26 Sep, 2009

The London Book Trade

Posted by: admin In: Creative Review

Ed Maggs is the head of the renowned Maggs Brothers. The company was founded in the 1850s by Uriah Maggs and has occupied several premises including its current, allegedly haunted, address in Berkley Square

Photographer Mike Tsang’s exhibition, The London Book Trade, is currently showing at The Biblion Gallery, Mayfair and documents the esoteric world of dealers of rare and antique books…

Angus O’Neill has been an elected member of the council of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association since 2005. He has been dealing in rare books for over 30 years, starting out while still at school

“Rare book dealers make fascinating portrait subjects as they are strong individualists, united only by a love of books and a determination to preserve their quite unique way of life,” says Tsang, whose aim was to capture this rarefied literary tradition, currently battling against a range of external forces.

“The internet age has certainly created challenges for the trade,” he says, “as knowledge of the rarity and value of these books has become more disseminated amongst the public, instead of being confined to learned professionals. Also the rise in high street rents, the fall in literary budgets, the competition from charity bookshops – all these causes combined have led to the reduction in the number of independent book dealers in London by almost a third in the last decade alone.”

Stephen Foster comes from a family of book dealers and is a long-standing and respected member of the trade with premises in both Bell Street, Marylebone and Chiswick. He is an active member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association

“The London book trade is, by definition, quite close-knit and I gained access to a lot of the portrait subjects purely by word of mouth, from a previous subject who supported the project,” says Tsang. “As the project progressed, it became clear that the environments the book dealers inhabit were just as much the subject of my work as the dealers themselves, as they often had distinct characters of their own.”

A veteran of Gray’s Antiques Market, where he opened his first stall in 1979, Bernard Shapero now runs his rare book business out of a five floor house, incorporating a print gallery just down the road in Mayfair

“As such, I worked as much as I could with available light as I wanted to preserve the unique atmosphere of each location. Sometimes the locations were so dark
that I had to use strobe lighting, but when I had to I did so discretely and worked on sculpting the light only to raise the ambient without changing the overall feel of the place.”

Henry Sotheran’s has the distinguished honour of being the longest established antiquarian booksellers in the world. Since 1761 Sotheran’s have been supplying top quality antiquarian books to collectors around the world

Jonathan Potter has been the head of Jonathan Potter Limited since 1974. The company, which specialises in antique maps, has been at the top of its trade ever since and has a customer base of enthusiasts, buyers and many and varied institutions and libraries

Robert Frew has been selling antiquarian books since 1975 and has earned himself a position as a highly regarded figure in the trade. Frew served as president of the ABA from 2005 to 2007

Pom Harrington is the owner of Peter Harrington Books. The company was founded from a stall in Chelsea antiques market in 1969, moved to new premises on Fulham road in 1997 and now incorporates both The Chelsea Bindery and Old Church Galleries

Rick Gekoski is a writer, book dealer and broadcaster as well as being one of the heads of R.A. Gekoski. An American expat who came to Britain in 1966, he has published books on William Golding, football and, of course, book dealing. He was also one of the judges of the Man Booker prize in 2005

Hugh Betts of the Maggs Brothers booksellers in Berkley Square

Tsang is a London-based portrait and documentary photographer who splits his time between assignments for humanitarian organisations across Asia and Africa and personal projects examining individuals within their social groups. See more of his work at miketsangphotography.com.

The London Book Trade
The Biblion Gallery, Biblion Bookshop
1-7 Davies Mews
London W1K 5AB
10am-6pm Mon-Fri, until November 7
(Also open each Saturday, 10am-6pm from October 10)

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