Almost 200 rare books to be auctioned at Taipei book fair

The Taipei International Book Exhibition, one of Asia's largest book fairs, will take place at the center Feb. 6-11. (photo by CNA)

By Christie Chen

Taipei, (CNA) ─ A total of 197 rare and old books will be auctioned at the Taipei International Book Exhibition next week, giving book lovers and collectors a chance to take home collectibles.The 197 books were exhibited at the Huashan 1914 Creative Park on Saturday and will remain on display until Sunday to give book lovers an idea of what will be available at the auction on Feb. 10.

The most sought-after item is a rare reprint of “Zhiyanzhai’s Re-Annotations to The Story of the Stone (transcribed in the Jiaxu manuscript),” one of the organizers told CNA. It is the earliest known copy of the Chinese classical novel “Dream of the Red Chamber,” said Fu Yueh-an, editor in chief of Soyet Book. Chinese scholar and philosopher Hu Shih in 1948, and in 1961, Hu asked Taiwan’s Central Engraving and Printing Plant to print over 1,000 copies. The two-volume set that will go on auction at a starting price of NT$300,000 (US$10,222) is one of those copies of the re-annotations, Fu said.

Other items that have caught the eye of collectors are two letters, written in 1956 by Hu Shih to a National Taiwan University graduate, in which Hu praised the young man’s microfilm works and encouraged him to cooperate with an American organization, Fu said. The two letters, with a starting price of NT$500,000, are precious because they have never been made public before and they offer an insight into Hu dedication as an educator and mentor, Fu said.

Some of the other rare items include limited-edition handmade books by Mitsuru Nishikawa, a Japanese writer in Taiwan during the Japanese colonial period, and an autographed copy of “Kyoko’s House,” a 1959 novel by prominent Japanese author Yukio Mishima. Western literature pieces are also on the list, including an 1860 edition of the “The Complete Works of Shakespeare” illustrated by Joseph Kenny Meadows, an 1893 edition of “Eight Illustrations to Shakespeare’s Tempest” by Walter Crane, and an 1898 edition of “The Poems of Samuel Taylor Coleridge.”

Rare copies of books by renowned Chinese writers Lu Xun, Eileen Chang, Hu Lancheng, and Taiwanese poet Chou Meng-tieh and novelist Chung Li-ho will also be auctioned. It is the second consecutive year that the Taipei book fair is holding a rare book auction.

Last year, some 50 books were auctioned and the NT$2 million in proceeds were donated to charity, Fu said. This year, the event will take the form of a commercial auction, something Fu said is rare in Taiwan and will allow book owners and bidders to test the real monetary value of the books. He said book collectors from China and Hong Kong are expected to bid for the books at this year’s auction. The auction is also an effort to promote the importance of paper books, Fu said.

“E-books do not die, but paper books will age, become worn and die,” he said. “They are like living beings, so we feel close to them. We hope to evoke memories of old paper books.” Jointly organized by Soyet Book, Mollie Used Books, Taipei Book Fair Foundation and Taiwan Cultural and Creativity Development Foundation, the auction will be held at the Taipei World Trade Center.

The Taipei International Book Exhibition, one of Asia’s largest book fairs, will take place at the center Feb. 6-11.