Rare Books London - London's festival of old and rare books – May – June 2017

20th May - 10th June 2018


Wednesday 24th May 1830-2000

Collecting pains: symptoms and remedies for book lovers

The evening will provide a fascinating insight into the rare book trade, past and present. You will discover the company’s long history, meet staff and view highlights from the archive and current stock.

Wine, soft drinks and nibbles will be provided.

Please note, the event will take place on the first floor, which is accessible by stairs.



40 South Audley Street, London W1K 2PR
Thursday 25th May 1830-2030

Tattered remnants of lost civilizations, or fixed points in a shifting world?

A public conversation about the future of books, and of the book trades.

Colloquium will begin at 7pm.

There will be a short reception after the colloquium and Maggs will provide some light snacks, soft drinks and wine.



Maggs Bros Ltd, 48 Bedford Square, London WC1B 3DR
Auctions, Talks
Tuesday 30th May 1800-1900

Discovering books and the stories behind them


Simon Nuckley, Head of Printed Books and Manuscripts at Chiswick Auctions, and Nicholas Worskett, Consultant in Special Collections, share their experiences in discovering rare and undocumented books in the most unlikely of places. This lecture explores the detective work behind the researching and valuing of books and how stories are uncovered.

Before the lecture there will be a chance to view materials in the Printed Books and Manuscript Auction on 31st May (1000-1800).


The lecture is free but ticketed.


Chiswick Auctions, 1 Colville Rd, London W3 8BL
Wednesday 31st May Drinks 1830 - 1930 Lecture 1930-2030

Fleming, Ian Fleming – the author as collector

Jon Gilbert, author of the award-winning Ian Fleming Bibliography, antiquarian book dealer and collector, will enlighten the audience with his insightful knowledge of the Bond author. Not only did Fleming set up The Book Collector 65 years ago, he also managed to create one of the most inspiring book collections. The theme? Books that changed the world.

Lecture preceded by drinks reception sponsored by The Book Collector.

By kind permission of the Institute of English Studies

Places are limited, so do book in advance.



Chancellors Hall, Senate House, University of London, Malet St, Bloomsbury, London WC1E 7HU
Auctions, Talks
2pm Sunday 4th June

The Library of William O’Brien: a short introduction

The library of the Irish judge William O’Brien (1832-1899) is a microcosm of the late nineteenth-century taste for book collecting. There are medieval manuscripts, about 100 incunabula, numerous Aldine editions as well as three Shakespeare folios, a number of sixteenth-century English books and some fine collected works of English literature. This short lecture will introduce both the collector and the collection, which has been undisturbed for over a century. Peter Selley, Sotheby’s auctioneer and head of the English literature and history sales, and Charlotte Miller, specialist in early printing and continental books, will discuss a number of the highlights.


There will be time for viewing after the talk.

The Book Room, Sotheby’s 34-35 New Bond Street London W1A 2AA
Performance, Talks
Monday 5th June 1330-1430

An Audience with Robert Frew

All your questions about the trade answered with this exclusive opportunity to enjoy a delicious lunch at Orsini in the company of renowned international bookseller Robert Frew.  After lunch, pop into Robert’s shop next door for a browse.

Spaces strictly limited. £25 a head, to include a glass of wine.


Ristorante Orsini, 8A Thurloe Place, Kensington, London SW7 2RX
Auctions, Talks
Monday 5th June 1800-1930

A Masterclass in Book Collecting



Dr Sarah Cusk, Antiquarian Cataloguer at Lincoln College, Oxford, and Matthew Haley, Director of Books at Bonhams, discuss different forms of book collecting throughout history, what makes a collector, and how books derive their value, and invite their audience to participate in the conversation.


Bonhams, Montpelier St, Knightsbridge, London SW7 1HH
Tuesday 6th June 1730-1900

Liturgical Books and the Medieval Library

Dr Tessa Webber (Trinity College, Cambridge). A history of libraries research seminar.

It has long been conventional in the history of books and book collections of the Middle Ages to draw a distinction between liturgical books and library books. In practice, however, the use made of the books and the arrangements for their storage and custody suggest that the distinction was sometimes less clear-cut. Tessa Webber will examine such evidence to question how far the conventional bi-partite categorisation of books as ‘liturgical’ and ‘library’ reflects the way in which books were conceived during the Middle Ages.


Free entry, but those wishing to attend are asked to register with juliette.boyd@churchofengland.org not later than Monday 5 June.


This seminar is preceded by a tour of Lambeth Palace Library. Prebooked tickets required.

The Great Hall, Lambeth Palace, Lambeth Palace Rd, Lambeth, London SE1 7JU
Performance, Talks
Wednesday 7th June 7pm

An Introduction to Johnson

Dr Johnson is most famous for his Dictionary of the English Language, the first comprehensive body of work of its kind, but his prolific output of other writings is less well-known.

Join us for an opportunity to hear excerpts from a selection of Samuel Johnson’s key works, including The Rambler essays, his novel Rasselas and the Preface to Johnson’s edition of Shakespeare, some of which were written whilst pacing these very floorboards. Our curator will guide you through the House, where you will find out more about eighteenth-century London, literature and Johnson’s circle of friends.

Afterwards, enjoy a glass of fino whilst you explore the House on what will hopefully be a warm summer’s evening in the heart of the city of London.


Tickets are £12.50 per person, and are strictly limited.


Doors open at 6.30pm, and the performance will start at 7pm.


Dr Johnson’s House, 17 Gough Square, London EC4A 3DE
Talks, Tours
Thursday 8th June 1730-1900

Back street printing presses: chapbooks and street literature in the 18th and 19th centuries 

Speakers: Ruth Richardson (independent historian) and Adam Ray, Special Collections Manager, King’s College London.

The talk will explore the world of the chapbook, small inexpensive books that were sold on the streets to adult and child readers and whose contents ranged from fairy tales and legends to gruesomely recounted real-life crimes and disasters. After the talk there will be an opportunity to see parts of the historic Maughan Library building (the former Public Record Office, now King’s College London’s largest library) and to view a selection of chapbooks and other ephemera from King’s College London’s own library special collections.

Free but prebook, as places limited



Maughan Library, King’s College London, Chancery Lane, London WC2A 1LR 
Friday 9th June 1500-1730

Medical Collectors of Rare Books

A two hour session in the Wellcome Library’s viewing room, discussing the books owned by Sir Henry Wellcome, pharmaceutical entrepreneur [1853-1936]; Joseph F. Payne [1840-1910], physician; and much earlier book owners (Hieronymus Munzer [1437/47-1508], humanist and physician; Hartmann Schedel [144-1514], humanist and physician. Books from the late 15th to 18th centuries will be on display, as will one of the library’s early 20th century accession registers, evidencing Henry Wellcome’s collecting habits.

Limited Places.  In the event of significant interest, we may be able to run a second session, so please do sign up to the waiting list if you are interested.


Wellcome Library, 183 Euston Rd, Bloomsbury, London NW1 2BE