By Layan Damanhouri
RIYADH – A new participant this year at the Riyadh International Book Fair presented a unique stand that appears to be a mini museum of antique books, manuscripts and volumes published hundreds of years ago by Islamic thinkers, scientists and explorers during the Islamic Golden Age.
“These books are a collection amounting to 194 items, many of them rare or exceptional,” says Badr Alhaj, owner of Folios Ltd. based in London established over 24 years ago.
The collection comprises of original works on the Middle East by both Arabs and Europeans as well as Qur’anic scripts among others.
Some books are records written by European voyagers during their journey to the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah.
Others include original manuscripts and books about science, Islamic art, architecture, and astrology, among others, predominantly in Muslim Andalusia.
Prices vary according to their rarity in the world, says Alhaj who collects books from several sources. The most expensive item displayed is a manuscript titled ‘History of Oriental Carpets’ from the 19th century and is the last edition left and costs £65,000.
Asked about his experience participating in a book fair in Saudi Arabia, Alhaj said: “What’s noticeable is that readers are mainly interested in books written in Arabic, even though a lot of the collection here is written in European languages about the Arab World.”
He adds, “However, mainly historians, academics, and collectors are interested in acquiring these sort of items and books.”