First edition Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings books on sale at Dubai exhibition

Kinokuniya teams up with rare bookshop to bring antiquarian culture to the city

A first-edition set of J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings on show at Collectible Editions by Zerzura Rare Books. Photo: Kinokuniya
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A first edition of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets signed by J K Rowling and a rare first edition of J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings are currently on display as part of a vintage book exhibition in Kinokuniya bookstore in Dubai Mall.

Collectible Editions by Zerzura Rare Books, a shop dedicated to vintage books, is a pop-up exhibition featuring 15 popular first-edition books, which will be rotated every week. The titles from the eclectic collection will also be available for sale until the exhibition closes at the end of the month.

Also currently on display are first editions of the Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles by Arthur Conan Doyle, which was released in 1902; the contemporary classic American Psycho by Bret Easton Ellis and the James Bond novel From Russia, with Love by Ian Fleming.

“Dubai Mall is one of the busiest malls in the world so to have the chance to get these books in front of thousands of people is really exciting,” Alex Warren, founder and owner of Zerzura Rare Books, tells The National.

“And just to see people's reactions is great because a lot of these books are crowd pleasers. People will like looking at them and it's the only place in the country where you can see them. Most people probably haven't seen first editions of these books before.”

The first-edition set of Lord of the Rings, comprising The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King, is one of the highlights of the exhibition, Warren says.

“It has the Eye of Sauron at the front and the book covers were designed by Tolkien himself. Each book has a folding map at the back of different parts of Middle Earth, designed by Tolkien's son. They're really nice items and look really cool.”

Another highlight for Warren is a book and writer that not many people have heard of but one that is relevant and important to the region. Maker of Modern Arabia, The Story of Ibn Sa’oud by Ameen Rihani is a first-edition copy of the first-hand account of the Lebanese-American author’s time spent in the 1920s with the founder and first king of Saudi Arabia.

“This book is special because it's extremely rare to find it with the dust jacket with the cover. There's no other copy on the market at the moment that's got that. So that is genuinely rare,” Warren says.

“Ameen Rihani travelled around Saudi Arabia with Ibn Sa’oud in the 1920s and it's interesting because he's not writing from the perspective of a Westerner. He's an Arab and he spoke to him in Arabic, but wrote in English. It's not written from the perspective of some guy coming in translating or someone with this Orientalist view.”

Three months ago, Kinokuniya set up their own section of new collectible books after store manager Steve Jones saw the appeal of specialised and carefully designed books to the public.

“Collectability is the next big thing,” Jones says. “I already saw from this new section that collectible editions sold straight away in big quantities in a way we didn't expect.”

A first-edition signed copy of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J K Rowling on show at the vintage book exhibition. Photo: Kinokuniya

Jones then became very interested in collaborating with Zerzura after a recent trip to Scotland, where he visited an antique bookstore and thought that it was time Dubai had its own antiquarian culture.

The collectible editions that Kinokuniya are offering include a limited edition of The Testaments by Margaret Atwood, of which only 100 pieces were ever produced worldwide, and a special edition of Killing Commendatore by Haruki Murakami, which comes with traditional Japanese paint and paintbrushes in a wooden box – only 50 of these are available worldwide.

“We already have a section of collectible editions in store. These are leather-bound editions, Penguin Classic editions, limited-number editions, we have them in one dedicated place now. So there will be a combination of the antiquarian books from Zerzura as well as our own collectible editions and new books too,” Jones says.

Warren hopes that the exhibition will encourage people to start collecting books and build their own libraries. “I hope the exhibition puts a smile on people's face because I've seen the reaction when someone sees the first edition of Harry Potter.

“There's just a uniqueness, a value in seeing something that's old. Books can be like a snapshot of the past. It's something to pick up and you can see and smell. It's a piece of history.”

Collectible Editions by Zerzura Rare books is running until June 30 at Kinokuniya bookstore in the Dubai Mall.

Updated: June 06, 2023, 3:40 AM