Sydney Rare Book Auctions is one of PUCC’s newest members. We chatted with co-owner Paul Feain about the business of old books.

How popular are rare and antique books? Are there many collectors in Australia?

There are many people in Australia who buy old and rare books. Some collect them as you might collect antiques or beautiful objects and these are mostly admired rather than read. But some people buy them to read. Others buy them for research purposes. All around the world people buy old books and over the years I have sold books to collectors in more than 100 countries.

What is the oldest or most interesting book you’ve come across?

I have handled too many to single out one favourite but recent sales have included an illustrated bible published in 1490. I have also sold illuminated manuscripts from the twelfth century. Many of the books we sell are Australian related and we have sold copies of Cook’s Voyages published in the 1770s and copies of books written by luminaries who came on the first fleet such as Governor Phillip published 1789, and Governor Hunter published 1793.

Are books getting harder to find?

Books seem to come to me mysteriously and for me they are not harder to find. I often say that I go to bed and dream and then look under the pillow in the morning and  its amazing what is there.

Why should we – as a society – hold onto rare and antique books?

These old books are an important part of our culture and will always help us to understand where we came from and where we are now. Often society forgets triumphs, tragedies and important events. These old books are a part of our history and its a shallow society that forgets the past.

What do you like about having a business in/living in the  Pyrmont Ultimo precinct?

Its a vibrant area. There is plenty of peaceful street life . Lots of interesting cafes and nightlife.  Its close to the water with all the benefits this brings. Its also close to the city and within walking distance of public transport for anywhere in the greater Sydney region.

Final comment?

We have an auction every second month. And the price range is from $50 to $50,000 so there is something for every collector

Suite C11, 372-428 Wattle Street, Ultimo

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