In the sixties a young Catalan medical student goes to France to study his specialty and meets a beautiful Parisian girl from a family of arts and antiques lovers. This meeting which means a fresh start in their lives is also the beginning of our story: the first generation of Comellas booksellers, Antonio and Françoise.
Together they found the Librairie F. Comellas in Paris at the beginning of the seventies. The first years were difficult. If we consider a world where information was not just a click away and communications did not offer the visibility and immediacy we assume to be normal today, it is really touching to remember the first catalogues, virtually handcrafted, and the specific weight of human contact within the business of rare books.
However Antonio and Françoise went ahead, with an important amount of ingenuity, constant effort and that “sixth sense” that distinguishes the best booksellers. They acquired books of certain relevance, which their good taste and bibliophilic knowledge helped recognize and bring to light. Although first specialized on the History of Science and Medicine Books, they get interested in many other subjects and cultivate their bibliophilic instinct under the inspiration of the great booksellers of the decade. Soon they become popular in rare books circles and at the beginning of the eighties they take part in their first fair in the USA. During the following twenty years they will have among their clients great private collectors, many public libraries and museums, as well as many of the most prestigious antiquarian bookstores in the world.
Alongside the development of the bookstore, they sensed the potential of computers for storage and management of their bibliographic fund. So at the beginning of the nineties they had already provided themselves with a self-designed computer tool. Starting their database so early has allowed them to catalogue a great number of volumes over the years, contributing to the conservation and transmission of the kind of knowledge that supports the life of the bookstore.
Thus, over three decades and from different locations in France, the bookstore kept on growing in size and relevance in French and international markets, taking part in the main fairs of the sector: Paris, London, Brussels, Milan, Amsterdam, New York, etc. The son of the founding couple, Julien Comellas, the second part of our story, grew as well. Julien’s childhood went by among the ups and downs of rare books world. So connected were family and bookstore routines that anecdotes from both intertwine in his memories. Through the years he learned the principles of the profession until he became part of the team. Young and restless he devoted himself to opening a new marketing path. He developed and managed a multilingual commercial website that meant a valuable complement to the company.
A few years later, in 2001, the big decision. The bookstore moves to Spain, Antonio’s homeland. The new location, a beautiful modernist apartment in the historic district of Barcelona where you can breathe the classic atmosphere of ancient libraries, is the perfect background for a collection of books and documents, both printed and manuscripts, dated from the 15th to the 19th Centuries.
At present, already under the lead of Julien Comellas, the bookstore continues its work relying on the same principles as ever, accuracy and human contact. Member of the main associations of the sector and a regular in the main International Fairs and Salons, Julien uses any opportunity to strengthen bonds with collectors, colleagues or institutional clients. While he looks after them in the meeting room of the bookstore he likes to have in mind that in his office he still keeps the old electric stapler with which his mother used to staple the catalogues she would then send all over the world more than thirty years before. Between the shelves stuffed with rare books, the small steps of the third generation of Comellas may be already writing the third part of our story….