The 2017 Chelsea Book Fair is now over. The 2018 Fair will be held on the 2nd and 3rd of November.
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Tell Us What You Love About Books - Competition Winners Announced

Last month we asked you to tell us what sparked your love of books and what being a collector means to you. Today we’re very pleased to announce the winners. The recipient of the grand prize of a £250 voucher to spend at the Fair is Regina de Búrca, who writes that her collection of children's books relating to Ireland “is a passport to a better world”. You can read her full entry below.

Our runners-up, who will receive vouchers for tea and cake at the Fair are:

Lenny Knight, who fell in love with a set of The Lord of the Rings and described the Chelsea Book Fair’s “particular brand of magic” in his response.
Spencer Hamill, who became a collector after buying a secondhand book and being “delighted to discover that it had been inscribed by the author”.
Lars Rindsig, who says that “It was quite a revelation to me how much an elegant, hand bound exterior to the book could add to it, both as a craft object and extolling the character of the book itself”.

What I Love About Books - Regina de Búrca
I had a lucky head-start to my book collecting: growing up in an antiquarian bookshop in the West of Ireland! My bookseller father, Éamonn, enabled my bibliophilia by kindly donating all of the children’s books he came across to me. It was a magical childhood, travelling to fairs and auctions, meeting interesting and eccentric characters, as vivid as any I’d encounter in my stories.

My mother Vivien, herself an avid reader, also encouraged my love of books. She rarely took a tough parenting line until it came to teaching me how to read. My first ‘big girls’ book was My Naughty Little Sister, and I wasn’t allowed to revert back to my picture books until I’d read it in its entirety. My reward for finishing was a first edition Patricia Lynch (Ireland’s answer to Enid Blyton) book, The Turf-Cutter’s Donkey, illustrated by Jack B. Yeats (pictured).

I now have a collection of over 500 fine and rare children’s books relating to Ireland. I have found books of Irish interest in places as diverse as a convent book sale in Seville, in the remainder section of the City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco and the Foreign Correspondence Club in Phnom Penh; while my beloved A Little Fleet by Jack B. Yeats was acquired in the Chelsea Book Fair some ten years ago.

My book collecting has benefitted me in ways I didn’t expect it to. There have been places in the world I might never have visited at all, but for my endless search for a special book. Book collecting has also taught me that there are two types of people in this world: those who return the books you lend them, and those who don’t.

I’m often asked by my peers why I spend so much time and money on a collection that is so niche and takes up so much space. When I tell them that my collection is a passport to a better world, at first, I am often met with amusement and/or ridicule! I then explain that my Patricia Lynch stories, for example, take place in a land that is equal and just, where no-one goes hungry or is alone, where ethnic diversity is celebrated, where children have rights and are entitled to a voice. As I grow more and more despondent about the deeply unequal world we live in, I seek solace in my collection’s simple stories from a bygone era where good triumphs over evil, and hope is always restored. My friends don’t all understand this, but some do, and then I might lend them a book or two. After all we can’t all be bibliophiles, which is probably a good thing, otherwise there wouldn’t be enough treasures for the rest of us.

Luckily, I never, ever need to justify my bibliophilia to my parents…