Sharjah: Rare books and atlases worth millions of dirhams, including those by Shakespeare, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Agatha Christie, are wooing collectors at the 39th Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF), which runs from November 4 to 14 at Expo Centre Sharjah.
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. 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 staggering $1.24 million (around Dh4.55 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 three-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 (around Dh44 million), according to Al Tamimi.
Finished in gold
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 (around Dh5.51 million). There are 60 items for sale there, 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.
Dh6 million waiver
On Monday, it was announced that under the directives of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, all 1,024 publishing houses at SIBF this year have been completely relieved from paying stand rental fees.
Valued at Dh6 million, these exemptions represent an unparalleled show of support to publishers worldwide, in a bid to empower them to fully bounce back into business. Ahmad Al Ameri, Chairman of Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), which organises SIBF, said: “Via this landmark decision, His Highness the Ruler of Sharjah, sends a message to the world, to emphasise on the fact that the health and stability of societies are ensured by their cultural realities. Therefore, renewing the strength of the promoters and champions of culture is paramount, given our current realities. At the basis of a vibrant culture are books, and the Sharjah International Book Fair is its home. By fully supporting the participation of each and every publisher here at SIBF 2020, we become the first international book fair in the world to entirely exempt publishers from participation fees”.
Mind your etiquette
Other highlights of the fair included a social media session titled ‘Text Etiquette’, held on the ‘Sharjah Reads’ virtual platform as part of SIBF. Professional development coach Ammar Al Sakhawy gave tips on how to navigate the challenges in communicating via texts — patience being the topmost. “If you do not receive an answer, it does not mean that the recipient does not want to engage with you. They could simply be busy,” he said.
“However, etiquette demands that messages be answered promptly. It is also important to refrain from texting at times when the recipient may be busy or otherwise occupied. Besides, it is crucial not to send very long messages or texts; you risk losing the attention of the recipient when a text takes more than 30 seconds to read.”
Al Sakhawy advised making a phone call if the 30-second rule would not suffice to convey the message: “At the same time, do not call a person who has sent you a message, because if they were in a position to speak they would have called instead of messaging you in the first place.”
He also said that it was important not to ridicule someone through texts. “Always double-check to ensure the auto correct facility is not messing up the text which may cause you and the recipient embarrassment. Also, ensure that the text is sent to the right person and take care not to discuss personal affairs on group texting platforms.”
Register to visit
Book lovers can buy their favourite titles by pre-booking fixed visitation slots at registration.sibf.com.