All collectors and dealers love book fairs, don’t they? Well, up to a point. They can be good places to see what other dealers are up to— what treasures they are selling and how well they are doing. And even if they don’t buy anything, fairs can be good places for collectors to value their own collections. On the down side, fairs can be intimidating for collectors who only want to chat to dealers about books. There is often a tangible sense that dealers are only interested in talking to you about books if you show an interest in buying one of their items.
However, 20 years ago, it would seem that alongside these perennial complaints about dealers there was something more sinister going on behind the scenes. A clipping from the Watford Observer dated August 15th 1997 told the story of a local dealer who had had the temerity to challenge the book fair establishment and had paid a high price for doing so. Vince Peddle, co-owner of the imaginatively named Peddle Books, and publisher of the info-sheet Book News, had recently published a front page article in this magazine complaining that the over abundance of fairs was putting some dealers out of business.
The reaction of the fair promoters was to ban Peddle and his wife from attending their fairs in future. Peddle was predictably angry at this decision:
‘ It’s scandalous the way we’ve been treated ‘, he told reporter Ross Bilton, ‘Freedom of speech should be respected in this of all businesses. We gave the book fairs promoters a right to reply, but they just banned us outright ‘.
However, despite the damage this ban had done to his business, Peddle remained unrepentant:
‘We’re certainly not about to apologise. What we said is known to be true by everyone in this business. There are some very big egos in this business. Dealers and the book fair organisers are notoriously self-important and difficult to work with.’
Well, not all dealers, we at Jot HQ must hasten to add. Anyway, since that brush with the promoters Peddle put Book News online for a while, but today both Peddle and his info-sheet seem to have lost their online presence.
Incidentally, when asked if he had any ‘ funny ‘ stories to tell about the business Peddle came up with a salutary tale concerning a first edition of Wilde’s Salome, which he had sold to another dealer at a London fair for £10. That dealer placed it on his stall at a price of £65. The book changed hands throughout the day and by the close ended up being bought by an American dealer for £500 !
Not at all ‘funny’ for Peddle, but that’s the book business for you. [RRR]