RESUME OF THE CONGRESS
HELD AT MILAN
September 28-30, 1953
1. Nomination of Tellers.
2. Treasurer's Report.
3. Accountants' Report.
4. Subscriptions for 1954.
5. The Directory.
6. Conditions of Public Sales.
8. Conditions of import and export. Bank charges.
9. Prestige of Antiquarian Bookselling. Exhibition.
10. Distribution of the Compendium of Usages and Custom.
11. The Card of Welcome.
12. Suggestions from Italy.
a) New members of the association and members that have resigned.
b) Concerning Discounts.
13. Suggestions from Great Britain.
a) Confidential List.
b) The right of election as a member of the A.B.A of all English booksellers no matter where they live. (The Committee awaits further information on this last suggestion.)
14. Suggestions from France.
a) Increase of the 24 hour limit of the right of return in public sales.
b) Inexact descriptions and ratings of the condition of books in fixed price catalogues,
15. Suggestion from Sweden.
The right of Associations to show on their headed note-paper the composition of the League Committee and the members of the League
Committee of Honour.
16. Two Committee members, having completed their term of office, present themselves for re-election.
17. Date and place of the next congress.
28th September 1953, at 11 a.m
The President of the League, Mr. G. Blaizot, delivered the opening Speech, he stressed the vital importance of the associative spirit among booksellers of all nations; this spirit was clearly demonstrated by the large attendance at this 7th Congress.
He hoped that through this spirit and this unity the Committee would be enabled to find a way to overcome the hindrance imposed on the free circulation of books throughout the world by customs, clearing and various rules concerning imports and exports. This situation which was becoming increasingly hard to bear, not only for booksellers, but for all men of culture.
Any other problems brought to the notice of the Congress would be approached in the same spirit.
As to the various questions which have arisen in the course of the past year, the President asked those present to refer to the Committee's Report, which had been distributed to them.
Item I. Nomination of Tellers. - Two tellers, Messrs. Brunier and Maggs, were nominated.
Item 2. Treasurer's Report. - M. Blaizot called upon the Treasurer, Mr. Tulkens, to read the financial report. The report was unanimously adopted.
Item 3. Accoutants' Report. - Appended to the financial report.
Item 4. Subscriptions for 1954. - Mr. Blaizot laid stress on the financial situation of the League, pointing out that with a deficit of 22,000 Belgian francs, the situation was dangerous, and the delegates themselves must try to find a solution. The total amount received from subscriptions does not cover the expenses of the League, so that if the League had to subsist entirely upon her own resources she would be in debt. It is only by means of subsidiary activities, such as the sale of the International Dictionary, that the budget can be balanced at all. This is a very grave situation for which a remedy must be found.
Item 9. Prestige of Antiquarian Bookselling. Exhibition. - Item 9 of the Agenda concerns the standing of the antiquarian bookseller, and his attitude towards exhibitions. The League would lend its full support to the organization of Exhibitions in all countries. Replying to a question from Madame Marzoli, the President stated that it was in the interest of the League that books should be exchanged for exhibition purposes with colleagues from other countries.
Item 10. Distribution of the Compendium of Usages and Customs. Copies of this Compendium, also of the Cards of Welcome were distributed to those present. This Compendium, Charter of the Usages and Customs of the trade, would define, in the course of any dispute, litigation, or legal difficulty, the invariable practices of the trade. Its usefulness did not need to be emphasised.
Mr. Blaizot having asked for comments, Messrs. Nebehay and Blancheteau made interesting suggestions for two improvements in the text, which were carefully noted for the next edition. Mr. Muir promptly expressed the appreciation of all present for the work accomplished by the authors of the Compendium.
The Meeting was adjourned at 12.25 p.m.
28th September 1953, at 3 pm
Item 11. The Card of Welcome. - Mr. Poursin: The Cards of Welcome
were numbered and strictly personal ; they are distributed to each association and then by each association to each of its members; the association is responsible for it to the League, as each holder of a card is responsible to his association. The Card of Welcome only proves that the holder has paid his subscription, and that, in the event of litigation, he has agreed to submit to the arbitration of the International League. Before the distribution of the cards, the member has therefore to agree to certain conditions. A system of distribution of cards would be decided upon at the Presidents' meeting tomorrow.
Item 6. Conditions of Public Sales. - Mr. Blaizot: This point concerns especially the right to return books which have been insufficiently described in the catalogue. Thanks to the efforts of Presidents Sawyer and Muir, the principle of return has been accepted by one of the well known auctioneers in London. 12 out of 3 countries had agreed to it. The only exception referred to was an auctioneer of the United States, who had replied evasively. Immediately, at the request of the President, the Congress expressed its unanimous disapproval of this exception, An interesting suggestion was made by the Austrian Association, concerning the possibility of asking booksellers, members of associations, to undertake purchases on behalf of other members.
