Rare antiquarian books worth millions of dollars draw crowds at Sharjah International Book Fair 2020

Two pavilions displaying rare manuscripts and first editions at 11-day book that runs till November 14

While most booksellers at the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which runs from November 4 – 14 at Expo Centre Sharjah, have been witnessing more crowds than they anticipated, two of them have been witnessing a constant stream of visitors interested in rare and very expensive antique collections that carry price tags of several million dollars.

A pavilion shared by three booksellers who specialise in antiquarian books – UK-based Peter Harrington; Antiquariat Inlibris; and Antiquariat At Forum – boasts several rare and collectable books on display. From Shakespeare to Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud to Agatha Christie, around 500 rare first-edition books are on display. But the crowning glory at the stall that might be smaller in size, but huge on value, is a collection of books from the research library of Jean Jacques Pierre Desmaisons (1807-73), described as oriental scholar, diplomat, secret agent, and writer. It costs a cool $1.24 million, according to Yasser Raada Al Tamimi, manager, Inlibris.

Other books include a limited edition copy of The Book of a Thousand and One Nights, by Richard F Burton, published in 1897, going for $40,000; a rare 3-volume first edition of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital at $132,000; a first edition of David Hume’s A Treatise of Human Nature, for $165,000; a first edition On the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin at $112,000; and a 1704 edition of Isaac Newton’s Opticks, at $112,000, among many others.

Antiques from the Middle East at the pavilion include a rare copy of a 1593 edition of Ibn Sina’s The Canon of Medicine, for $33,000; and a 19th Century Arabic manuscript of The Book of Knowledge of Ingenious Mechanical Devices by Ibn al-Razzaz al-Jazari, which was completed in 1206, among many others. The total value of the 900 books on display is more than $12 million, according to Al Tamimi.

Right across is the Le Prince Art Consultancy’s pavilion which showcases the most expensive collection of Qurans and atlases. A huge atlas by Nicolaes Visscher, circa 1685, with 226 pages of engraved maps, hand-coloured and finished in gold, is priced at a whopping $1.5 million. There are 60 items for sale here, including a pair of rare terrestrial and celestial globes, dated around 1632.

With over 80,000 new titles in English, Arabic, and other languages on display from 1,024 participating publishing houses from 73 countries, SIBF 2020 is an 11-day celebration of literature, knowledge, and culture. Book lovers can buy their favourite titles by pre-booking fixed visitation slots at registration.sibf.com.

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