the music and a bit of a sweep of the stalls.

You’ll never get rich – but it’s better than working…

My final interview from Oxford this year was with Pat Marrin of Marrin’s bookshop Folkestone. Another second generation bookseller, Pat is well known (I hesitate to say infamous) on the fair circuit.

The title of this blog post comes from his father’s comment to him on his entering the trade. It certainly aligns with my views on book-selling as a career, and is Pat’s comment to anyone coming into the trade now.

Tony Cox on tour

For this weeks offering, i have a video interview with Tony Cox of Claude Cox. Tony is a second generation Suffolk bookseller, indeed, it took me several years to realise that he wasn’t Claude (apparently i am not the only one). I caught up with Tony at Oxford PBFA fair, and he regaled me with tales of book hunting in Oxford in his youth.

Tony has now returned to Kelsale, where he operates a catalogue and book fair business from White House Farm.

Next week I shall be catching up with Pat Marrin from Folkestone.

PBFA London International (ILEC) fair report.

awaiting opening
Messrs Ferdinando and Beswick look  bored already – Friday before The fair opened. 

Marcia and I were very pleased with how this year’s fair went. Of course, there were issues and irritants, but on the whole, the event went smoothly and successfully despite the Bank Holiday weekend.

We were particularly happy to welcome a number of new exhibitors to the fair. From the world’s oldest book company (Henry Sotherans) to the world’s youngest (Bibliomaniacs), our exhibitors filled the room with beautiful books and paper objects. From overseas, it was wonderful to welcome Martin Stone again from Versailles, and great to see Baumans back on the circuit. As ever, it was a joy to welcome B&B, D&D and other overseas acronymic dealers.

end queue
Towards the end of the queue – having snaked around the cafe – it went out into the hotel hotel lobby and ended in the street.  

Within the UK, it was good to welcome back old friends, and see some new ones. Our glass cabinets once more filled with fabulous objects. If only someone would donate me a few hundred thousand, I could have taken home a lot more than I did, and increased the fair take somewhat.

Ah yes – I appreciate that you are tolerating all this text to get to the take figures:

This year a couple of late cancellations resulted in 102 exhibitors. (Down a couple from last year)

The total take for the fair was £627,543 (so the total was down 3% on last years). The average per exhibitor was £6,152  (up 1% on last year). The adjusted average (removing top and bottom 4 to get a better picture) was £5526 which is up 2% on last year. (mainly because last year there were a couple of very high takes).

friday morning
Friday in the fair – we were pleased at how busy it stayed all day. 

The spread of takes does seem to be steadily rising – with that “middle rump” where 70% of the dealers sit, rising up the scale slowly.

The number of visitors was up this year. On the Friday at opening, the queue spread around the café, across the welcome desk, out into the lobby and eventually out of the hotel. The number on Friday was between 1600-1700, (our security lady had counted for us and had over 2000 but some were “re-entries”). On the Saturday it was somewhat quieter, but still over 500.

I sent out a request for feedback about the fair – and amazingly, i had replies from lots of the exhibitors. The majority (by a long way) would like to move the fair to still earlier on the Friday (12 noon) and finish at 6pm or 6.30pm on the Friday. On the whole, dealers want Saturday to be left alone. I have yet to properly sort through the replies and come up with some proposals – but the response has been encouraging.

Many people need thanking for their assistance at the fair. I can’t name everyone, but I would particularly like to embarrass the “Peter Hill Mob*” who come in and lay out the tables with a precision I could never match, Veronica – who from set up, to portering, to keeping me in check, helps throughout the fair. Uncle Phil Salin does a fine job of bringing everything up from Royston, getting it to the right stand and taking it all away again afterwards. This year, it was lovely to see Pritida helping Marcia on the front desk. The pair of them were a wonderful public face as the first people our visitors met (and did remarkably well in collecting rents – even from those who try to avoid paying!)

to buy or not to buy (saturday)
                                                     To buy or not to buy? that is the question….                                             Saturday was a little quieter, but there were still reasonable sales. 

