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History of the S.L.A.M. - Part Two (1934-1957)

History of the S.L.A.M. - Part Two (1934-1957) History of the S.L.A.M. - Part Two (1934-1957)

By René Cluzel

Georges Puzin, President 1934-1937

The General meeting of 29 May 1934 elected the first SLAM president not to be a Parisian bookseller : Georges Puzin. established at Versailles, rue de la Paroisse, since 1908. His team consisted of M. Quereuil (Vice-president), Dauthon (Secretary), Jacquenet (Treasurer), with Chadenat. Cornuau, Deruelle, Raoust, Leleu, and H. Saffroy as committee members. He came across from the start as a man of dialogue with the following statement: “We must get to know each other better, exchange ideas and plans and discuss them, even argue about them so as to arrive at a practical exchange of views and ensure the continuity and raison d'être of  the SLAM”.

A man of dialogue and above all a social man, Georges Puzin was born on August 2, 1872 in Paris. He was educated at the St. Charles little seminary in Paris. Having taken his law degree, he served a term for qualifying as a notary but did not follow through. In 1907 he gravitated towards books and became a Customs approved expert at Court. He set up in the avenue Wagram, then at Versailles where besides the rue de la Paroisse he opened a second shop in rue Maurepas in 1930. Some older booksellers still remember the red-letter days of the gatherings at his place, especially on days of public sales when numerous Latin Quarter booksellers would descend on Versailles at aperitif time. He collected around him his colleagues and friends Bosse, Giraud-Badin, Andrieux, Kra, Margraff, Bonnet, etc. On other days he would receive his many customers and friends, among them Tristan Bernard, Willy, l.eon Blum, Colette, the Tharaud brothers, Anatole France, Paul Bourget, Louis Barthou (whose obituary he wrote), Sacha Guitry, and others.

Gifted with a keen and practical mind, on his election he asked that the following six measures should be taken: (1) A single tax on turnover of 1.10%; (2) Inviolability of the association's rules; (3) Repeal of the visitors' tax; (4) Opposition to new vexatious fiscal measures; (5) Propaganda abroad; (6) Limitation of the number of foreign traders in France.

Faced with an escalation in book thefts, he warned his colleagues to be wary in their private purchases and respect the police regulations in force. In this context he reminded them that it was illegal to buy from minors and that payment should be made at the seller's house in the absence of sufficient proof of identity. Further, he requested caution in the despatch and passing on of works, proposing that a register of consigned books should be kept.

France was then in the depths of the economic crisis, in bookselling as in other spheres; business was bad, with few purchases and fewer sales. G. Puzin took up the matter of the unfair competition of the Hotel des Ventes (auction house). He was particularly opposed to the amateur-dealer, and regretted that at public sales the amateur paid the same dues as the bookseller. He concluded that the skilful amateur could do business without expenses. And if this situation became normal, the bookseller would only have to shut up shop and work with “a telephone, a pen, a note-pad, the addresses of major customers (whom one always ends up knowing), confidence, and “bluff”... we are now seeing books sell at auction for more than in the bookshops”. O tempora! O mores! Don't forget this was in 1936.

In the same connection G. Puzin addressed a strong letter of protest to M. Flandin, President of the Council, concerning the purchase made in London of 300 autograph letters from Napoleon to Marie Louise without the mediation of a bookseller. He requested that purchases of books at public sales on the Stare's account should henceforth be entrusted to French dealers. A pertinent suggestion which, alas, did not lead to a satisfactory conclusion.

Let us close this period with an anecdote about second-hand classics, suspected of harbouring microbic germs. Our office considered that a shadow of doubt had been cast over our trade after the publication of a brochure by two doctors: ‘No, I don't want to die while reading second-hand books’. Georges Puzin replied vigorously, developing an amusing argument concluding in these terms: ‘Let us face the future with all the hygienic aids that may be offered to us’.

All this goes to show the state of bewilderment and great uncertainty in which France then found itself.

