The Aardvark Blog
Frankfurt Book Fair (1)
Frankfurt Book Fair (1)
I spent a happy half an hour looking through the new titles on the Thames and Hudson stand, and there seemed to be a renewed emphasis on solid art history titles after a few years of publishing in which they seemed to be producing more and more design and fashion led books. Phaidon continue to publish some of the most attractive cookery titles - the books that get labelled gastroporn - but perhaps my favourite title on the art publishers stands was the Australian Art catalogue that the Royal Academy have produced for their forthcoming exhibition. In tandem with the wonderful BBC4 history of Australian Art which is going out at the moment, this is definitely Australia's moment. Aardvark is not far from the Rodd the wonderful house just outside Presteigne where Sidney Nolan, perhaps the most iconic of all Australia's non-aboriginal painters , lived for the last decades of his life.
On the Metropolitan Museum stand they were showing the catalogue which accompanies their Balthus show which recently opened. Balthus is one of the most unnerving of painters and I defy any-one to look at a picture like 'Therese Dreaming' without feeling an odd mixture of repulsion and admiration. Repulsion for the subject matter, and admiration for the superlative technique of this self-taught genius. The catalogue includes the full set of illustrations that Balthus produced as a very young man - perhaps 12 - produced for his story of Mitsou. Much admired by Rilke, they are the equivalent in art of Mozart's early symphonies which he wrote at a similar age.
Every year I make sure I spend at least a little time at the Frankfurt Antiquarian Bookfair which is run at the same time as the main fair. Here zeroes proliferate and I am once again sorry not to be a wealthy man. My two favourite titles this year were a fantastic vellum bound 10 volume set of Johannes Blaeu's atlas of the world - each map beautifully painted, and a first edition in English of Erasmus's 'In Praise of Folly' . The latter was published under the title ' A panegeric on Folly'. Many of the finest works were not priced and one was left only to speculate as to the amounts being charged. The show also has a wonderful showing of maps and prints, and this year there was a definite emphasis on China alongside the more usual collections of natural history books.
Some things in Frankfurt never change. One ends up eating far more pork and drinking more beer than a person can or should. Both are delicious. One continues to marvel at their superb public transport. To be bowled over by the variety and strangeness of many of the costumed visitors to the fair - from Manga heroines to Science Fiction creatures. The queues at the toilets, cafés and security lines are these days a thing of the past, and the experience of navigating one's way around the halls has never been quicker or more pleasurable. All in all there are plenty of reasons to keep coming, and I hope that once tired limbs and heads have had a chance to rest up, they will start making plans for next year's fair. However much technology intrudes into the book world there is no substitute for meeting one's peers, and perhaps sharing a meal with them. The mythology of the fair tells of many great books that were signed as a result of random meetings at the fair. Even Arthur Aardvark himself when working for another company once made a contact in his last five minutes that led to a contract which is still in place some 15 years later, and which over the years has resulted in milliions of pounds worth of sales. Such are the dreams that the fair gives rise to.
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