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ILAB - History of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

Preliminary Conference 1947

In 1947 representatives from Great Britain, France, Denmark, Sweden and The Netherlands met in Amsterdam for a Preliminary Conference. They discussed Hertzberger’s idea of forming an organization that counteracted the animosity and suspicion engendered by the Second World War. The new International League of Antiquarian Booksellers should foster friendship and understanding between the nations as the mutual basis for a fair and professional trade in the future. The rare book market was destroyed by the Second World War, now there was hope that it would open up and blossom again – all over the world. The founding fathers of the League were:

“Enthusiasts for internationalism in principle”

“Believe me when I say that despite our traditional insularity, despite that irritating air of superiority we sometimes appear to assume in countries other than our own - but which is no more than a combination of excessive shyness and the fear that we are making fools of ourselves - despite an incurable assumption by some of us that tea is preferable as a beverage to the finest vintage wine and that all that is British is best - deep down in the hearts of every one of us is a lasting affection for you all and a real desire to further better feeling between the nations.” (Muir)

Percy H. Muir

The president of the British Association, Percy H. Muir, chaired the first conference and became a major role player in the evolution of the League. Among the participants were: Harold Edwards, Winnie Myers, Stanley Sawyer (all ABA members), Einar Grønholt-Pedersen from Denmark, André Poursin and Fernand de Nobele from France, the Swedish dealer Gustav Ronnell, Niels Kaaber from Denmark, and the Dutch bookseller A. van Gendt. Barbara Kaye, Muir’s wife, remembers:

“(Hertzberger) had canvassed those European countries which already had trade associations - the British, the French-speaking countries and the Scandinavians - inviting them to send delegates to a preliminary conference in Holland where the formation of an international organization would be on the agenda ... It concluded in an atmosphere of good will and optimism. Some useful business had been done sorting out some trade problems with imports and exports that were an inevitable aftermath of the war. Friendly contacts had been established. Most important it had been agreed that everyone would meet the following year in Copenhagen, when it was hoped that the other countries would participate."

In the same year a small group of book dealers met in Milan to give life to the Circolo dei Librai Antiquari, that became the Associazione Librai Antiquari d'Italia (ALAI) in 1971.

>>> Copenhagen 1948