Books as great and eternal art

Moscow International Book Fair proves true parade of best printed editions, with Belarusian stand occupying considerable place

By Larisa Rakovskaya

Belarus has won the Grand Prix at the 8th International Art of Book Contest, for its Radziwills: 18th-19th Century Album of Portraits (Petrus Brovka Belarusian Encyclopaedia Publishing House). It has already received the ‘For Spiritual Revival’ award in Belarus and proved interesting to Moscow’s historians and bibliophilists.

The Moscow International Book Fair is a traditional venue for the discussion of joint plans, as Lilia Ananich, Belarus’ First Deputy Information Minister, notes. She explains that Belarus and Moscow have agreed to jointly fund some new editions describing the historical, cultural and literary interaction of Belarus and Russia.

Visiting the opening of the Belarusian stand, Sergey Stepashin, Chairman of the Russian Accounts Chamber, held some weighty volumes in his hands (in all senses of the word — as some albums weighed up to 5kg), promising to promote the work of Belarusian publishers to a wider audience.

Dmitry Strukov. Album of Drawings. 1864-1867 details the work of the famous Moscow researcher, created while on expedition through the North-West of Belarus in the mid-19th century. The collection shows the architecture and way of life of Belarus from that time, and was prepared for printing back in the 19th century but failed to be published. Many enthusiasts — including Moscow art experts, Vilnius museum employees and, of course, workers from the Belarusian Encyclopaedia Publishing House — have worked hard to bring the edition to life, with full-colour pictures on true watercolour paper.

The exhibition’s major accent was to give a long-term forecast of the future of publishing. Representatives from one of the most successful Russian publishing houses — Eksmo — were present, stressing that book sales in Russia continue to fall. It’s thought that the market may soon fall by another 5-10 percent: the same as was observed in 2010, when sales fell by over 8 percent. One segment of the book market remains healthy: that dealing with training and education. However, electronic display boards, which are becoming widespread through the school system, could threaten the future of textbook publishing.

Anyone who would dare to call themselves civilised is surely a regular reader of course. Ozon — the largest bookstore on the Russian Internet — sold 3.3m books, worth $1bn Russian Roubles, in the first eight months of this year, up 37 percent on 2010.

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