CfP: The Antiquarian Book Trade in Central Europe: Perspectives on Historical Research, 12-13 October 2023 (Deadline 15 May 2023)

Mona Garloff's picture

CfP: The Antiquarian Book Trade in Central Europe: Perspectives on Historical Research

Organisation: Society for Book Research in Austria, University of Innsbruck
Organisers: PD Dr. Johannes Frimmel (LMU Munich), Dr. Mona Garloff (University of Innsbruck)
Address: Wienbibliothek im Rathaus, 1010 Vienna
Country: Austria 
Date: 12.-13.10.2023
Deadline: 15.05.2023

Since its beginnings, the history of books has been intimately linked to their importance as second-hand objects. Antiquarian books play a varied role within the book market: In the case of widely available editions, they often wind up as shelf warmers that need to be marketed at the lowest possible price; on the other hand, collectors were and are prepared to pay high prices for handwritten or printed rarities. In the early modern period, the purchase of entire libraries was a popular way of systematically expanding one’s holdings –a far more difficult and costly activity on the new book market. Printing and import bans also make second-hand books an important medium for access to censored content.

Although second-hand books and the antiquarian book trade have received some attention in recent research, there is a noticeable lack of temporally and spatially broader approaches addressing transterritorial perspectives. The aim of the conference is to analyse the antiquarian book trade in Central Europe on the basis of case studies, with a special focus on the strong ties between Western and Eastern European countries in their historical development. Second-hand books were not only sold locally at markets and fairs but were also objects of international exchange as an integral part of the book trade and the learned correspondence of the respublica literaria. The sale of rarissima as an early form of antiquarianism was often initiated through the learned exchange between scholars and ultimately transacted financially and logistically by booksellers.

Outside of major book centres such as Leipzig or the Netherlands, studies have often portrayed a lagging development of secondary forms of distribution such as auctions and lotteries. By contrast, the conference aims to discuss the multiplicity of new forms of trade in antiquarian books during the eighteenth century in a transnational perspective. With regard to the nineteenth century, the professionalisation of the antiquarian book trade is one of the topics of interest, for example the emergence of antiquarian bookshops of international renown in Vienna. Other important aspects include the effects of secularisation and the growing importance of the scholarly antiquarian book trade. Finally, the role of old books in totalitarian regimes before and after 1945 will be analysed as well. This includes the persecution and murder of Jewish antiquarians and the role of the antiquarian book trade in the sale of assets looted by the National Socialists. In socialist countries, antiquarian books were in demand due to production shortages and because they maintained a supply of international works with forbidden content.

Our conference will take place on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Society for Book Research in Austria. We particularly welcome applications by doctoral and post-doctoral researchers from Central Europe working on the abovementioned topics, and would be especially happy to support lectures by Ukrainian colleagues. The conference languages are German and English. Hotel and travel expenses will be reimbursed.

Please send your abstract in German or English (350 words) and a short CV (100 words) to by 15 May 2023.