Finally – I was particularly pleased to welcome the Bibliomaniacs to the fair. Most of you will have heard of them by now. All aged 10-13, they are a book club from Papplewick school in Ascot, who sell old books, create catalogues, and put me to shame with their descriptions. One of my fair highlights was the look on the faces of the lads as I showed them around the two fairs and pointed out beautiful objects. I believe the children are our future, teach them well, and let them lead the way. (Sorry). Thank you to everyone for making the boys feel welcome, and it was fabulous to see that several of the dealers have donated them items to sell on, and help develop them into the next generation of book sellers.

Marcia tells us about ILEC

The PBFA fair at the ILEC suite in the Ibis hotel is almost underway. In a couple of days we shall be depositing our dogs at the kennels, and rushing up to London to lay out the tables, prepare the reception, and get ready to welcome the exhibitors.

In all the rush – it occurred to me that I had interviewed Tony about the Olympia fair last week, but had neglected to do the same for my own fair.

Well Marcia (my lovely wife and co-manager of the fair) is far more attractive than I am – so I thought you would all prefer to see an interview with her giving the last briefing for the ILEC fair.

Safe travels – whether you are and exhibitor or a customer, and we look forward to seeing you in Earls Court, at one of the events.

Rare Books London is looming

The Summer season is nearly upon us – it certainly feels like it. I am sat overlooking Galway bay, bathed in sunshine and all resplendent in very unusual weather for “Way out West”

Of course my main interest is with Rare Books London, which features both the PBFA and the ABA fairs:

1. Rare Books London - Landing Page (1)

Meanwhile – here are the details of all the fairs coming up in the next few weeks (Courtesy of Richard at Sheppard’s World:

Date Organisation Venue and opening times Info.
Sunday 22 May Etc’s Bloomsbury Summer Book Fair Royal National Hotel, Bedford Way, Bloomsbury (10.00am to 4.00pm) click here
Sunday 22 May The Ephemera Society Holiday Inn Bloomsbury, Coram Street, London (11.00am to 4.00pm) click here
Thurs 26 May Rare Books London
ABA’s London International Book Fair
Olympia National Hall, Hammersmith Road. (1.00pm to 8.00pm) click here
27 May
Rare Books London
PBFA’s London International Premier Fair
ILEC Conference Centre, Ibis Hotel
London (2.00pm to 7.00pm)
click here
27 May
Rare Books London
ABA’s London International Book Fair
Olympia National Hall, Hammersmith Road, London (11.00am to 7.00pm) click here
Sat 28 May Rare Books London
PBFA’s London International Premier Fair
ILEC Conference Centre, Ibis Hotel
London (10.00pm to 4.00pm)
click here
Sat 28th May Rare Books London
ABA’s London International Book Fair
Olympia National Hall, Hammersmith Road, London (11.00am to 4.00pm) click here
Sunday 29 May Etc’s Bloomsbury Ephemera Fair Royal National Hotel, Bloomsbury
London (9.30am to 3.00pm)
click here
Sunday 29 May London Photographic Fair Holiday Inn Bloomsbury, London
(11.00am to 4.00pm)
click here
Sat 4 June London Map Fair Royal Geographical Society
Kensington Gore (12 Noon to 7pm)
click here
Sunday 5 June London Map Fair Royal Geographical Society
Kensington Gore (12 Noon to 7pm)
click here


click here click the button to go to Sheppard’s Confidential

Meanwhile – i have caught up with Tony Fothergill and demanded he talk to me (it took me several days to pin him down).  Here he is telling us a little about this year’s Olympia ABA fair.


If you wish to get highlights and the occasional email about the PBFA fair – do drop me a line and i can put you onto the mailing list.

Meanwhile – if not before- i shall see you in London.

Last call for Oxford

Don’t forget – next weekend (23rd and 24th of April) is the Oxford bookfair. Come and celebrate the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death by purchasing a book!

If you haven’t got a shiny ticket to the fair yet, it is not too latefree ticket image

– you can download one from this page:

Please – remember this year we are at the WHEATLEY campus. This is on the M40 towards London from Oxford. Tom has created a handy map of the campus to show where the stalls are:


Now you have the map, there is no excuse not to visit both halls, and ALL of the stands!

if you would like to download this map, there is a pdf of it here:


See you all next week!