Item 8. Conditions of Import and Export. - The President said that he considered this subject as one of the principal tasks of the Committee for 1953-1954, and he asked for the collaboration of the thirteen Presidents.
He said that he thought that it was especially appropriate to discuss this question in Italy, as this country is undergoing particular difficulties in this field. In speaking of the absurd difficulties which are paralysing not only the book trade, but in fact spiritual exchange from one country to another, he had already emphasised this point of view in his Radio talk. He then asked Mr. Olschki for his report. Mr. Olschki read his very interesting Report, in which he enumerated the various difficulties met with by Italian booksellers concerning both import and export. He stressed the absurdity, and also the consequences, of which the most obvious is that in many cases Italian booksellers have to give up imports and exports, lacking the possibility of obtaining permits. Among difficulties, Mr. Olschki mentioned the ill-omened role of heavy and varied taxes. The gravity of this situation has been the cause of the resignation of a member of the «Circolo».
The President thanked Mr. Olschki for the excellent basis for work provided by his report. He asked the Presidents of each Association to give a detailed report on the difficulties existing in their respective countries, in order to enable the Committee to organise their campaign. On a proposal from Mr. Olschki, Mr. Blaizot announced that the Committee agreed to postpone the discussion till tomorrow, so as to allow the Presidents to study the details of this question.
Item 8 (Continued). Bank Charges. - This Item, which constitutes article 4 of the Compendium of Usages and Customs, was the subject of various comments concerning the difficulties of its application. Mr. Rauch pointed out that in Switzerland the clearing charges of 1 % demanded of the vendor, which may involve a considerable sum, are regarded as an advance made to another country. Neither the French nor the English could obtain permission to pay the charge. Mr. Tulkens explained that conditions in Belgium are even worse. For sums in excess of 20,000 Belgian Francs 5 % is retained in Belgium for six months, without interest. Mr. Wormser said that in the United States regulations concerning taxes and charges vary from state to state and from city to city. For example in New York, a special tax to alleviate temporary unemployment is levied which adds to the burden of the charges.
Mr. Rosenthal (Holland) and Mr. Howes commented on the application of Article 4 of the Compendium of Usages and Customs. Mr. de Nobele also took part in this discussion and contributed an interesting suggestion. Mr. Muir agreed that opinions were divided on this question, declared, for example, that an English bookseller can, by notifying his bank, be certain that the whole amount due is paid to a vendor, but he cannot be responsible for taxes levied in another country.
Mr. Poursin pointed out that French banks make a small handling charge. Article 4. aims at charges of this kind which would be at the expense of the purchaser; but Article 4. has never been considered as a solution regarding taxes.
To conclude the discussion on Article 4. Mr. Blaizot asked each President to make an enquiry into the question levied in each country, and to send their results to the Committee. A Commission would be formed with the object of observing variations in taxation in each country. As to Article 4. of the Compendium of Usages and Customs, he reminded those present that this Article only concerns bank charges, and that it was adopted at the Congress of Brussels. Consequently, he will ask the next Committee to study and to define the possible interpretations of the application of this Article.
Item 5. The Directory. - Mr. Poursin pointed out the number of changes which had taken place since the printing of the last Directory (about 15% to 20%). He quoted possible costs for a supplement and for a new edition, and a discussion on this question was opened.
The President asked for the opinion of the German Association as being the most interested in this question, the names of their members not having appeared in the first edition. Mr. Hauswedell proposed the publication of a supplement, in consideration of the expense involved by the publication of a new edition. He also announced that the German Association had recently published a complete list of its adherents, which he would send to all members of all associations, so that the publication of a new edition of the Directory could be postponed for a year.
Mr. Wormser announced that it would then be necessary to make known the existence of this German list, particularly among libraries.
Very interesting suggestions were made by Mr. Vigevani concerning the format, which he would like to see reduced, and the suppression of one part by the use of a key of specialities. Mr. Rosenthal (Holland), Mr. Olschki and Mr. Hauswedell gave their opinions on this question. Mr. Blancheteau stated that it ought to be possible to reprint the Directory, reckoning that the acquisition of this Directory only constitutes a small expense for each bookseller, compared with the source of revenue it represents. Messrs. Wormser, Howes and Rauch agreed on the publication of a Supplement, following Mr. Hauswedell's proposal.
Mr. Poursin summed up this question.
Mr. Blaizot explained how useful it would be for the finances of the League if it were possible, through each association, to obtain advance subscriptions. A favourable reception was given to this proposal, which would be confirmed at the Presidents' meeting tomorrow.
