York Antiquarian Book Seminar

This month, Heather attended York Antiquarian Book Seminar, also known as YABS. From the official website;

"YABS is the sister seminar of the long established Colorado Antiquarian Book Seminar and was created with the support of the Colorado faculty. YABS was set up when Anthony Smithson, of Keel Row Books, attended the Colorado seminar in 2011 and was so impressed with the intentions, execution and results of the Colorado seminar that he decided to answer the glaring need for a European equivalent.

Anthony developed and launched YABS in 2014 with Alice Laverty (also of Keel Row Books) and Jonathan Kearns, of Jonathan Kearns Rare Books and Curiosities."

YABS 2021 is the seventh annual seminar, organised by Anthony and Alice of Keel Row Books, with the support of the ABA office and York-based event manager Sophie Pointon.

York Antiquarian Book Seminar 2021

The seminar runs over four days and was held this year at the Priory Centre, right in the centre of York. It is described on the website as;

"... an opportunity for leading booksellers and librarians to share their expertise and experience with would-be and fledgling booksellers, librarians and collectors in a comprehensive survey of the second-hand, antiquarian and rare book markets. Basic procedures and problems are discussed both formally and informally through a series of lectures, discussions, and practical hands-on workshops with emphasis on cataloguing, pricing and bookselling in the wake of the pandemic.

The seminar is designed for people of all levels of expertise, from beginners to those with years of experience who want to hone their skills in this rapidly changing field."

So, with the descriptions out of the way, what was it like to attend YABS as a student?

In short, it was invaluable! 

Each day of the seminar is jam packed with sessions from those at the very top of the book selling world, who are all incredibly generous with both their time and expertise. The days are long, starting at 8:30am and finishing around 6:30pm plus additional evening sessions such as visits to other book shops and a small print press. But don't let that put you off! It's a brilliant opportunity to ask all of those burning questions about the book trade, (and believe me I did!) and get honest answers from the faculty. There is plenty of opportunity for questions both during sessions as well as more informally at break times.

York Antiquarian Book Seminar 2021 Priory Centre York

As someone fairly new to the book trade, being able to chat to so many experts in one place was so helpful. It was especially heartening to see a number of women amongst the faculty members. No question was too silly, and almost(!) no subject was out of bounds. Having other students to compare notes with was also really beneficial. It's always nice to know you're not alone in your questions and experiences!

Some of the highlights for me were a visit to Thin Ice Press based at the English Department in York University. Helen and JT were so passionate about the work they are doing there setting up their own press and working with the students to create some truly beautiful projects. We even got to have a go at printing a little something ourselves. 

Thin Ice Press York  Thin Ice Press Printing York

Another evening was spent on a walking tour of some of York's book shops. This really helps to place some of the things that are talked about during the day into real life. Especially if you haven't yet got a physical book shop of your own and you'd like some inspiration! We visited Lucius Books where I talked all things Tove Jansson to the very helpful Sky, then Janette Ray's Bookshop, and finally Fossgate Books. 

Every single seminar session was bursting with useful information - some of my favourites though were the keynote speech from Clare Trimming of Beaux Books on why now has never been a better time to be a bookseller, Adam Douglas talking about how to prevent thefts, fakes and forgeries, and Jonathan Kearns enthusiastic sessions on postmodern bookselling. Sophie Schneideman also did a brilliant talk through the art of the book, including print, typography and beautiful book covers and bindings. 

YABS Sophie Schneideman Book Binding YABS Sophie Schneideman Art of the Book YABS Sophie Schneideman Print



All the faculty were so very helpful that they deserve an individual shout out each so a big thank you to;

Anthony Smithson and Alice Laverty of Keel Row Books, Jonathan Kearns, Clare Trimming, Deborah Coltham, Christian WhiteSimon Beattie, Adam Douglas, Stephen Foster from Foster Books, Sophie Schneideman, Lucy Evans from the British Library, and James Hallgate from Lucius Books.

I returned to the book shop with a renewed enthusiasm for bookselling, a head full of ideas and plenty of new things to put in place! Plus, a whole new network of lovely people to help and support me.