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A very rare first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, worth an estimated £110,000; the first account of Mecca in print; and a monumental and highly unusual Qu’ran displaying the entire text across a single manuscript painted to evoke an embroidered silk wall hanging are among properties offered in the catalogue of London-based rare book dealer Peter Harrington which is exhibiting at this week’s Sharjah International Book Fair for the second time.
The Qur’an is valued at £125,000 and the account of Mecca is valued at £150,000. The edition of Harry Potter is one of 500 hardbacks printed chiefly for the library market in 1997. The company’s catalogue also includes a pair of photograph albums with over 550 images illustrating the earliest years of commercial aviation in the Gulf, the personal archive of a British official who worked in Bahrain, Doha, Kuwait, Iraq and Persia between 1948 and 1955. These pictures are valued at £65,000. There is also the earliest printing of Shakespeare’s poetry (£22,500); a rare first edition of Ptolemy’s Cosmographia, the most celebrated geographical treatise of classical antiquity (£450,000), and a first Latin edition of Varthema’s influential account of his undercover travel through the Ottoman Empire, Safavid Persia, and India, which includes the first written account of Mecca (£150,000).
Pom Harrington, owner, said: “Our catalogue for the 2020 Sharjah International Book Fair reflects the incredible breadth of interest of collectors from the Arabian Gulf and has been curated over several months to showcase works from the Islamic and Arabic-speaking worlds, as well as a selection of rare items from the Western canon.
“We are delighted that this year’s fair is able to go ahead with new safety measures in place, and the opportunity it will afford us to see some of our customers from the Middle East who remain among our most prolific international buyers. There is a significant tradition of book collecting in the Middle East – it’s certainly not a recent phenomenon but we have seen increasing growth in recent years. Most of the interest we see is in books about the Arabian Peninsula – particularly first-hand travel accounts from the 16th to early 20th century. Additionally, manuscripts and maps which document the development of the peninsula in the early and mid-20th century are also highly sought after – this includes maps on trade and shipping routes, political developments, oil exploration and so on.
“There is also a strong interest in early photography of the region. Works that document Mecca and Medina or early city infrastructure continue to be very popular. Additionally, the region has a highly and broadly educated population and a significant amount of institutional patronage, so landmark economical, philosophical or literary works from the Western canon are also sought after by Middle Eastern collectors.”
Peter Harrington first attended the Sharjah International Book Fair in 2019 and has been a regular exhibitor at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair since 2016. The Middle East region currently accounts for between 15-20 percent of Peter Harrington’s international sales, with the majority of the buyers from the region made up of institutional buyers for libraries, government departments and private collections of patrons of the arts and culture. The UAE accounts for the largest share of Peter Harrington’s Middle East business, with collectors from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Bahrain regularly contacting the rare book dealer to assist with curating, appraising and acquiring items for private and institutional collections