Oldies are definitely goodies at book fair

  • Gulf Times
  • 4 January 2010
  • Ourouba Hussein

Old books and manuscripts received considerable attention from collectors at the 20th Doha International Book Fair, the manager of Antiquariat Inlibiris pavilion said yesterday.

"There has been good demand for old books and manuscripts and we have sold some to local buyers," Hugo Wetscherek said.

Declining to reveal their identities, Wetscherek said two people bought old books and manuscripts, paying a huge price.

"One of the customers bought five rare books. These books were printed in Europe and included an Arabic grammar book, dictionaries printed in the early 19th century and a Qu'ran from the 18th century."

Some of the rare books and manuscripts displayed at the store had price tags ranging from $2,500 to $250,000.
Wetscherek said that the second buyer purchased a very expensive natural history book.

He noted that officials of the Qatar Islamic Arts Museum paid a visit to his pavilion and expressed interest in some of the books on display.

"However, they are still in the research stage and gathering information," he added.

Qatar Foundation has also expressed interest in some of the old books, Wetscherek said.

To a question about the manuscripts' authenticity, he said that Antiquariat Inlibiris was founded 130 years ago and the publishing house had been trusted over the decades.
Wetscherek explained that acquiring rare and old items is not an easy job.

"We travel worldwide in search of manuscripts and then spend considerable time and money to verify their authenticity," he stated, adding that the publishing house had built a wide network throughout the years.

Wetscherek said that the pricing of books and manuscripts was based on the house's experience, as well as the condition, rarity, importance of the text, decoration and number of available copies in public auctions.

The oldest manuscript found at the pavilion was a book on Islamic law dating back to the 14th century and priced at $27,000.

However, the manuscript of a hunter's guide, reflecting the importance of falcons and hunting on the Italian peninsula dating back to the 16th century, is priced at $250,000.

Wetscherek explained that while the older book was available to any judge in the 14th century, the second book was rare even at its time and was meant for members of the noble class.

A rare photo of Makkah taken in 1889 was on display and priced at $95,000, while another old book containing many original pictures was tagged at $5,000.

Wetscherek said that Inlibiris is a supplier for many museums and universities worldwide, such as the British National Museum, National Gallery in Washington, as well as Harvard University.

"Inlibris does not sell manuscripts in five minutes, but the momentum the pavilion has obtained since the beginning of the fair is remarkable," he said.

He advised the owners of old books to take proper care of their valuable possessions.