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ILAB - History of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

Amor Librorum Nos Unit

Today the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers unites 22 national associations under one roof. Some of them had already been established when the League was founded in 1947/1948. Five of them were the driving forces: the antiquarian booksellers of Great Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden and The Netherlands.

1906 was the year in which the oldest organization of its kind was established in Great Britain: the Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (ABA). The French Syndicat National de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM) was created in 1914, followed by Den Danske Antikvarboghandlerforening (ABF) in 1920. Economic crisis and radical political changes also affected the book market; rare booksellers realized that it could be an advantage to be organized. In 1935 the Nederlandsche Vereeniging van Antiquaren (NVvA) was established in Amsterdam. A year later the Swedish rare book dealers set up the Svenska Antikvariatföreningen (SVAF), then the Swiss booksellers founded the Vereinigung der Buchantiquare und Kupferstichhändler in der Schweiz (VEBUKU) in 1939. During the Second World War the Finnish Antiquarian Booksellers’  Association (SAY) was created in 1941, led for a long time by Erik Olsoni,  whereas Jørgen W. Cappelen (Cappelens Antikvariat) and others established the Norsk Antikvarbokhandlerforening (NABF) in April 1942. Outside Europe the Brazilian booksellers were the first to form a national association: Walter Geyerhahn, his brother Stefan Geyerhahn and Erich Eichner, the proprietors of the famous "Livraria Editora KOSMOS",  founded the Associação Brasileira de Livreiros Antiquários (ABLA) in Rio de Janeiro in 1945. And in Belgium the Chambre Professionelle Belge de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (CLAM) or Belgische Beroepskamer van Antiquaren (BBA) was founded in 1946.

Menno Hertzberger

This was the situation, when the Dutch bookseller and NVvA President Menno Hertzberger conceived the idea of forming an international organization. As a Jew, Hertzberger had spent part of the Second World War hiding from the Nazis. Now he wished to reunite his colleagues that had been separated by the war. His aims went far beyond anything the antiquarian booksellers had thought of before: establishing international peace through cultural exchange and open markets.

„Five long years had put up extra barriers between nations. There was no communication. This enforced extra chauvinism and worse, hatred. Was there a possibility to do something about interhuman relationship, to bring nations more together? This was my dream; but how could it be realized? Only on common ground, on mutual interests, and therefore, for an antiquarian bookseller, by his love, THE BOOK!” (Hertzberger)

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