Henri Dauthon, President, 1937 - 1945

Rahir had been the president of the First World War, Henri Dauthon was that of the Second; this explains the exceptional length of their term of office, each of seven years. During this difficult period, Henri Dauthon had occasion to bring to bear his conciliatory policies with patience, good humour and simplicity.

He had begun in 1919 with his father-in-law M. Jore1 (one of the founders of SLAM) in the rue des Beaux-Arts, and succeeded him in 1928 at 3 rue Bonaparte. There he developed the speciality of the firm : the theatre. Their catalogues are still of use as reference books. Elected president in 1937, he was called up in 1939. At that time the officers were as follows: H. Dauthon, President; A. Deruele, Vice-President who for the first year of the war was at the same time President, Secretary and Treasurer.

In 1940, after the German occupation, war conditions led to scarcities in all fields including antiquarian bookselling. The intrusion of the state even into associations extended to the publication of the 'Otto List' or list of books prohibited as contrary to Nazi ideology. SLAM refused to approve it, a natural act of resistance as was that concerning the situation of the Jews. The occupying powers were intent on hounding Jews from their businesses and replacing them with managers chosen by the authorities. To forestall certain abuses, SLAM sought to secure the selection of these managers by professional organisations. In this connection Messrs. Bosse, Deruelle, Jacquenet, Jammes and Privat took on this delicate task.

In another area, as a result of the law of 16 August 1940 introducing the organisation of professions, the idea was born of a committee for antiquities and collectible objects. During this period the committee for books was constituted within the 'Cercle de la Librairie' reclassifying edition , bookseller, printer , etc. SLAM was represented by a working party consisting of Messrs. Michaud (president), Bosse (vice-president) and Blaizot, Dauthon, Deruelle, Giraud-Badin, Petitot and Raoust. This group was essentially concerned with forestalling any contrary consequences to the collective interests of the antiquarian as opposed to the modern book trade.

The SLAM also sought the regulation (a word then in vogue) of public sales (combating artificially 'run up' sales), and requested that vendors' names should be made public. Similarly a regulation of the status of “expert” so that a law should be established and officially ratified, the required conditions being professional competence, reputation, integrity and acknowledged pursuit of the profession. Professional rulings were thus formulated to defend the conscientious dealer against disloyal competitors who offered damaged, defective or incomplete works, false coat of arms, or dubious autographs.

At the outbreak of the war in September 1939,  the SLAM drew up binding rules for all formations, extensions, or transfers of book businesses, with, of course, the sole object of safeguarding called-up members and preventing their being supplanted in their businesses during their absence. Despite the draconian conditions the SLAM received 330 such requests but granted only 25.

It was also under Henri Dauthon's presidency that the purchase of the Bouquiniste Françaiss was carried through. It was not until the end of 1941 that the management, consisting of M. Bosse and his associates (Messrs. Schemit and Marcel Rivière) suggested the sale of the journal. After various negotiations as to the stock of paper, material, and price, the SLAM decided on the purchase on March 11, 1941. However, it was adjourned until February 2, 1945, first because of the suppression of a great part of the press by the German authorities and secondly the death of Charles Bosse which occurred meanwhile. So that it was the successors of Charles Bosse who sold the Bouquiniste Français to the association for the sum of 43 000 francs with all stocks and the wherewithal to print the paper for two years at the rate of two eight-page numbers per month.

Finally, in the social sphere, the SLAM, at the request of the 'National Security', now become 'Social Security', created an emergency fund supported by the members of whom the great majority voluntarily subscribed. This surge of solidarity testified to the important role of SLAM in relation to its members in difficult circumstances, particularly in the aftermath of the war.

President Henri Dauthon therefore comes across during his two terms, on human, social and corporate levels, as one who in peculiarly troubled times devoted himself to the cause of books with remarkable self-sacrifice and competence.