After a long debate, Mr. Howes' proposal was put to the vote, publication of a supplement which would include the members of the German Association, new members of all Associations, resignations and erasures, and change of addresses.
The motion was carried unanimously.
29th September 1953, at 4 p.m
Item 4. Subscriptions for 1954. - M. Blaizot presiding, said that a happy
solution to financial problems had been found that morning at the Presidents' meeting, and asked for the approval of the Assembly. He thanked everyone for their cooperation.
The following countries agreed to increase their annual subscription as follows:
Italy 10 %
France 25 %
Germany 25 %
Austria 10 %
Holland. 20 %
Belgium. 20 %
U.S.A. 20 %
Switzerland. 20 %
Economies to be affected. - The most considerable expenses are those involved by Committee meetings. On the suggestion of the British delegation, it had been voted last year to organise full committee meetings, with the reception arranged by the national associations, in a different country each year. On their side, the Belgian delegation asked for a reduction in travelling expenses. What were the proposed solutions? Mr. Muir stated that last year in Geneva, the Belgian delegation had suggested the possibility of restricted committee meetings, so-called working parties. He emphasised that in Geneva the committee had received definite instructions from the Geneva Assembly for full meetings. At the moment there was a choice between restricted or full Committee meetings.
Messrs. Rauch, Howes, Hauswedell and Wormser gave their opinion in the course of a lengthy discussion. Mr. Poursin also suggested that in the interests of economy it might be possible to hold one or two plenary meetings yearly, and working parties consisting of the restricted committee to expedite current business.
Mr. Blaizot to sum up, having heard the opinion of all the delegates, said that he felt that the general opinion was in favour of a small number of meetings of the full Committee in countries where no Committee meeting had yet been held. He also noted that the Committee had been given a free hand to convene restricted meetings whenever necessary in the interests of work.
Item 12. Suggestions from Italy. - Mr. Blaizot opened the discussion on those proposals which had the support of the Committee.
Mr. Olschki in an interesting Report, pointed out how necessary it was that all changes in the membership list of each association should be made known quickly to our associate colleagues, by means of the League. He also hoped that discount would only be granted to members of Associations affiliated to the League.
At the request of Mr. Blaizot, Messrs. Howes, Rauch and Wormser expressed their opinions concerning the communications of the names of new members. All were in favour. Mr. Wormser pointed out that it would be prudent, at least in the United States, to make the names known in the case of resignations. Mr. Olschki also asked that any member who had resigned from his Association should be deleted from the list of members of foreign associations to which he might belong. Varied opinions were expressed on the suggestion from Italy. The question being actually fairly well covered by Article 7. of the Statutes, Mr. Blaizot suggested that this question should be studied at a Committee Meeting, which proposal was accepted.
Concerning Discounts. - The second point of the suggestions from Italy, everybody agreed after a long exchange of views, that this question is covered by Article 8. of the Compendium of Usages and Customs, and it was recommended that it should be strictly adhered to.
Item 13. Suggestions from Great Britain.
(a) Confidential List. - Mr. Howes stressed the necessity of a confidential list being sent out at least every three months. All were agreed as to the usefulness of such a measure.
Mr. Blaizot approved this suggestion, pointing out at the same time that the League can only compile this list from information received from the Associations. Therefore, he asked each Association to forward to him as quickly as possible any information of this kind which they may possess. The degree of applicability would be determined by the Committee.
Mr. Blaizot then made known the Committee's Report on this question, suggesting that a grey list of doubtful clients should be added to the black list. This proposal was heard with great interest, and was the subject of a short discussion; it was approved, notably by Mr. Howes, and its application would be studied by the Committee.
Mr. Blaizot stressed that the grey list must be just as confidential as the black list.
Acting on the request of President Howes, point (b) of Item 13 of the Agenda is withdrawn from discussion.
30th September 1953, at 3.30 p.m
Mr. Blaizot, presiding, had the pleasure of announcing the the Compendium of Usages and Customs would be distributed gratis to all members of Associations, who should apply to their Presidents.
Item 7. Dictionary. - Mr. Hertzberger was called upon to speak on the subject of the Dictionary. He said that as the matter had been exhaustively discussed in the Presidents' Meeting that morning, and a decision had been taken, he did not wish to take up time with a long report. It had been decided that the first proofs, and, if necessary, the second proofs would be sent to all, Presidents so that they could make whatever additions, corrections, or alterations they judged necessary. It was hoped that the work would be finished by Mayor April 1954.
