Banned books will be showcased at Firsts: London’s Rare Book Fair

London – Premieres: London Rare Book Fairorganized by the Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABA), will return from September 16-18 for its 65th edition, with 120 international dealers exhibiting at the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea.

In addition to many returning exhibitors, Firsts London will welcome 49 new stockists for the first time. Among these, Sam Fogg, one of the main art dealers of the European Middle Ages, will exhibit a selection of medieval illuminated manuscripts.

This year’s theme for the fair “Forbidden Books” was inspired by the 100th anniversary of the publication of Ulysses – one of the most famous censored books of modern times – but also responds to contemporary conversations about censorship in literature, media and online. Pom Harrington, ABA President and Chairman of Firsts London, explains:

“Now is an ideal opportunity to celebrate Odysseus and others like him, who have been suppressed, banned or led to the ostracism of their authors for expressing opinions different from what was acceptable when they first appeared. We tend to consider prohibited works as a matter of another era, but it is a subject that is very much of our time. Print has always remained a powerful vehicle for consecrating an acceptance of the plurality of points of view. view. We thought it was a topic that remains very topical and worthy of shining light on.”

Examples of “forbidden books” across the centuries, including fiction and non-fiction, will be displayed alongside other extraordinary books, manuscripts and ephemera.

Scientific controversies

Firsts London will feature important work by scientists who, following their groundbreaking discoveries, have found themselves opposed by religious or state authorities. Sophia Rare Books will exhibit a first edition of Nicolaus Copernicus’ De revolutionibus orbium coelestium (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres), at the price of

£2 million. From revolutionibus (1543) radically changed humanity’s perspective on its relationship to the universe, refuting the widely accepted Ptolemaic model which placed the Earth at the center of everything and suggesting the heliocentric astronomical model, which instead sees the Sun as the center of the system solar. Due to its revolutionary theories, considered heretical by the Catholic Church, the book was eventually included in the infamous Index Librorum Prohibitorum (Index of banned books) from 1616 to 1758.

The Sophia Rare Books stand will also host another great protagonist in the history of science, exhibiting a first edition of Galileo Galilei Dialogue (1632) accompanied by his letter to the Grand Duchess of Tuscany (Latin translation, 1641), texts which both contributed to the trial of the Inquisition of Galilee. On display at York Modern Books is another example of a great scientific discovery – a first edition of Albert Einstein Relativity: the special theory and the general theory (1916). Einstein’s work was banned in Nazi Germany, and later in Austria, where his books were burned in protest against his theories.

Deepening the sciences, and particularly geography and cartography, Daniel Crouch Rare Books will exhibit a selection of atlases and travel diaries banned or banned from publication, such as that of Richard Hakluyt Main navigations (1599), from which the entire report of the Voyage to Cadiz has been removed.

Censored literature

The Fair will also showcase illustrious examples of censored fiction. A genuine original Russian edition of Doctor Zhivago by Boris Pasternak will be exhibited by bookseller Peter Harrington. The book was originally published in Italian in 1957 by publisher Feltrinelli, but remained unpublished in its original language until 1958, when the CIA acquired Feltrinelli’s proofs with the intention of publishing the book in Russian. and to distribute copies to Soviet visitors to the Universal University of Brussels. and international exhibition. Aided by the Dutch intelligence service, the CIA struck a deal with the Dutch academic publishing company Mouton, which resulted in this very first Russian

publication. Peter Harrington will also present a signed first edition of Salman Rushdie satanic verses. The novel, a major work in the canon of magical realism, sparked furious controversy and was consequently banned in several countries around the world.

by James Joyce Ulyssesthe book that inspired this year’s theme, will appear on the stand of Johnson Rare Books, in the form of a unique edition (1933) featuring a prominent original erotic painting inspired by the episode “Circe”.

Other famous forbidden books, each with their fascinating story, will be exhibited by BAS BOOKS. Among them, an original signed edition of DH Lawrence Lady Chatterley’s Lover privately published in 1928, and the first openly published Penguin edition (1961), which was sued for obscenity and later banned in five other countries. Other editions featured include a first signed American edition of lord of the fliesby William Golding and a first edition by Henry Miller Tropic of Cancer in its original binding as published by Obelisk Edition in 1934.

Finally, Rare Books Le Feu Follet will present a collection of controversial French books, including a first edition signed by the author of Charles Baudelaire The evil flowers (1857), from which six poems had been banished, a complete original manuscript of the Marquis de Sade’s last play, Friendship Day (ca. 1810-1812), and a copy of the interdict war pilotsigned and dedicated by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.


A number of items presented at the Fair represent defining moments in translation.

James Joyce’s 1928 first edition Ulysses (Yurishizu) in Japanese, inscribed by its translator Ito Sei, will be displayed by Peter Harrington Books. It is the first translation of Joyce’s seminal novel into a non-European language, and predates the work’s publication in England and the United States, before their notorious censorship of the novel was lifted. Much of Molly Bloom’s final soliloquy, the novel’s most outrageous section, has been redacted from volume two of this edition, in an effort to avoid censorship, but in this copy has been reversed into the book on xerox sheets by the translator. Despite this omission of these sections of the novel, the second volume was banned in 1934. It is the only set of the two volumes of the first edition of this translation to ever appear on the market.

The first Russian translation of Karl Marx Das Capital will also appear at the fair, exhibited by Maggs Bros. This is the first translation of the book into any language and, given its influence on world history, arguably the most significant. In one of the great ironies of modern publishing history, Russian censors cleared Das Kapital for publication, dismissing the book as a “colossal mass of abstruse and somewhat obscure political-economic argument”, and concluding that “in Russia few people will read it and even fewer will understand it. Against their predictions, the edition of three thousand copies was quickly sold out, and in 1880 Marx wrote to his friend FA Sorge that “our success is even more big in Russia, where Capital city is read and appreciated more than anywhere else. The book was eventually banned, and the publication of a second edition in Russia was banned during the reign of Tsar Alexander III (1881-1894).

A cabinet of curiosities

In addition to books, the fair will also include a number of rare items and fascinating memorabilia. Among these are a set of French playing cards from 1760, adapted for an unknown board game; a first edition of the most important program of the Ballets Russes, in which appears the first use of the word “surrealism” by Guillaume Apollinaire, as well as 20 handwritten signatures of dancers and artists including Picasso, Cocteau and Léon Bakst; and an inscribed photographic portrait of Sigmund Freud – the only surviving image of him revealing a smile – taken by Jewish photographer Edmund Engelmann in 1938, shortly before he fled to the United States leaving the negative behind. , and recovered only after the war by Freud’s daughter, Anna Freud.

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