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Meet our New Members: Christo Snyman, Rare Collections

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Rare Collections, Cape Town
Specialisms: modern first editions; signed books; speculative fiction and Livre d’Artiste books

Welcome to the ABA! Can you introduce us to your business in a nutshell?

I’m a relatively new dealer based in Cape Town, South Africa - currently dealing mostly online, but on the lookout for a retail location in the near future. We deal predominantly in 20th century fiction, with a specific interest in speculative fiction, fine press books and signed modern firsts. What was your route into the book trade I have a history of starting new ventures in my areas of interest. My other businesses include and Working from home during covid, I found myself gravitating towards reading and taking my personal book collecting more seriously. One thing led to another and - a few large auction purchases later - I had a new venture to juggle.

If you had to choose just one, what would you say your key specialism is, and what drew you to it?

A difficult question. Ultimately, I always gravitate back to speculative fiction, with a focus on science fiction, fantasy, gothic, and horror. What is your favourite aspect of working in the world of rare books? The excitement of discovery: nothing beats finding an important copy of your favourite author or following the rabbit-hole of new information. There is always something new to learn, experience and see.

Are you a collector yourself, and if so, what do you collect?

I am a collector and frequently find myself in a position of not wanting to sell new books coming in. I collect important science fiction and fantasy (specifically Hugo and Nebula Award winning novels); small press books (Centipede Press, Subterranean Press and more); natural history books (I have an academic background in Zoology and evolutionary processes); as well as fine press books, specifically from The Limited Editions Club. For the latter I am working on an updated checklist and bibliography along with Carol Grossman Porter (ABAA), hopefully to be published soon.

Christo Snyman

What do you think is the impulse behind book collecting?

Naturally I think collecting is a very deeply instinctual human behaviour, with books offering the ideal avenue for indulgence of this need. Regardless of one’s interests in life, books are an ideal source of information with variety and novelty that could keep any collector busy for many lifetimes.

Do you have a favourite item currently in stock?

Difficult question and depending on my mood the answer could vary greatly. Right now, I would have to say it is my copy of The Chronicles of the Golden Friars by S.J. Le Fanu, a virtually impossible title to find. In this case it was also formerly M.R. James’s copy, which makes it even more unique

Have you observed any recent collecting trends that have surprised, delighted, or bewildered you?

In my area of interest, I would say the massive popularity of small press publishers like Centipede, Suntup, Subterranean and more. They mostly focus on speculative fiction titles, with a heavy weighting towards horror titles. I believe they are doing a sterling job in introducing a new generation of collectors to the trade.

Encouraging new blood in the trade is important, but it’s a tough time to set up a business. What would be your advice for people who want to begin dealing rare books?

Firstly, follow your passion and you will eventually attract like-minded collectors to your business. Secondly, although less exciting, I would strongly suggest that one builds a working understanding of basic accounting and business practices; a lack of which more often than not causes the demise of many a small business.

What are you most excited and most concerned about in the current landscape of the rare book trade?

Most exciting might be small press publishers introducing an entire new generation of collectors to the trade. Most concerning would be the growing problem of counterfeit items hitting the market and seemingly lack of interest to combat this. I’m frequently reporting problematic accounts on online retail platforms, only to see them trading the same material a week later. I’m also surprised to see how many problematic items are listed by important auction houses.

Do you have a favourite book fair?

Being based in Cape Town I have to date only attended the Chelsea Book Fair, where I was also an exhibitor. I loved meeting many other ABA members there, and I very much look forward to attending Firsts London and Worldcon in Glasgow later this year.