ILAB - History of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers
ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography
The admission of Japan, the ILAB Bibliography Prize (now ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography) and the first ILAB International Antiquarian Book Fair were the milestones of the 60s.
“Dans le monde du livre ancien et de la recherche bibliographique, deux personnages sont, jours après jours, confrontés à des problèmes de recherche, d’identification et d’évaluation d’oeuvres anciennes, précieuses ou non: Le Conservateur de bibliothèque et le libraire antiquaire. Le second, tout particulièrement, car de sa science et de ses connaissences dépendent son commerce et sa réputation.“ (Georges A. Deny)
Georges A. Deny from Brussels was ILAB President from 1960 to 1965 and the first Secretary of the ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography who laid down the ground rules. The Prize is awarded every fourth year to the author of the most original and outstanding study in bibliography. Deny supervised the first and second awards to Jean Peeters-Fontainas “Bibliographie des impressions Espagnoles aux Pays-Bas méridonaux” in 1967.
The Invention of the Book Fair
Congresses were held in Scheveningen 1960, Paris 1961, Basle 1962, Brussels 1963 and Ravenna 1964. The rare book business had changed during the last decade: The international market was growing, the first antiquarian book fairs had already been established in London by the ABA at the National Book League premises since 1958, “taking advantage of the shelving skills of Bill Fletcher of Cecil Court”:
“My recollection of those fairs is that the NBL had rather tall French windows on the first floor and that the fairs always seemed to take place on the hottest days of the year.” (Paul Minet)
The book fair phenomenon was invented by the ABA, but it was not restricted to Britain. In 1965 the First International Antiquarian Book Fair, organized by the League, took place in Amsterdam. From then on ILAB booksellers met for an ILAB Congress and an ILAB Book Fair every two years in a different country. After Vienna in 1966 the booksellers travelled to San Francisco in 1967 for the 19th Congress and the 2nd International Antiquarian Book Fair. A year later they met again in Amsterdam, where the 3rd International Book Fair was another big event.
Conferences were held to discuss internal affairs and to improve the international contacts. They were highly regarded and well visited with usually more than 300 guests from all over the world. In 1965, the leaders of the national associations were invited to Stuttgart for the first Presidents’ Meeting. Here, Dudley Massey (ABA) was elected as new ILAB President for two years, succeeded by Fernand de Nobele (SLAM) in 1967. 1968 saw another Presidents’ Meeting in London, before the ILAB affiliates went back to their roots in 1969: Twenty years after the foundation they reunited in Copenhagen for the 20th Congress in the history of the League.
The first step to a global organization was made in 1965, when the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of Japan (ABAJ), founded in 1964, joined the League. Mitsuo Nitta, ILAB Member of Honour and Chair of the ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography remembers:
“Warren Howell of San Francisco and Nico Israel of Amsterdam came to Japan and suggested that we should get together to form the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Japan. This enabled us to participate in the activities of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, of which I am very proud to hold the title of ILAB Member of Honour. I believe that Yushodo was the first Japanese bookseller to take part in a foreign antiquarian book fair when we exhibited in New York in 1970.”