Sharjah, November 02, 2023 : A rare first edition of a Harry Potter book signed by author JK Rowling is turning heads for its novelty factor and a five-figure sticker price at the ongoing 12-day Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) that opened in Expo Centre Sharjah on Wednesday.
“It is perhaps the most expensive novel for children you could find here at this festival” said Alex Warren, the owner of Zerzura Rare Books, the Dubai-based company that specialises in first editions, signed copies, maps and prints and other rare books. “There are just about five such copies available around the world possibly and I own one of them,” adds the Yorkshireman talking about his prized possession – a 1998 edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, the second novel in the Harry Potter series later turned into a blockbuster movie.
But that’s not all. Zerzura – exhibiting for the first time at SIBF – has amongst its carefully curated collection first editions of Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist (1983) selling for Dh1950, Agatha Christie’s Cat Among The Pigeons (1959) for (Dh1050) and Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita (1959) selling for Dh750. The company also boasts of a first copy of the 1997 Booker Prize-winning God of Small Things by Indian author Arundhati Roy, selling for Dh550.
“Of course these are books, but they’re also a piece of history because they’re limited edition by their nature. There’s books on science, on sports, on history, and biography. So there’s a huge area to explore,” explains Warren, who established Zerzura in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue about a year ago with collections of books like Jaws (Dh1200) and Jurassic Park (Dh1100) by Michael Crichton, later made into films.
“There’s a lot of people in the UAE who appreciate rare books and see the value of it,” adds Warren, who named his company after the mythical Saharan oasis rumoured to have existed deep in the desert west of the Nile River in Egypt or Libya.
“There are lots of legends around it with many expeditions to find where the city was. So the idea is about finding treasure in the middle of the desert and I hope readers will find it through our books,” adds Warren, pointing to his rare copy of Arabian Sands, a 1959 book by English explorer and travel writer Wilfred Thesiger.
The book, selling for Dh2,100, focuses on the author’s travels across the Empty Quarter of the Arabian Peninsula between 1945 and 1950. It attempted to capture the lives of the Bedu people and other inhabitants of the Arabian peninsula and is considered a classic of travel literature, reflecting largely on the changes and large scale development that took place after the Second World War and the subsequent gradual erosion of traditional Bedouin ways of life that previously existed unaltered for thousands of years.
More than 1.5 million titles will be on offer at the 42nd edition of the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) that will run until November 12.