The aim of the Dictionary was to be a practical aid to booksellers and not a learned treatise for philologists or university professors. It was also hoped that it would be a financiel help to the League. Mr. Blaizot asked if there were any questions. There were none.
Item 17. Date and place of the next Congress. - Mr. Nebehay, unanimously applauded, invited the delegates of Associations belonging to the League to meet next year in Vienna. He welcomed them all, and hoped that there would be as many delegations as possible. The date was fixed for the first week in September.
Mr. Blaizot said that he was happy to announce that he hoped the 1955 Congress would take place in New York. All these good tidings were greeted with unanimous applause.
Item 14. Suggestions from France.
(a) Increase of the 24 hour limit of the right of return in public sales. Mr. Blancheteau declared that the extension of the 24 hour limit in certain countries for the right of return in public sales, especially concerned France, as many other countries already had this facility.
(b) Inexact descriptions and ratings of the condition of books in fixed price catalogues. - Mr. Blancheteau said that this point had been raised following a suggestion made by Mr. Wormser in Geneva. The aim was to achieve the maximum degree of accuracy and precision in description of books. Messrs. Olschki and Poursin agreed on this necessity.
Item 15. Suggestion from Sweden: The right of Associations to show on their headed note-paper the composition of the League Committee and the members of the League Committee of Honour. - After some discussion it was decided that this question could be left to the discretion of each President. The members of the Committee of Honour had given permission for their names to figure on the note-paper of the Associations, if necessary.
Mr. Blaizot then reported on the steps taken to get new Associations to join the League. He expressed a sincere wish for a speedy recovery of Mr. Porter who had been prevented by an accident from coming to Milan.
Closing this Congress, the President of the League, in response to a generous suggestion of Mr. Howes, informed the President of the A.B.A. of the unanimous consent of the Committee to support the efforts made on behalf of one of our colleagues. an actuaI « Displaced Person» for whom everybody expressed the warmest esteem. All present showed their agreement by unanimous applause.
Item 16. Two Committee members, having completed their term of office, presented themselves for re-election. - The re-election of Counsellor Gomme and Treasurer Tulkens was put to the vote, and they were unanimously re-elected. Mr. Blaizot declared that all items on the Agenda had been covered, and thanked everyone for their patience and goodwill, which had enabled so much unanimous and fruitful work to be accomplished.
COMMITTEE REPORT TO THE MILAN CONGRESS
SEPTEMBER 28 – 29 – 30 AND OCTOBER 1st 1953
This is our seventh international meeting, the fifth that has been held under the aegis of the I.L.A.B. Our first words will be of gratitude and appreciation to the Italian Association whose guests we have the pleasure and honour of being this year.
Before anything else your President wishes to confess to the apprehensive feelings that he experiences today in opening this first meeting of the Congress, in the presence of our two Honorary Presidents, Mr. P. H. Muir and Mr. A. Poursin, Last year your kind indulgence called me to succeed, to President Percy Muir at Geneva.
The charge of the Presidency is a heavy one; this burden seemed even heavier as I was taking the place of a President who, during his three years had been firstly, one of the most active members of the Committee, and secondly who had known how to direct our work with all that mastery as President that we know and that we have so universally appreciated. People can, following the natural course of things have a successor, without finding a replacement. I can say that if our two Honorary Presidents, Percy Muir and Andre Poursin, had stated at the time of the Geneva Congress that they felt a very understandable sensation of relief at the finish of their term of office, which they had not wished to renew, they have none the less, for the greater good of the Committee and of the I.L.A.B. in its entirety, not to mention the great pleasure felt by the reigning President, attended all the Committee meetings and satisfied every appeal made by the President when he had need of their advice, of their concurrence or the benefit of their long and wide experience. I want to thank them both here, personally, and in the name of us all, whom they have continued to serve with the same steadfast and intelligent watchfulness. So that the apprehension I feel today is helped a little by the feeling of friendship which unites us all and by the reassuring presence of them both.
This report will give a statement of the Committee's work during the fifth year of existence of the I.L.A.B.; it will touch briefly on the present state of those questions which appeared on the Agenda of the Geneva Congress whose progress should be discussed and examined during the general meetings of the Congress at Milan; it will mention the problems which beset us, problems to which the Committee will propose solutions to be found during the year 1953 to 1954; finally, it will list the proposals made by the different Associations affiliated to us which we must study.
By the questions placed on the Agenda for this Congress you have been able to take note of the work of your Committee and also, perhaps, of its care to serve the general and essential interests of our profession. If the number of questions on the Agenda are not many, the importance and complexity of several of them will require of you minute attention and a spirit of co-operation for which we urgently and cordially appeal.
