Sharjah: An atlas collection worth Dh3.5 million is one of many rare exhibits at this year’s Sharjah Book Fair.
UK-based bookseller Peter Harrington, a first-time exhibitor, boasts several rare and collectable books on display from Shakespeare to Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud to Agatha Christie, but the nine-volume Dutch atlases from 1664 top the lot.
Shop manager Ben Houston describes the books as “Aesthetically pleasing and very decorative. They’re also quite rare which adds to their value”.
Houston explained that the majority of buyers at Peter Harrington tend to be collectors buying for museums or their own private exhibits.
“Most buyers in the Arab region are particularly interested in the regions’ history”, he said, and many of the shop’s rare collectables include Arabic culture or influence.
Theodor Noldeke, a German scholar, wrote a study of early Arabic poetry in 1864 and the first edition, worth almost Dh6,000, can be found among the collection. The book includes rare pre-Islamic poetry.
Another rare collectable that is of interest to Arab buyers is a photography book worth Dh300,000, showcasing the earliest years of commercial aviation in the Gulf comprising of 550 photographs.
Rare collectables by Shakespeare are also highly sought-after.
A second edition of Shakespeare’s folio, a collection of the English playwright’s world-renowned plays is also on display. The first edition published in 1632 is worth Dh2.1 million.
Other Shakespearian work presented is a rare first edition of Othello in Ottoman Turkish. Only six institutions worldwide carry this exclusive first edition, one of which is the New York University in Abu Dhabi.
Another exclusive find is a 1488 edition book of plays by Sophocles, the ancient Greek scholar. Houston describes this as one of his personal favourites.
“Not only are these writings the birth of literature in the West, but this specific book has been published by Aldus Manutius who revolutionised the sizes of books, by making them small and pocket sized believing that everyone should have access to books.”
Peter Harrington first opened in 1969 and is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year. The founder’s son Peter Harrington Jr. will be at the fair on Saturday.