|Founding of the ILAB|
In 1906 Frank Karslake, a second-hand bookseller, called a few colleagues together and founded the Secondhand Booksellers’ Association. It was the first organization of its kind in the world; but its ambitions and scope were modest. The annual subscription was one shilling, and beyond the obligation to exchange information on bad debtors and book thieves no one seemed at all clear what its purpose was to be.
Tardily other countries followed the British example and, by the time the Second World War ended, there were associations in France, Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Belgium, Switzerland, Italy and Finland. Many of the countries concerned endured the rigours of enemy occupation; all had after war problems, not the least of which was the treatment of members who had collaborated with the enemy. But there were also problems of exchange control and the regulation of imports and exports, which were new to most European countries. In 1947, therefore, the Dutch association took the initiative by approaching the British, as the senior body, with the suggestion that an international conference should be called, that invitations should be extended to all those countries in which an Association of Antiquarian Booksellers existed, and that delegates should submit the many problems that beset them to a general discussion. The Dutch offered the conference a home in Amsterdam and, in September, 1947, the representatives of nine countries gathered, under the chairmanship of the British president, for the first international conference ever held by the antiquarian book trade. The delegates were unanimous in their desire for the formation of an international body and the British association – the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (International) – was entrusted with the task of calling together the presidents of the respective associations to draft a constitution.
Next week the third conference assembles in London – the first held under the auspices of the League itself. The president, Monsieur W.S. Kundig, of Geneva, in his opening address will be able to present a gratifying report of the first year’s work. Considering that the executive committee is comprised of representatives from Denmark, France, Great Britain, Holland and Switzerland, that all of them are the principals of important bookselling firms with extensive business of their own national association, and that intervals had to be carved in their already fully occupied lives, the record of work undertaken or completed is impressive. Among other things, an International Directory of Antiquarian Booksellers, with their specialities, is almost ready for the printer, and a vocabulary, in seven languages, of more than 1000 terms in general trade use is in an advanced stage preparation.
The executive committee of the League is presided over by Monsieur W.S. Kundig, the president of the Swiss association, himself an antiquarian bookseller of world-wide reputation and the son of a bookseller. He was educated in England, which accounts for his remarkable linguistic feat in delivering a long presidential address largely concerned with technical matters in English, which has been the official language of all three conferences. The vice-president is Mr. Percy Muir, of the British firm of Elkin Mathews, Limited, immediate past-president of the ABA, and president of the conferences in Amsterdam and Copenhagen. The League’s treasurer is Mr. Menno Hertzberger, of the International Antiquariaat in Amsterdam, a past president of the Dutch association. The two remaining committee members are M. Andre Poursin, past president of the French association and an antiquarian bookseller in Paris, and Mr. E. Gronholt Pedersen, the popular and apparently permanent president of the Danish association.
These gentlemen are, of course, officers of the League, elected by the general assembly and not representing their national associations. The discussions of the conference are in the hand of delegates appointed by the various associations. The countries represented at the conference, excluding the British hosts, are Belgium (president, M. Florimond Tulkens of Brussels); Denmark (president, Mr. E. Gronholt Pedersen); Finland (president, Mr. Ilmari Jorma of Helsinki); France (president, M.F. de Nobele of Paris); Italy (president, Mr. Aeschlimann of the firm of Ulrich Hoepli in Florence); Norway (president, Mr. J.W. Cappellen of Oslo); Holland (president, Mr. Hertzberger); Sweden (president, Mr. Borjesson); and Switzerland (president, Monsieur W.S. Kundig of Geneva).
The conference, however, is by no means only, and perhaps no longer even principally, a business meeting. The ABA, under the presidency of Mr. Dudley Massey, of the firm of Pickering and Chatto, Ltd., has arranged a program of social events worthy, it is hoped, of its guests and of the occasion. Beginning, very properly, with a short sightseeing tour of London which concludes, equally properly, with a banquet at Guildhall, the program includes a reception by the British Council, visits to the British Museum and the Royal Library at Windsor, a day in Cambridge, and a Promenade Concert. On Saturday, September 10, the ABA takes leave of its guests at a farewell dinner and dance at the Mayfair Hotel.
(From the Times Literary Supplement of Friday 2nd Sept 49. Special Collections of the University of Amsterdam, Library of the Book Trade, Archive of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers; shelf number 2.)