Centuries-old rarities on offer at 69th Old and Modern Second-Hand Book Fair

Collector’s items and bargains to be found at free event on Barcelona’s Passeig de Gràcia

Visitors browse a stall at the 69th edition of the Old and Modern Second-Hand Book Fair in Barcelona, September 2020 (by Pau Cortina)
Visitors browse a stall at the 69th edition of the Old and Modern Second-Hand Book Fair in Barcelona, September 2020 (by Pau Cortina) / ACN

ACN | Barcelona

September 22, 2020 06:21 PM

Second-hand books, with their history and age, are, in the words of poet and author Lluís Calvo, a “true temptation.” This is how he described what’s on offer at the 69th edition of Barcelona’s Old and Modern Second-Hand Book Fair, which kicked off on September 18 and lasts until October 4. 

Calvo is one of the writers being honored this year, and in his speech to open the fair, he spoke about how he considered old books to be little more than “junk” because growing up, he wasn’t aware of their “legacies.” This perception has now changed, to the point that he calls himself a “radical” fan and “modest lover” of them. 

On Barcelona’s famous Passeig de Gràcia avenue, you too can discover this world of literary history at this fair, and find some of the rarest old books with centuries worth of history behind them on offer.

In total, 28 stalls from book shops are set up, selling and showcasing some of the most interesting facets of Catalan literary history. As well as Catalan sellers, there are also some stalls from Madrid and Valencia present. 

Marçal Font, president of Catalonia’s old booksellers’ association, underlined the importance of celebrating this year’s edition of the historic fair in his opening day speech, with a metaphor likening the current health of culture, and the book industry in particular, to a patient in intensive care. 

Running uninterrupted since 1951, the Old and Modern Second-Hand Book Fair is one of Europe’s oldest such events, and not even the global pandemic could prevent it from going ahead. 

As with any event held during this exceptional period of history, safety measures are in place, such as hand gel, stalls set up with more distance between each other, limited capacities, and the use of gloves when touching some of the oldest and most precious books. 

Accompanying the stands, as always, is an exhibition. This year it is dedicated to Josep Carner, one of the most sought-after Catalan authors in the old book market with an extensive body of work. He died 50 years ago this year, and the government’s departure of culture is honouring his legacy throughout 2020. 

The exhibition narrates the story of Carner’s life and works, and is broken down into three stages of the poet’s life: his time in Barcelona, his time in voluntary exile covering the years of the Spanish Civil War, and his time in forced exile during the dictatorship of Franco

The fair comes at the same time as the festival in celebration of Barcelona’s patron saint, La Mercè, and has become as emblematic in the cultural calendar as the city’s biggest street party. It’s available to visit for free every day until October 4th, on Passeig de Gràcia in between Plaza Catalunya and Consell de Cent.