André Poursin, President 1945 - 1948

Born in 1897 in Auvergne, it was as he approached the age of thirty that André Poursin took to dreaming of books while he was working in industry. Starting with activities at once professional and bibliophilic, he opened a first bookshop at Pont Audemer. Ceaselessly searching for rare books, he scoured the district, tirelessly visiting sales, libraries and bookshops. Bur he very soon came to Paris, setting up in rue Jacob and thence to rue Montmartre, in 1936, where he succeeded in making his shop one of the most frequented in Paris. Called up in September 1939, he distinguished himself at the front as a captain and was decorated with the officer's rosette (he had already gained his gold braid and the Legion of Honour in 1910).

At the end of the war in 1945 he accepted the presidency of  the SLAM. He was elected at a meeting on 21 June1945, with C. Privat as Vice-President, F. de Nobele as Secretary , Picard as Treasurer, and Messrs. Cornuau, Froment, Gautier (in whom he soon discovered an unequalled arbiter in cases of dissension), Lecomte and Marchand as committee members. He began by congratulating Henri Dauthon on the acquisition of the Bouquiniste Français which “puts into our hands one of our major instruments of action and the best medium for our information”. He then set out his programme: he particularly wished to be of help to young people in our trade. He insisted on the need for an administrative secretariat ready at all times to put itself at the disposal of any member. Unfortunately the subscription was too modest for that; a voluntary contribution to double the budget would be necessary.

In the course of this first post-war year the SLAM office had to decide on the delicate matter of the Israelite estates which had been confiscated at the request of the provisional administrator: “The acquiring parties would have to make repayment. Here was a question of responsibility which it was proper to assume in the interests of one and all.”

The office sought further to secure the relaxation and if possible the abolition of the transaction tax (18%) which was imposed on all books before 1801 and on all those of  an artistic character and printed on special paper. As for exports, it seems that there was no problem for books printed since 1801; for all others, an authorisation had to he obtained, delivered by the Ministry of National Education to the Directorate of Letters and Arts. As to requests for imports. they had virtually no chance of success, given the dire shortage of foreign currency. The committee was now looking for association premises, of two rooms, first or ground floor, on the Right Bank in the 1st or 2nd arrondissement.

In December 1945 the Bouquiniste drew attention to a useful initiative: the firm of Sonnier hoped to make up incomplete works, establishing and centralising a register of incomplete works scattered amongst the book trade. In the middle of his term, President Audré Poursin declared: 'Our country is experiencing a quickened moulting of its economic structure and this has guided the efforts of our association'. His work bore particularly on tax questions (luxury tax, equalisation duties, the introduction of new penalties), on rents and salaries (protection of the tenant from dilapidation of commercial property; the establishment of salary scales) and on the organisation of our profession (the introduction of a status of ‘expert’ involving relationships with numerous bodies).

The problem of valuations and their payment was studied by M. Poyer who produced a notice: ‘Every request for a price is in effect a request for a valuation...and in consequence is liable to remuneration'. This notice, recently brought back unto circulation, is still relevant and can be found posted up in several bookshops.

Besides the search for premises for the association and moves towards an administrative secretariat, this committee was concerned with a promotional project. At a time of commercial stagnation, it envisaged the possibility of taking collective publicity measures. Meanwhile it developed the Bouquiniste by instituting a feature 'Varieties', besides the fiscal, administrative, and association news already carried. The difficulties and peculiarities of our profession were there ventilated, and there were bibliographical articles, echoes of auction sales and a correspondence column.

As post-war President, André Poursin took up his task with intelligence and vigour at a moment when France was with difficulty struggling back to her feet. The association, now almost 300 members strong, set itself the task - apart from what we have already recorded - of providing everyone with essential services for the exercise of our business -  such as bicycle tyres, cloth, packing paper, string (cf. Committee,10 March 1946), or lighting for showcases. All this involved a great deal of hassle extending sometimes to Customs or foreign exchange offices, which the SLAM continually attempted to expedite.

André Poursin contributed, too, to the setting up of emergency funds which did not fail to render valuable service in the aftermath of the war. And finally, he participated with F. de Nobele and G. Blaizot among others in the creation of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers in which he never ceased to take a keen interest.

