ABU DHABI / WAM
Democratising knowledge and wisdom preserved in the great masterpieces created in the Middle Ages is the great bet made in 1990 by the Spaniard Manuel Moleiro when he decided to open a publishing house specialising in the cloning of rare manuscripts and codices, only exhibited in the prestigious libraries and museums of the world.
Today, more than 30 years later and after positioning itself as the most recognised brand in the West, with 50 published titles, Moleiro has decided to arrive with his works of art at the Abu Dhabi Book International Fair (Adibf), which takes place in the capital of the UAE, until May 28.
“Democratising means giving openness to the works, and they are not reserved only for a few; when you visit a museum, and you meet one of these books, you see it open for a page, only one percent of the publication is available,” said the firm’s representative, Diego de Urbiola, in a statement to the Emirates News Agency (WAM).
He also explained, “There are many Picassos, and they have a value in the market; but of these manuscripts, there is only one and if it disappears, that knowledge is lost forever. What we do is to preserve it and leave it for posterity.”
After receiving an invitation to participate in the Abu Dhabi Book Fair, the Moleiro firm decided to take advantage of the opportunity to “open up” to this market, where, according to Urbiola, they are “unknown”.
This is not the situation of the publishing house in Europe, where it has managed to build a “well-known curriculum”. Their works are among the possessions of royal families and the Vatican or have even been filmed in movies such as “The Name of the Rose” or the Spanish TV series “Isabel”.
This title and many others, such as “El libro de las horas de Juana I de Castilla”, are already sold out. The firm only releases limited editions of 987 copies of each work and once they are sold, they are not re-edited to give them a very special collector’s character.
The prices of these manuscripts and codices can reach €20,000 per copy, although it should be noted that they vary depending on the work and the investment required for each one.
The sale of the work is always accompanied by a research book produced by historians and specialists in each field so that buyers can understand the book’s character and its historical perspective. Many of the titles “are in Latin and are illegible” to the people who purchase them.
Among the denominated “illuminated” manuscripts brought to Abu Dhabi, where illustrations predominate, is the “Atlas Miller”, a set of maps of the discoveries made by Portugal in 1519. The Australian coasts are shown for the first time.
There is also “El libro de la Felicidad”, a commission from Sultan Murad III, appointed king of the Ottoman Empire in 1574, which belongs to the National Library of France.
The process of cloning these “treasures”, which can take from two to six years, requires “very restricted access” to the institutions with which Moleiro “works in close complicity”, always under “controlled atmospheric conditions” and even “with police supervision”, Urbiola said.
The Spanish publishing house, present for the first time in the Arabian Gulf, does not discard the idea of coming to the UAE soon and “bet” for the region with relevant titles of Islamic and Arabic culture.