Bright Young Booksellers: Emil Allakhverdov
How did you get started in rare books and ephemera?
I became familiar with rare books and ephemera ten years ago when I was living in Odessa, Ukraine. Having a degree in economics, I could never imagine that I would be so drawn into the world of collecting. My first mentor was my father-in-law. It was his passion for collecting which was so contagious that led me to enter into a field absolutely new to me. Very soon I became so involved and interested in this process that I collected my own first collection - postcards of my birthplace, the city of Baku, Azerbaijan. I was really in love with my new hobby and felt encouraged to learn about the deltiology field in depth, and this cultivated my desire to become a collector. However, unlike many collectors of that time, who preferred to find their "treasures" at various shows, I was working only on the Internet. I was surprised to see how easy and convenient it could be to contact dealers and collectors from all over the world in just a few clicks. Soon I switched to another subject, the history of Odessa, the town in which I lived. Just buying did not work; sometimes it was necessary to have something to offer to other collectors, something that I could surprise them with - that's how I started selling. Over time I realized that I wanted to do it for a living, meeting new collectors and dealers, researching and studying the subject.
When did you open Rare Paper and what do you specialize in?
My online store opened at the beginning of 2016. I specialize in scarce and unique Russian books and ephemera I have not seen before, that I want to share with others.
What do you love about the book and paper trade?
Most important for me are the people I meet... and the unexpected element of surprise that arises out their breadth of knowledge, experience and interest. I love to meet people, and listening to their stories always increases my knowledge. Also, there is the possibility to travel around the world in search of another treasure.
Describe a typical day for you:
I do not have a daily schedule. No two days are alike. However, my day usually begins with mail and phone calls, which will determine my schedule. It may be meetings with my clients, business trips, attending shows, shipping orders and preparing products for upcoming auctions.
Favorite rare book (or ephemera, or rare paper, etc.) that you've handled?
I have seen and held many rarities, but it is more interesting to talk about what I have in stock at the moment. Special among my current rare items is an 1850's Daguerreotype of the Emperor of Russia, Nicholas I. I was able to locate another like it only in the Hermitage collection. Another unique paper is an original hand painted postcard of the famous Russian avant-garde artist, Jean Pougny (Ivan Puni).
What do you personally collect?
For over 10 years I have been collecting objects related to the history of the city of Odessa (Ukraine): Postcards, photographs, books, documents and ephemera. In the US, I've started a new subject, émigré books and ephemera, both Russian and Ukrainian. Recently I've become the owner of an extensive collection of Ukrainian children's books. More than 1,000 émigré books were published in Europe and in the US from 1918 to 1970. Now I am searching for new books to add to my collection.
What do you like to do outside of work?
I volunteer in the Thomas J. Watson Library (at the Metropolitan Museum of Art), assisting in the Slavic and Special Collections Department. I like to visit new museum exhibitions and other cultural events in New York City with my wife. We also love to travel in upstate New York, especially along the Hudson River.
Thoughts on the present state and/or future of the rare book and paper trade?
Today we can see how the concept of collecting is changing. We live during a time in which more and more people prefer to participate in online auctions and make purchases from home. Young people show no interest in old books at all. I don't think the concept of collecting itself is dying; I think people will just be collecting other things. People will always enjoy owning things of value and rare beauty, and those who can afford to will collect them. I believe the main goal of dealers and collectors today, besides buying and selling of course, would be to encourage interest among younger individuals in identifying a new generation of objects worth collecting. Aside from this it is important to pass along the shared knowledge obtained from previous generations of collectors who did their work without the Internet.
Any upcoming fairs or catalogues?
March 10, New York City Book and Ephemera Fair
March 17-18, New York City Spring 2017 Postcard Expo
March 31, Photo NYC Fair 2017
September 8, Brooklyn Antiquarian Book Fair with the New Works on Paper Gallery
Image Courtesy of Emil Allakhverdov.
Originally posted on Fine Books & Collections in 2017.