The Publishers & Booksellers Guild completed its thirty-fourth eventful years and is marching ahead to many more such distinguished years in the future. The baby which took birth during the humid summer of 1975 has crossed its adolescence—it is no more a fantasy, it is full of youthful exuberance and hopes. It is the elan coming out of the vivacious West Bengal soil looking forward not to skyscrapers, but to a better cultural life of the State through programmes of popularising books. West Bengal, the city of Kolkata in particular, has had a past with a chequered history and a tradition of scholarship with books as the medium.
It is with only 14 members that the Guild was formed with a President, one Vice-President and a Treasurer, Kolkata's problem was that it has practically no good bookshop—neither has it now—where book-lovers could spend some browsing through a variety of books. Thacker Spink was one such, but it is no longer there. As it was being long felt that exposition and promotion of various titles to the book-loving people was absolutely essential, the Guild, which comprises individual members from different publishing houses, decided in 1975, just after ifs formation, to organise a Kolkata Book Fair. Naturally it was a small beginning, and it did not start with a bang. The first Kolkata Book Fair was inaugurated by Mr. A L Dias, the then Governor of West Bengal, on March 9, 1976 with just 54 book-stalls erected at the open space in front of the Birla Planetarium. That the first footsteps were in right direction could be ascertained at the response of the Calcuttans, who are proud of their individuality and culture. It must be acknowledged here that the local media came forward fully to promote the cause.
In one sense 1976 was a momentous year for the Guild—it organised successfully the first Kolkata Book Fair, it took part at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and it also participated in the World Book Fair, New Delhi, where its stall was adjudged the best stall in the medium category and was awarded the Best Prize. So, the very beginning brought in bouquets, which very naturally inspired its members to march ahead. But the first two Book Fairs set the organisers a thinking for finding out bigger space for accommodating more publishers, who had been clamouring for space. That the two Book Fairs could create an impact upon the book-loving Calcuttans was clear from the increasing number of visitors.
In the year 1991 the Guild was offered a new venue for holding its fair on Outram Road near Park Street crossings Because of the shape of the ground the architectural planning could be done in a better manner. The Architect faces problems in reshaping the open space with stalls—he has not only to look after the aesthetic side, but alsoto accommodate as many publishers as feasible, keeping sufficient space for smooth movement of the visitors. This space of land gave him the opportunity, for which more publishers and booksellers are being entertained, allowing more space for movement.
It may be noted that Kolkata Book Fair is not restricted to Kolkata and West Bengal publishers only. From the very first year publishers from different parts of the country and abroad are participating with their titles. So, the book-lovers get the opportunity of browsing through a variety of books from almost all over the world in one place. Two hemispheres meet in Kolkata during the Kolkata Book Fair.