Fernand de Nobele, President 1948 - 1951

Towards the end of his term André Poursin was looking for a successor and asked Fernand dc Nobele if he was interested, in as much as he had been secretary in the preceding presidency. Having no particular association activity and being of Belgian origin he was something of a new face, and offered himself as candidate. Who was he? Born in Brussels on August 22 1910, after a secondary education at the Montaigne and later Louis le Grand Lycées, he served his apprenticeship in bookselling with Margraff at the former firm of Lehec. There he met Raymond Clavreuil who was assistant and whom he was to replace (on Clavreuil's departure for military service) for over two years up to 1930 . He then went to work with his father in rue Saint Sulpice where they published catalogues of varia.

On his own return from service in 1931 they worked until 1939 at which date they moved to 35 rue Bonaparte in the premises occupied by Quereuil who held the privilege of public sales in France.

War broke out, and from 1940-42 de Nobele was a prisoner in the Palatinate. He escaped in 1942 and went into hiding in a district of Central France where for a year he became a farmer. In the spring o f 1943 he came back to Paris, where he lifted his cover gradually for fear of denunciation. He took off again with the three-volume Benezit which he had bought in some quantity.

At the Liberation the association got to its feet again; he was Secretary under Poursin and was himself elected President in June 1948 with Michel Gründ and Raymond Clavreuil as committee members. The keynote of his policy, as he is pleased to recall himself, was to reawaken the whole of this small world and then remove the barriers set by administrative presumption, in discussion with the authorities that be. He was specially occupied with customs problems while seeking to protect our patrimony in relation to the level of exports. Julien Cain (then Director General for Books at the Ministry of Culture) had received a deputation of booksellers, granting them his confidence on condition that unique pieces were offered to the Bibliothèque Nationale, it being understood that this did not apply to books appearing in the Bibliothèquc Nationale's catalogue nor those being offered at public sales. As for imports, these would be permitted only in penny numbers to control the flight of currencies from French territory. However that might be, it was decided in March 1950 that all books over 50 years old were to be henceforth excluded from all customs formalities.

The office meeting of 17 December 1949 resolved from then on to appeal to the solidarity of new members to reinforce the Emergency Fund. Today this continues to be standard procedure. An increase of the subscription was decided on; the 1,000 francs seemed derisory given the free services of the Bouquiniste and the fact that no entry fee was charged. At about the same time SLAM organised an auction for the benefit of former prisoners and deportees, with the gratifying assistance of Maître Ader. Sadly, for lack of sufficient generosity this sale was not a great success.

The year 1950 was marked by the organisation of the fourth International ILAB Congress, at the Cercle de la Librairie (the first had been in Amsterdam in 1947, the second in Copenhagen,1948, and the third in London,1949).This congress which concluded with an exhibition organised by M. Guignard at the Bibliothèquc Nationale where forty exceptional books (from incunabula to modern publications) were shown, drew a considerable attendance. It stimulated new contacts with foreign booksellers, and, in a general way, all professionals, through new markets and new international exchanges. The League had of course been founded by M. Hertzberger with the Swiss W. Kundig as its first president. From the start fifteen countries joined, and very soon after the United States, Brazil and Germany. The fostering of intellectual, cultural and commercial relations between different countries was seen to be very important. Fernand de Nobele was its president for five years (1968-1972) and did much on its behalf, and towards the publication of the 'Usages and Customs' concerning the international transactions between booksellers. On March 1, 1951 the ILAB emblem was adopted with the motto ‘Amor Librorum nos unit’.

A little later M. de Nobele distributed to members the logo chosen by the committee for the French association. It consisted of two books side by side, in black and white, decorated on the left with a fleur-de-lys and on the right with a Phrygian cap, the lot surmounted with the letters 'SLAM' in a semi-circle.

In the same year the president, acting in the spirit of the French association and of the League, made the point at the congresses of London and Paris that 'We no longer have to defend opposing interests but common interests'. At the end of his term , incidentally, SLAM boasted 412 members, of whom 44 were trading abroad.