The natural difficulties of certain of these questions are multiplied by the complexity of that international organism, the I.L.A.B. That is why your Committee has had to use great discretion in the management of correspondence and discussions with the different Presidents on the subject of these problems. Doubtless, thanks to your co-operation, we shall be able in the course of these four days to bring our discussions of these different problems to a favourable conclusion
In the first place, the essential purpose of an international organization formed by a trade is to consider the details of various problems of an international order raised by that trade. As regards our International League, problems of international exchange faced by booksellers, are becoming more and more vitally important due to the yearly, even daily extension of exchanges between the various countries. The primary task is to determine what details apply to a particular problem and even before one comes to discuss the solution of this problem, the first task is a very specialised one. That is why we should thank the Presidents of the thirteen Associations most warmly for the way in which they have responded to the numerous queries that your Committee has addressed to them during the course of this year concerning those questions which you asked us to examine at the time of our last Congress at Geneva.
COMMENTS ON THE TREASURER'S REPORT :
Before reaching the short account of your Committee's activities, I feel it would be wiser to draw your attention to the exact meaning of our Treasurer's Report. As it was agreed at Geneva this report has been checked by a Chartered Accountant from the Chamber of Commerce in Brussels so your wishes have been complied with in this matter.
This year this report is presented to you in two distinct parts: A) Administrative Balance-sheet, and B) Balance-sheet for other items. In this way your Committee has hoped to make it possible for you to see clearly the real state of our Treasury. This situation is serious and deserves your full attention. By Administrative Balance-sheet we mean balance-sheet showing receipts, that is to say the subscriptions paid by the thirteen member-Associations of the League, and administrative expenses. This balance-sheet shows a deficit of £157.8.9. sterling, 22.041,71 Belgian francs. This is the story: the normal subscriptions received do not cover the League's expenses. This means simply and briefly that if the I.L.A.B. had to subsist on her strict resources which are her subscriptions, she would be in debt. It is only by other receipts of which the most important is the edition of the International Directory that the League’s balance-sheet presents a definite profit balance. The duty of your Committee is to draw your attention to this grave and important point. In fact, nothing is more dangerous than optimism based on misunderstanding, that is to say based on a lack of knowledge of the facts, and on the easy illusion provided by figures one only half understands. It is up to you to make a decision on this question, it is up to you to say if you are content for us to live dangerously or if you wish, like good business men, to save a situation with effect from today, which, without being immediately dangerous, yet carries in it the seed of overwhelming and grave financial difficulties. From this balance in hand of £1,027.8.3. sterling, 143,836,90 Belgian francs, we shall have to deduct some important sums during the months that follow: 1) for the publication of the International Directory, 2) for the printing of the League's Dictionary. The estimates for these two future expenses are in the region of £4,000 sterling, 570.000 Belgian francs. These figures represent the facts. If we had only facts and figures to deal with, it would be our absolute and imperial duty to ask you to re-adjust the subscriptions from today, but your Committee clearly understands, firstly that as affairs stand at present to ask you for an immediate decision would be perhaps to run the risk of a "non possumus" from you. Give it credit, nevertheless, for submitting, and even posing this question to you, and it must inevitably be considered by you with the deepest attention during the duration of the Congress.
You would think, perhaps, that the remedy for this question of a gap between subscriptions and expenses would be to cut down expenses. But your Committee can assure you that the management of the League's funds is most scrupulously carried out. Your Committee is doing a great deal of work with means which are almost laughably reduced. It has held to the amount given you as an addition to the Balance-sheet, the amount for administrative expenses, that is to say, general expenses. Perhaps somebody here would like to say something about any of the items comprising this amount of general expenses? We are at your disposal to reply to your questions on this subject. With regard to the travelling expenses caused by Committee meetings in different countries, these total £311.0.6. sterling, 43.542,95 Belgian francs, this year, and cover three meetings, of the 25th and 26th October in Paris, the 10th and 11th April in London, and the 12th and 13th July in Brussels. In addition to these three meetings your Committee met immediately after the General Assembly at Geneva and immediately before the present Congress, yesterday, Sunday, at Milan. You expressed a wish at the time of the last Congress that meetings of the Committee should be frequent and that they should be accompanied by general meetings with the members of the Association of the nation acting as host. This has been done as you wished and these meetings have had, as I see clearly, great interest, as much for the League as for the members of the Associations who joined in the meetings. Nevertheless, inevitably such functions are ex- pensive. It will be for you to decide whether economies should be made regarding them.
