“While walking through the neighbourhood, I feel as if I were in a novella by Ranko Marinković. I also wanted to distance myself a bit from the city hustle and bustle. I have a chosen selection of books that I want to sell and that I appreciate, and that is why I am here.”
At the very end of 2015, less than half a year ago, in ‘Martićeva zone’, a small but, as it later became evident, significant change occurred. At the corner of Bauerova and Martićeva streets, a second-hand bookshop very special in Zagreb context emerged, modestly but resolutely, named Bibliofil after the existing online bookshop. Dražen Dabić, the founder and owner of both the online and offline versions of the bookshop , was born in Sisak and has found his home in the neighbourhood, and his passion in books. Bibliophile by vocation, and bookseller, editor and publisher by profession, Dabić has worked for some of the biggest Croatian publishing houses; he was the manager of Profil Megastore, Zagreb Book Fair and Profil and Školska Knjiga bookshop chain, while his next step was in the direction of a seemingly small, but actually very extensive intimate story, which has gained more and more followers and admirers with time. By entering Dabić’s bookshop, you enter in the midst of numerous pages on the exciting and turbulent literary and art history, you land up in a diverse reflection of the past and an attractive mirror of the present. Everything is preserved and living in the literature that is not intended for watching, i.e. reading only, but also for touching, smelling and embracing the entire experience that makes a book a book — a practically sacred object.
You can read about the relationship between Dabić’s literary passion and the space he shares with other citizens below.
Dražen Dabić: I live across the street, in the so-called ‘Little Vatican’. I have lived there since 2005, since I left Sisak and moved to Zagreb, so I opened my bookshop here. The space had been empty since ’95, as I was told by a neighbour. I had been watching it for three or four years because I was going to start my own second-hand and standard bookshop after years of working for big publishing houses and being in the business of publishing and selling books. I chose this neighbourhood for the location of my bookshop not only because I live nearby, but also because it is my favourite and because my offer is partly based on the 1920s and 1930s, and the neighbourhood abounds in architecture from precisely that period. The ‘Vatican’ was built from 1926 to 1930, and the building we are currently in was built in 1932. After all, I also wanted to distance myself a bit from the city hustle and bustle. I have a chosen selection of books that I want to sell and that I appreciate, and that is why I am here.
You cannot open this type of a second-hand bookshop in a month. I prepared for it for eight full years and I have invested a lot in everything. The bookshop is specialized only in literature and art literature, which also encompasses design, architecture and photography. My buyers are mostly people who know what a book is and people who are asking for more from a book — an added value. All books in my offer are (also) important because of their design; they were all designed by superior artists, from 1920s to post-war publishing.
Among others, I work with big institutions — museums, galleries, libraries and other institutions all over the world. I sell books originating from the times of former countries in about twenty foreign countries, and I also own some foreign peculiarities, such as a book signed by Albert Camus, etc. While I was conceiving the project, I wasn’t counting on the widest possible audience, but on people who are really interested in this. I am not that far away from the city centre; I think anybody in the city can walk to here once a month if they want to.
For now, I have published one book, a luxury edition of a poetry collection Alone in that Forest by Drago Glamuzina; a bibliophile, limited edition, with photographs by Stanko Abadžić. I am just preparing the publishing of a series of ten posters: five Dadaist posters to mark the 100th anniversary of Dada movement foundation and five posters with motives of the best national book covers designed until 1941, according to my choice. All posters will be made by the silk-screen process in limited edition and exhibited in the bookshop, accompanied by a small catalogue. I plan to publish the three Surrealist Manifestos by André Breton, but also several bibliophile or reprint editions of the ’20s and ’30s avant-garde and several poetry collections. The original, narrower sphere of my interest was more conventional literature, but since I started working as a second-hand book seller and opened my webshop in 2010, I have become interested in avant-garde art and literature and started learning about it. With time I learned everything I could, i.e. how to recognize and determine the authenticity of each edition. I gradually came to like all of that.
The neighbourhood around Martićeva street is gradually improving. The content of the space has changed quite a lot; various crafts didn’t manage to stay afloat, there were many rotations, but everything has somewhat stabilized in the past few years. One of my favourite places is Zlatna Školjka, a restaurant where I often have lunch. I also especially value Booksa. Every time I come in or pass by, people are reading or writing inside, talking and socializing — for them, it is enough just to be there and discuss books. I am not a frequent guest, but the only reason I don’t come more often is that it is a non-smoking space without a terrace. But I definitely respect the people who manage Booksa because they do it in an honest, unpretentious and completely relaxed way. Now the designers have come to us and they are doing something similar… I have my coffee at Galerija 14 cafe, and I sometimes go to Mojo in the evening, but rarely. I don’t go out as much any more, but I do go to concerts at Tvornica (Culture Factory) occasionally.
The neighbourhood around us represents a civil part of Zagreb. While walking through Tomašićeva, Lopašićeva, Laginjina streets… I feel as if I were in a novella by Ranko Marinković. A person can feel really comfortable here — it is relatively quiet, the architecture is beautiful and that’s about it.