Besides his abilities as bookseller and as president, it should not be forgotten that F. de Nobele made his mark as an expert and publisher. He organised and guaranteed the success of a large number of public sales, of which we will quote for the record only the three most celebrated - the Goutket sale (husband of Colette), including early original editions and major works of bibliography; the Jean Davray sale, jointly with Castaing and Pierre Bérès (6 and 7 December 1961, of MSS and valuable books of the15th to 20th centuries), and the P... sale with M. Guérin and Mme Vidal-Mégret (architecture, decoration, ornament and fête books, 2 and 3 February 1961). As a publisher, we are indebted to him for many publications, reprints or original; those of the S.H.A.F. (Society for the History of French Art), the directory of French printed books of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the re-issuing of Salverte's Les Ebenistes du 18eme siècle, of Baudriers Bibliographie Lyonnaise, and of Delen's La Gravure dans les Pays-Bas.

His reputation as a specialist bookseller in the fine arts is assured through his series of copious catalogues, beginning with a table of contents and covering all subjects: Fine Arts, Decorative Arts, Collectible Objects, pictures, prints, etc.

Georges Blaizot, President, 1951 - 1954

From his birth in 1901, he lived surrounded by the family bookselling atmosphere. He was of course the son of Auguste Blaizot, a founder of the SLAM. At twenty-seven he was working with his father in the Faubourg Saint Honoré bookshop. He succeeded him in 1941 and very quickly made his mark as one whose life revolved wholly around the book; first as a scholar, regularly publishing articles in the Bulletin de la Librairie (Grandeur and Misery of our profession in 1961; The Riches of French Bookselling in 1964, etc.) and especially with his catalogues of the bindings of Pierre Legarin and Paul Bonnet, thus ensuring that they became widely known; then as a bookseller, managing the family business and issuing catalogues which have remained famous and are still working tools constantly referred to. An ‘expert’ with the Court of Appeal and the Trade Tribunal, advisory expert with the customs administration, he was in charge of important public sales between 1935, the year of the celebrated Barthou sale, and the no less famous Esmerian sale of 1973.

A lover of modern illustrated books, he published a certain number of works himself including the Annonce faite à Marie, Les Moralités Légendaires, Le Poète Rustique, Orénoque, etc.

The general meeting of July 3, 1951 elected him President, with P. Chrétien (Vice President), M. Blancheteau (Secretary), M. Picard (Treasurer), and Messrs. Cart, Loliée, Maupetit, Poncelet, Privat and Thiebaud (committee members).

The same year, at the Brussels Congress, France was charged with the setting up of an international committee of honour for the League and the drawing up of a Code of Usages. Meanwhile, M. Hertzberger brought out his International Dictionary of the Book Trade which translates and defines in several languages bibliographical terms necessary for the understanding of catalogue descriptions. Messrs. Scheler, Poursin and Blaizot revised it in 1953. This technical dictionary runs to over 200 terms.

Following a committee meeting of September 22, 1951, it became clear that the Bouquiniste was in a desperate situation and that it was urgent and vital to increase the number of subscribers and advertisers.

The next year the following rule was established, now always applied: every request for admission to SLAM must be countersigned by the two sponsors of the candidate, these two sponsors being chosen from amongst members of the association.

With an eye to propaganda, in January 1952, SLAM took up the idea of an exhibition of old books at the Galerie Royale. The title of this exhibition, which eventually took place from March 11 to April 15, 1952, was ‘La Civilisation du Livre’. This was Georges Blaizot’s idea, recalling the phrase of Georges Duhamel: ‘Our civilisation should be called the civilisation of the book.’ The exhibition, with 18,000 visitors, proved an unprecedented success and provided new contacts between the public and the antiquarian book trade, allowing everyone to realise the cultural significance of the antiquarian book trade.

In February 1953 the SLAM office appealed to all members’ sense of solidarity with the Dutch who had just been victims of disastrous floods.