With regard to the administrative expenses as such, we can only remind you that, at Geneva, Percy Muir told you in his last report: “these ever-increasing and ever-developing activities mean that a heavier burden must necessarily weigh on the shoulders of your administrators, however solid and accustomed those shoulders may be, more especially the work of the President has become much too important for it to be done properly with those means at its disposal, as it has been until now. Besides, it is unthinkable that an organization as important as ours should be forced to work without its own secretary, or office, or typist. Your Committee has carefully considered this matter and has thought it desirable that a permanent secretary be engaged, capable, under the President's supervision, of carrying out the tasks approved by the General Assembly. This is naturally a long-term policy, and we must not lose sight of its eventual realization; but we think that now and already the immediate need of secretarial help will be obvious to you."
To this question raised by the President at the Geneva Congress you replied by leaving the Committee to estimate the probable secretarial expenses. The accounts given to you by our Treasurer will enable you to see, among the details of general expenses, how your Committee has availed itself of your authority, but this authorization of which we have made such sparing use, of secretarial help for a few days a week is far from being a worthy solution to the problem, nor is it worthy of the League. Thus it is not in the reduction of general expenses already so reduced that the answer to our unequal finances can be found.
In conclusion, your Committee asks that you consider this financial question frankly. The delegates will have to suggest a remedy for the administrative Balance-sheet, the deficit shown being as large as 25%. With regard to the Balance-sheet showing other items, your Committee proposes that the Associations consent that a loan from the subscriptions, be advanced to finance the two works already in hand (the Directory and Dictionary.)
A circular has been sent to the Presidents of the Associations to ask for the numbers of new members since the last printing of the Directory·, the numbers to be deleted, and the changes of address.
These replies will permit the questionnaire to be sent out in the near future, which will ensure an accurate new edition of international information. As you know, a new edition is needed due to the changes that have taken place within the different Associations, and the addition of new members to the League since the first printing. It will be for the Congress to decide if this new edition of our directory should be in the form of a complete new issue or of an addendum. There are 97 copies of the first Edition in stock. For obvious financial reasons the Committee propose that an addendum be made: the Directory would be completed by this, that is to say it would include the corrections proposed by the different Associations and would include the members of the German Association who did not appear in the first edition. The publication of the addendum would have, as the second result, the effect of helping the sale of the last copies of the Directory.
CONDITIONS OF AUCTION SALES :
On the day following the Congress of Geneva, the 29th September, your Committee had sent to all Presidents a circular letter in which they asked for a report on the conditions of auction sales in each of the 13 countries who are members of the League.
During its three meetings, your Committee has examined carefully the replies received. Laying aside all questions of detail which are numerous and complicated, and laying aside all the differences made by the rulings that apply to each country, we arrive at the essential point: the right of return of items incorrectly described in an auction catalogue. Today, after another circular letter and after certain questions asked certain Presidents, your Committee is happy to announce that, out of thirteen countries, twelve are in agreement on the practical admission of the right of return. In the thirteenth country, (USA), out of four auctioneers who were approached, only one in his conditions of sale did not include the right of return. I regret to have to say that this auctioneer, forewarned by the President of his country's Association has not bothered to reply to the last-named, any more than he has bothered to reply to the urgent letter sent by the President of the League, who attempted to pierce his obstinate indifference, on behalf of the local President.
In conclusion, the Committee will ask you to vote on a motion by which, taking into account the near-unanimity of experts, auctioneers and valuers on the right of return, regrets will be expressed at the non-co-operative spirit of a single auctioneer, still un-persuaded. Doubtless one may hope that the motion may leave your Committee better prepared to continue the fight to obtain satisfactory conditions where this important point is concerned. It is, after all by the clarification of conditions of public sale that we can better defend the purchases made commercially by the trade in public sales, between different countries. You will know how important this question is to each one of us. You know it so well that it is not necessary to insist any further on the importance of the results obtained this year, and on our interest in completing these negotiations as much on the point in question as on other points regarding public sales.
Mr. Menno Hertzberger will give a report on the question of the Dictionary, a report that will naturally be approved by the Committee whose duty it is to make plain to you the considerable amount of work which this Dictionary has given to the Father of the League. The truly extraordinary complications of the problems raised by this enterprise have, for another year, forced the author to relinquish any material realization of his work by the printing of it.
One of the Presidents, of whom Mr. Hertzberger had asked help in the revision of the slips having raised certain points, the Committee has thought fit to make use of the General Assembly at Milan to consider them.
The two questions that follow: Conditions of export and import, - the prestige of antiquarian bookselling, Exhibitions - these are in the Agenda put there by the Committee who wishes to have a directive from you in order to seek desirable solutions to them during their next session.
CONDITIONS OF EXPORT AND IMPORT
This question will constitute your Committee's main task during the year 1953-54.
