Rare books at precious prices

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 09 September, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 09 September, 2007, 12:00am

A lavish catalogue of more than HK$50 million worth of rare books and maps goes to the printers this week as major dealers around the world prepare for the first Hong Kong International Antiquarian Bookfair.

The 120-page catalogue features writers from the 16th century to today, with a particular focus on China.

'This is Hong Kong's first western-style fair,' said Chris Feain of Sydney's Cornstalk Bookshop who, with Chris Li of Swindon Books, is co-ordinating the three-day event, which will open on November 30.

Mr Feain said about 60 dealers would offer nearly five centuries of mostly English-language fiction and non-fiction at prices from HK$500.

But the star of the fair, to occupy the entire fifth floor of One Pacific Place, Admiralty, will be a 1543 first edition of De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium [On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres] by Nicolaus Copernicus, carrying a price tag of HK$11.72 million.

More affordable is a May 1965 first edition, first printing of Mao Zhu Xi Yu Lu (The Quotations of Chairman Mao), with an endorsement by the later-disgraced Lin Biao, for HK$400,000. There will also be Ming dynasty medical books and accounts of the opium wars and the Boxer and Taiping rebellions.

Serious J.K. Rowling fans can see one of only 500 copies of the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. The price: HK$320,000.

'Old books are like fine wine,' said Lorence Johnston, of Lok Man Rare Books in Hollywood Road, Sheung Wan. 'You don't want to expose them to major fluctuations in temperature and humidity. But the nice thing about a rare book is you can enjoy it more than once.'

Daniel Crouch, of London's Bernard J. Shapero Rare Books, said: 'It helps that Hong Kong is a free port. This is one of the least logistically difficult fairs we've done.'

The catalogue will go online by the end of the month at www. hongkongantiquarianbookfair.com