Peter Harrington Rare Books Presents Treasures from East and West
As the owner of Peter Harrinton, one of the world’s foremost companies specializing in rare and aged books, Pom Harrington knows a thing or two about antiquarian tomes that come with a story
As the owner of one of the world’s foremost companies specializing in rare and aged books, Pom Harrington knows a thing or two about antiquarian tomes that come with a story.
“The world of rare book collecting is very small, very niche,” Harrington says. “But the desire for fine printed books is still there, enhanced by the proliferation of the digital word. When you make something a rarity, you make it more collectible.”
Established in 1969 in London, England by Pom’s father, Peter Harrington Rare Books is renowned for its superlative collection of historic, sought-after, and hard-to-find volumes, complemented by original first editions and fine bindings.
This September, the renowned antiquarian book dealer made its debut at the international arts fair Frieze Seoul in the South Korean capital. “We’ve always had a great interest in Asia and the East. In the last few years, we’ve recruited specialists in Chinese language and history so that we can start dealing in Eastern texts,” Pom says.
A chief focus of the fair involved significant periods in Western and East Asian religious history, as well as the international knowledge exchange between the two regions. Highlights from Asia ranged from ancient sutras to block-printed books.
“It’s exciting to handle some of these truly old Eastern materials, some of which are 1,300, 1,400, or even 1,500 years old. You don’t really get that in the Western side of book dealing,” Pom says.
In the following pages, we explore four rare Peter Harrington-owned texts, offering a glimpse into each of their fascinating stories.
Preserving precious scriptures
The Buddhist custom of transcribing sutras (sacred religious texts) was a way of preserving precious oral teachings previously recited from memory, creating canonical scriptures that were then copied as part of a ritual process.
“Sutras show the development of Asian history over hundreds of years, and the spread of thoughts. They offer a window into art history through calligraphy and wood carving engravings,” Pom says.