In Italy the question is of paramount importance. It is therefore in Italy that your Committee will start its work. During discussions of this question, the Committee will present its point of view and will ask the General Assembly to express the different opinions of the different countries.
A question which is connected with that of conditions of import and export is that of bank charges for international purchases. It will be necessary during this Assembly to reconsider this problem for which a decision had been taken at Brussels, a decision which seemed to involve inherent practical difficulties due to the different cases concerning each country.
Your Committee feels that more detailed information should be obtained on the different cases in point.
PRESTIGE OF ANTIQUARIAN BOOKSELLING. EXHIBITIONS
Our league should always be desirous of raising the prestige of the profession of antiquarian bookseller. And that not only through a legitimate pride in such a profession, but also with the object of interesting the indifferent general public, indifferent through ignorance, and also the authorities who are ignorant through indifference, in the Book, our stock-in-trade. This point is well understood by those organizations who have thought that the exhibition of antiquarian books makes excellent propaganda. The Committee proposes that such initiative be encouraged, and sponsored in some sort on an international basis, and aided materially by inviting the different Associations to collaborate, if need be, with the Association organizing such an Exhibition; if, for example, the Dutch Association organizing an exhibition at Amsterdam, has need of several English, German, Italian or French books to complete it, the Committee of the League could ask the Presidents of the English, German, Italian or French Associations to invite their respective members to make favourable reply to the requests of the Dutch Association.
COMPENDIUM OF USAGES AND CUSTOMS
Your Committee has pleasure in distributing to you this Compendium of Usages and Customs at the beginning of which we have thought fit to list- the members of the Committee of Honour of the League. Your Honorary President, Percy Muir, has been good enough to write an excellent preface which gives the history of this delicate enterprise which was conceived during the first hours of the League's existence. Your Committee feels that this Compendium should be of the greatest use to all booksellers affiliated to our League. In the hands of the Presidents of Associations this pamphlet will be at one and the same time, a standard, a charter, a weapon of offence and defence, a book of reference. The standard of the League, the charter of our rules and our Trade customs, a weapon with which to attack those who do not conform to our spirit and the principles of our Code, a weapon to defend those who are wrongly suspected whether by a Court of Law, or by a malicious or ill-informed collector, a book of reference which might be usefully presented to those public authorities with which your Associations have dealings, such as Ministries, Chambers of Commerce, etc. We also feel that for all practical ends this pamphlet should be in the possession of every bookseller who is a member of the League and that the Committee of each Association should have several copies in their files.
COMMITTEE OF HONOUR
Thanks to the co-operation of all the Presidents, the Committee of Honour which is shown in the first pages of the Compendium of Usages and Customs may now be considered as completed. It is not to congratulate ourselves that we draw attention to this very distinguished Committee of Honour. It is the Presidents who have been good enough to procure for us the names of each one of the members listed here on this Committee, who are to be congratulated. Of the thirteen Associations who comprise the League you can see that only one is lacking. It is never too late to mend. Perhaps the missing Association will decide one day to make the great effort to send us two or three names whose fame is equal to those of our Committee of Honour. Let us say in defence of that nation who is still absent, that she, doubtless more than any other nation has a cruel embarrassment of choice among the famous persons of her race.
Together with the Compendium of Usages and Customs we give you to- day the Commercial Passport. You have been told through your Presidents that, before the distribution of this Passport of which a draft was shown to you at the Geneva Congress, your Committee had certain doubts about it and felt it necessary to draw the Presidents' attention to certain points. Thanks to the replies received, your Committee was able to rectify some important details. Having followed exactly the directions we received, which have besides, been unanimous, we have no doubt that the Commercial Passport can receive today the approval of everyone and make a very valuable addition to the members of Associations affiliated to the League.
In the Committee’s Report presented at Geneva last year by the President, Percy Muir, a marked reduction was noted in the claims for outstanding accounts. This year we have recorded a considerable number of claims for bills too long unpaid, generally between booksellers in different countries. Your President has had to intervene on behalf of a round figure of 175 booksellers, creditors of other booksellers, and a few collectors. These interventions came to a total of 12 million francs. We should state that a great number of these debts were for modest sums of a few thousand francs, the lowest one was for two thousand francs. That is to show that in this field as in all the others the International League is at the service of the smallest bookseller as well as of those more important firms. As the League claims a percentage of 5% on the total of amounts recovered, once all legal matters are settled a fairly important sum will be able to be transferred to the Treasurer by the President as a result of his work.
This considerable increase in claims for unpaid accounts is evidently a sign of the present business difficulties which arise and become more serious month after month in every country. Let us take note that the intervention of the Committee in this matter has, in 95% of the cases, been crowned sooner or later, with success. This shows the efficiency of the legal branch of the League and also shows the sure prestige enjoyed by the International League in all the thirteen affiliated countries.
