Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Rare book auction to preserve literary history

After establishing a lending library at the end of April, the Yangon Book Plaza is back with a new event to shake up the city’s literary scene.

On May 21, Yangon Book Plaza will launch its first ever rare book auction, including over 30 types of books, journals and magazines which have gone out of print.

Of particular interest is Ganda Lawka, a former Myanmar-language monthly published by the Burma Education Extension Association in the 1930s which was edited by veteran writers Zawgyi and Min Thu Wun.

Yangon Book Plaza organiser and auction host Myay Hmone Lwin told Weekend the idea for the auction came after he and his collaborators realised the difficulty of finding rare books from street vendors and in bookstores.

“Rare books are very important and show different movements in Burmese literature, how authors searched for new styles and subject matter pre-World War Two,” Myay Hmone Lwin said. “Burmese martyrs like General Aung San and U Nu were some of the writers in Ganda Lawka.”

While auction culture is still relatively new in Myanmar, Myay Hmone Lwin decided to lead the charge to preserve not only rare and obscure books but their history.

“These kinds of rare book auctions are held everywhere overseas,” he added, “I feel very sorry that we haven’t seen an auction of this kind in Myanmar.”

During the auction, Myay Hmone Lwin will explain the history of the books to give auctioneers a better background. Minimum bids will range from K40,000 to K300,000.

Some of the books on offer. Photo: SuppliedSome of the books on offer. Photo: Supplied

“Some people don’t know the value of these books,” he said. “They only know how to sell old books by measuring their weight. The history and the significance of the books are too often lost.”

In addition to the rare books, the auction will include the writings and personal belongings of famous Myanmar writers and poets such as Zawgyi, Min Lu and translator Mya Than Tint.

Bids for their writings will start at K100,000.

All profits from the auction will be donated to local charity organisations.

“Our country is still very poor, with most people struggling to make a living. They don’t know about these precious items,” Myay Hmone Lwin said. “Most original handwritings or paintings of famous artists end up overseas where collectors know the true value.”

“It is upsetting that our national treasures end up out of the country,” he added. “My hope is that this auction is a good start to fill in the gaps.”

The auction will start at 1 pm on May 21 at Yangon Book Plaza, on the fifth floor of Than Zay, Lanmadaw Street. For more information, visit the Yangon Book Plaza Facebook page.