On the subject of customs duty revision once again, a talk took place between the president of SLAM and M. Arrighi de Casanova. It dealt equally with the nature of the facilities to be granted to the annual ‘Salon du Livre’ and to the Rauch sale then shortly to be held in Geneva. Indeed, Julien Cain, had recently declared: ‘I am always in favour of the application of as liberal a system as possible for books both as regards imports and exports.’ Always with the proviso, naturally, that the export of unique items regarded as part of France’s heritage would not be approved.

An oddity to be recalled in 1953 occurred when the office raised an objection against M. Juhel-Douet, a bookseller at Blois, who had published a catalogue of sales open to offers. This practice which did not conform to the usages of the association brought as a by-product a revision of the conditions of sales with the addition of packing costs and the establishment of researched, calculated and thus stable prices.

At the Milan Congress the proceedings terminated with songs. The president of SLAM took the opportunity to celebrate the birth of a new song - the Booksellers’ Song, here in an approximate English translation (words by Michel Vancaire, music by G. Van Parys):

‘Many are the booksellers

Come from far and near

Dealers from everywhere

Talking about their trade

Talking about their troubles

Talking about their hardship

But when you’re among pals

Half the battle is won…’

This song ran to three stanzas and a refrain.

In April 1954 (the office had been working six months on this project) there took place at the Maison des Artistes, rue Berryer, in Paris (the Salomon de Rothschild Foundation) an important exhibition and sale of old and modern books, with the title ‘The Riches of French Bookselling from its origins to our own times.’ Taking part were some 70 bookseller-members of SLAM together with some art publishers and celebrated binders of the time - Rose Adler, Paul Bonnet, G. Cretté, H. Creuzevault, P. L. Martin, etc. Among the treasures exhibited were:

- The letter of Christopher Columbus announcing the discovery of America printed at the end of the Verardus published at Basle in 1494 (1st illustrated Americana) (Chamonal)

- The autographs MS of Camus’s L’Etranger bound by P. L. Martin (Viardot)

- The original MS of L’Homme Américain by A. d’Orbigny which constitutes the major ethnological work so far written on South America (De Nobele)

- The original edition of Appollinaire’s Alcools with the author’s autograph corrections, dedicated to E. Bourges, later to Eluard by Picasso (Hugues)

- The Manual of Saint Augustine published by Simon Vostre circa 1500, the only known copy of this first French translation (Leconte)

- La grande et vraie prognostication pour l’an 1544, only known copy of this almanac published by Rabelais under the anagram Seraphine Calbarsy (Sheler)

- The MS of the first draft of Radiguet’s Le Diable au Corps (Gallimard)

- The score of Faust in a mosaic binding with doublures, by Thouvenin (Blaizot)

- The Mémoires of Commines (1581), a copy formerly owned by the son of Philip II of Spain in a sumptuous ‘fanfare’ binding by the Eves.

An important illustrated catalogue, with a preface by Julien Cain, described the works on show with historical notes on the booksellers, publishers, and binders who took part. It provided readers with a text on ‘the different techniques of original engraving’ and numerous quotations concerning books and bibliography.

In conclusion, therefore, Georges Blaizot can be seen, during his three years in office, to have defended the association’s interests with resolve and justice. Moreover, he played a part in the creation of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), of which he was president for some years (1952-1954). Finally, his love of books and his abilities led him naturally to diffuse his specialised knowledge within the ranks of the Cercle de la Librairie. Bookman, scholar, publisher, president of the SLAM and of the ILAB, and teacher, Blaizot’s life was indeed one of dedication to the book.

Pierre Chrétien, President, 1954-1957

At the general meeting of July 2, 1954, we have to record the departure of a slightly embittered and disabused President. After the rue Berryer exhibition, the directorate of Cultural Relations invited booksellers to participate in transatlantic exhibitions. Georges Blaizot, rather disenchanted, admitted: ‘We did not feel that there had been a sufficient display of interest from your part in these exhibitions; that is why we have not over-exerted ourselves to overcome the difficulties, which could have been accomplished if we had known that such was your wish… The next committee will therefore follow your lead on this matter; needless to say if it is given no lead it will indeed follow you, in other words, do nothing.’

More positively, he proposed the setting up of a general secretariat to assist the president in his task (this would come to fruition under Pierre Chrétien); the nomination of Léon Gautier as a permanent mediator between the members of SLAM and the office; and the extension period of return at public sales, which was changed from 24 hours to eight days (giving booksellers time to collate their purchases). The next committee was then as follows: Pierre Chrétien (president), A. Cart (vice-president), P. Picard (treasurer), M. Blancheteau (secretary), and Messrs. Chamonal, G. Colas, Fauron, Ad. Leconte, Jaladis and Maupetit (committee members).

Following the introduction of Pierre Chrétien by G. Blaizot: “For two years… your activities at the heart of the office were not exceptionally feverish - you seemed apart, something of a dreamer, a distant spirit…  but the grace, I would say the faith of the association then descended upon you… at all events your efforts with the last exhibition were so great, so effective, and so energetic as to resolve all manner of difficulties”… the committee was elected virtually unanimously.

Pierre Chrétien took over the family book business on the death of his father in 1939. Georges Chrétien, son-in-law of Gustave Lehec (at 37 rue St André des Arts since 1878) founded his own bookshop in the Faubourg St Honoré in 1911. He was, along with Edouard Rahir, one of the founders of the SLAM and general secretary for several years.

Once elected, Pierre Chrétien strove to rally his troops, calling attention to the development ‘a trifle slow, but sure, of the association spirit in a profession as individualistic as ours.’ Despite everything he was to render some valuable services.

The idea of a radio broadcast on bibliophily was discussed at the committee meeting of December 25, 1955. Thanks to the efforts of M. Beauzemont, the SLAM received a favourable response from M. Porché, director of the French radio and TV, which granted him a series of fortnightly broadcasts. These took the form of talks between M. Barbier and a bookseller, a writer, a “star”, etc. In February 1956, it is recorded that M. Beauzemont is actively engaged with the “Chronique de la Bibliophilie” which takes place two Tuesdays a month at 13.15. These talks fell within the framework of the transmission known as “La Vie des Lettres” directed by M. Barbier. Celebrated writer such as A. Arnoux, M. Genevoix, A. Maurois, took part. However, the programme was considered too literary, and to make it more bibliophilic, the SLAM committee asked all members to bring forward ideas on how one should proceed in relation to the general public. At the start of 1957 these programmes were abandoned as not being of sufficient practical interest to our profession. They started again the following October, M. Beauzemont having secured the chance of a personal broadcast in which he was able to speak of bookselling to a more pertinent and useful effect.

Besides this concern for radio publicity, President Chrétien made himself useful by personally dealing with some practical problems. The Emergency Fund, in consequence of an important donation, was able to make a monthly payment to the widow of a former bookseller and give substantial assistance to an aged colleague who found himself in difficult circumstances. The SLAM was also able to intervene successfully to obtain settlement from bad payers amongst foreign dealers.

On the international front, two Congresses were organised, in New York from October 9 to 14, 1955, and in London from September 9 to 13, 1956. At the American Congress 48 European delegates were present; the League president, G. Blaizot being unwell, was replaced by Mr. Stanley Sawyer. An exceptional exhibition of autographs (Goethe, Dickens, Balzac, Poe, Wilde, etc.) was held at the Grolier Club, on October 10. The day after next there was a visit at New Haven to the Yale University Library.

The General Meeting of March 26, 1957 saw the end of Pierre Chrétien’s term of office. Always anxious to make himself useful, he reminded us of the care which must be brought to the writings of catalogues, the need to respect accepted rules so that they may be clear and free from all ambiguity. This preoccupation underlines, if such stress were needed, the quest for precision, rigour and honesty which motivated him as President during his three years of office.

M. Deruelle was to succeed him as President of the SLAM.


(Published in ILAB Newlsetter 39 - June 1987, translation by Martin Hamlyn). This article was published on, it is presented here by permission of the Syndicat National de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM).

Published since 14 Mar 2014