It is entirely due to the fact that the Committee has managed to intervene in so many disputes and been able to settle them amicably that the Confidential List has not grown much larger this year. I know that this last statement might be queried. We do not ignore the fact that a certain number of booksellers, or even Associations, are astonished that this Confidential List should remain without amendment. We will leave you to decide whether you think it better that the Committee should concentrate on obtaining satisfactory settlements and thus avoid adding to the Confidential List, - or prefer the Committee to publish names more often, and in many cases prematurely, on the Confidential List. On our side, we feel the first solution to be the more practical and preferable one, but we await the observations that the President of the A.B.A. wishes to make on this point. One last word: the Committee feels that the idea of a Confidential List known as the Black List should be made more elastic, that is to say that the Confidential list should be more efficient. To this end the Committee suggests that besides the Black List, one should also draw up what might be called a Grey List? on which would be put the names of firms who have too often formed subject of complaints to the League, even though the claims may have been settled after the Committee had intervened. After all it is not reasonable for a firm to pay its debts only after vigorous pressure from the League's President. We feel that all booksellers affiliated to the League should know the names of those booksellers who only pay if the League intervenes. Members can thus take precautions, once put on their guard, that is to say they can establish terms of payment with firms of such un-business-like nature.
Let us end this matter of disputes by recalling the swift, vigorous and energetic intervention of the Committee in the matter of stolen books sold by the thief in another country. All Presidents were informed at once. The bookseller who had, in good faith, purchased the stolen books, was able to settle on the terms of the “Gentleman’s Agreement” in the Compendium of Usages and Customs with his foreign confrere from whom the books were stolen; and the thief is under arrest.
SUGGESTIONS FROM ASSOCIATIONS
The following suggestions have been made by the Associations named. They have been approved by your Committee.
A) That Presidents would wish to be informed of new or resigned members in the different Associations.
B) Delays allowed to confreres.
A) A prolongation of the delay of 24 hours allowed in certain countries for right of return after public sales.
B) Care to be shown in descriptions and ratings of books described in fixed-price catalogues.
A) That the Confidential List should be published more often.
B) The right of election as a member of the A.B.A. of all English booksellers no matter where they live. (The Committee awaits further information on this last suggestion).
A) Associations to have the right to put the members of the I.L.A.B.’s Committee and the members of the League’s Committee of Honour on their official note-paper.
TWO MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE having finished their term of office have presented themselves for re-election.
This refers to our devoted Treasurer, Mr. Tulkens, and to Mr. Gomme, member of the Committee, who have accepted the unanimous wish of their fellow Committee-members and presented themselves at your dispositions.
DATE AND PLACE OF NEXT CONGRESS
Whatever solution is adopted, the Committee must remind you of the decision made at the Congress of Geneva concerning the sharing by guests of the expenses of the festivities.
May the President be allowed a final word. This takes the form of warm thanks to the Committee who have each one, taken a generous share of the work during the past 14 months. A most perfect Entente-cordiale has been established with our Vice-President J. E. S. SAWYER which has been very pleasant for me and very efficient for us all. It is not the long-standing friendship that I have with our Treasurer which dictates my thanks to him for his watchful eye and swift intelligence and, (in spite of meagre receipts, cruel expenses and the malice of balance-sheets) his smiling demeanour. We have always recognised warmth, wisdom and good faith in Gronholt Pedersen. Need I tell you that it is due to Mr. Aeschlimann that preparation for this Congress has been brought to so successful a conclusion; I only thank him a little in advance of the rest of you. In spite of distance, our American member of the Committee, Mr. Gomme, has maintained by correspondence a faithful and precise relationship between himself, the Committee and the President. To our honorary member of the Committee, Mr. Menno Hertzberger, I shall say that it is with him, outside Committee meetings it is true, that I, personally, together with our friends Andre Poursin and Lucien Scheler, have worked most; how many times did you not come quite spontaneously to Paris for the sake of the Dictionary? The thanks of you all are due to him for so much good will and labour, but let me first give mine as I know so well how much he deserves them. Finally in the Committee’s name I must thank warmly Messrs. Sawyer and Tulkens who offered us their hospitality for the Committee Meetings in London and Brussels. To know how to vary the long hours of difficult discussion with those of an agreeable and light-hearted recreation is a skilled art; Presidents Sawyer and Tulkens are fully experienced in it.
It was my pleasure in the opening words of this Report to thank our Honorary Presidents Messrs. Percy Muir and Andre Poursin. Need I add now, therefore, that their devotion proved of the utmost value to the Committee.
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers