History of the Book Fair
The 2008 fair drew a record number of visitors: 299 112 visitors at last count. The history of the fair is well documented
“The history of the Frankfurt Book Fair dates back to the 15th century, when Johannes Gutenberg first invented movable type – only a few kilometres down the road from Frankfurt. Frankfurt remained the central and undisputed European book fair city through to the 17th century. In the course of political and cultural upheaval, in the 18th century Leipzig then came to play the part. In 1949, that early Frankfurt book fair tradition was given a new lease of life: 205 German exhibitors assembled on Sept. 18-23 in Frankfurt's Paulskirche for the first post-War book fair.” (quoted from the official site of the Frankfurter Buchmesse).
There is an extensive history of the fair in pictures (slow loading site) at: http://www.buchmesse.de/en/anniversary/
Why the Fair is a Must for Librarians:
As the selector of Western European materials I sift through a large volume of new acquisitions title announcements every month. I have close working relationships with each of the academic departments I serve, and I make decisions based on Duke University faculty feedback about ongoing research and teaching activities of the faculty, students, departments and centers. I consult with Duke Libraries acquisitions specialists and other Duke subject librarians. I also consider the historic strengths of our collections, and I work collaboratively on collection development with libraries in the Triangle Research Libraries Network.
Duke works with large European vendors (Harrassowitz, Casalini, Aux Amateurs, Touzot…) who pre-select publications of interest to American Academic Libraries. Anecdotally, a vendor for Germanic materials would consider 30,000 out of 80,000 publications in the first round of selection, and they would reduce that number down to around 10,000 academic titles across the disciplines. I select from this vendor database of preselected items and from individual publishers with programs of particular interest. The visit to the Frankfurter Book Fair provides me with an amazing opportunity to immerse myself in the ongoing cultural and political debates in Europe, and to interact first hand with a representative set of the larger and smaller publishers. It is of great importance to see the full spectrum of publications, from the trivial and popular to the most academic because I gain a perspective that helps me articulate a collection policy for my Duke constituents. The fair usually draws over 7,000 exhibitors, and while the large companies come every year, the new, independent and smaller publishers with booths at the fair vary from year to year.