Why book on climate crisis sells at Sh248m

Some of the most expensive collections at the Sharja International Book Fair, United Arab Emirates. [Caroline Chebet, Standard].

A book with a collection of materials on climate change has become the most expensive collection selling at Sh248 million (£1,650,000) at the world’s largest book extravaganza. One hundred Seconds to midnight: Sounding the Alarm for Climate Change stands out among 15 million books under the same roof at the Sharjah International Book Fair in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

The book is an assemblage of works on climate change, featuring over 800 works from the 15th Century to date. It is a collection by the world’s greatest scientists, writers, artists, and activists and comprises rare first editions, signed copies, and iconic visual materials.

“This is a landmark collection on the history of climate change. It involves anything that explains climate change from manuscripts, research papers, original books, maps, photographs, ephemera, and art chronicling the long history of climate change and environmentalism. It is so comprehensive in scope and has never been done before,” Luke Basford, an official with Peter Harrington, a London-based organisation, told The Standard.

The collection was produced and sold under a partnership between World Land Trust, an international conservation charity, and Peter Harrington, a London-based organisation specialising in rare books.

The book traces the long journey of climate change with a remarkable collection of documents.

The book was first presented on the eve of the 2021 United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s 26th Conference of Parties (COP26) and is currently being showcased to interested parties.

Institutions and private collectors in US and UK have shown interest in the collections. Whoever buys the book will be given an original copy that does not exist anywhere else.

One of the collections of books at the Sharja International Book Fair in UAE. The book is one of those that make over 850 collections of One hundred minutes to Midnight, a book containing a collection of materials on climate change spanning six centuries. The collection is being sold at 1.65 Million pounds by the leading antiquarian bookseller Peter Harrington. [Caroline Chebet, Standard]

Mr Basford said the price was arrived at by compiling value of every work put together. “Each work has different pricing. We hope to sell it to institutions or private collectors”.

While much research is being done on environment and climate change, the work of ancient researchers is believed to shine more light and trace the history of the changing world. The collection now traces back climate change knowledge to the 19th Century.

The book recognises works of great scientists and researchers, including Eunice Newton Foote, a 19th Century American scientist known as the First Lady of Climate Science.

As early as 1856, she theorised that carbon dioxide directly affected atmospheric temperature in her landmark paper, Circumstances affecting the heat of the sun’s rays. It also profiles the work of Aristotle, the first natural scientist.

World Land Trust noted that at a time when global warming feels more real than ever, this is a headline people don’t often read. “A headline it’s worth not losing sight of as we all too frequently wake up to news coverage of catastrophic events such as wildfires in Siberia or deadly floods in Germany. Treatises, printed accounts, research papers – over the centuries; they have charted a story of humankind’s devastation of its home, but the next chapter is as yet unwritten,” it stated, adding: “That spirit of hope for a positive next chapter is something the purchaser of this extraordinary collection will be supporting.”

And while the collection of climate change seems to stand out among the 15 million books at the Book Fair, many other unique ones, including those tracing the origin of species by Charles Darwin, stand out.

Darwin’s Origin of Species, a first edition of the most influential scientific work of the 19th Century printed in 1859, sells at Sh37.6 million (£250,000).

Karl Marx’s book titled Le Capital sells at Sh86.6 million. William Shakespeare’s original copy printed in 1685 titled Comedies, histories and tragedies sold at Sh27.8 million (£185,000).

The first page of the first printed from Gutenberg Bible sells at Sh15 million. The page features Ezekiel 23:24 to 25:16 and is believed to have been printed about in 1455.

The books are part of the rare collections sourced by Peter Harrington, the organisation that deals with sourcing, selling and buying the finest quality original first editions, signed, rare and antiquarian books, fine bindings and library sets. This year’s edition crossed a major milestone in Arab cultural world, earning the world’s largest book fair title for the first time since start in 1982.

Held under the theme ‘There is always a right book’, the book fair has been leading international efforts to enable the publishing industry to chart its post-pandemic recovery.

SBA chairman Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri said the new record was an achievement that could not have been realised without continuous support of His Highness Sheikh Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah.

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