International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

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The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers is a non-profit umbrella organization of bookseller associations, with its legal location in Geneva, Switzerland. It federates 22 National Associations of Antiquarian Booksellers,[1] representing nearly 2000 dealers in 32 countries. Antiquarian booksellers affiliated to the League adhere to the ILAB Code of Ethics, and the League aims to server as a global network for the rare book trade.


The idea of forming an international organization of antiquarian booksellers that would beneficially link national associations of antiquarian booksellers was originally conceived by the former president of the Dutch Association, Menno Hertzberger.[2] As a Jew, he had spent part of the Second World War hiding from the Nazis. To quote him:

"Five long years (of war) had put up … barriers between nations. There was no communication. This enforced extra chauvinism - worse, hatred. Was there a possibility to do something about inter-human relationships, to bring nations more together? This was my dream. But how could it be realized? Only on common ground, on mutual interests. Therefore, for an antiquarian bookseller, by THE BOOK!" [3]

In 1947 representatives from five countries, Denmark, France, Great Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden, met in Amsterdam to discuss the formation of such an organization, with the aim of establishing open markets, to foster friendship and understanding, and to counteract the animosity and suspicion engendered by World War Two.

The president of the British Association, Percy H. Muir,[4] chaired the first conference and became a major role player in the evolution of the League; Muir also assembled the important scientific library of Ian Fleming, later author of the James Bond novels - through Muir, Fleming himself became a director of the London booksellers Elkin Mathews.[5]

The ILAB was formally incorporated in Copenhagen in September 1948, with ten participating countries, among them Belgium, Finland, Switzerland, Norway, Italy, Great Britain, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and Denmark. William S. Kundig from Switzerland was elected the first ILAB President in the history of the League. In his opening speech the Danish bookseller Einar Grønholt Pedersen defined the universal aims and ethics of all ILAB antiquarian booksellers:

The commodity we handle - the book - is, I daresay, about the most international thing on the world market. It is the support of the research worker and the scientist, the indispensable tool of the intellectual worker thirsting for knowledge. It satisfies the desires of all thinking and sensitive individuals. It is the inspiration behind new ideas, new deeds - and last, but not least, it fulfils a great mission in enlightening the masses. Our mission is to find the right book, preserve and finally convey it to wherever it is needed and can bring benefit or pleasure. A mission which, by its very nature, imposes upon us a responsibility which we must not neglect.[citation needed]

Present status[edit]

22 national associations and some 2000 rare booksellers in 32 countries under one roof: Members of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers are the national associations, their members are affiliated to the League, and known as ILAB booksellers or ILAB affiliates.

ILAB Congresses and ILAB Book Fairs are important market places of the rare book world. The ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography is awarded every fourth year to outstanding academic works on bibliography and the history of the book. The ILAB Stolen Book Database aims to prevent book thefts worldwide.

ILAB's website contains information on books, manuscripts, autographs and prints. Each national association affiliated to the League has its own website, all of which are brought together under the umbrella of ILAB.

Code of Ethics[edit]

The League publishes, and upholds, a code of ethics and good practice based on the wide experience of all its member nations. ILAB affiliated booksellers are expected to follow this code. The display of the ILAB logo, and those of national associations, pledges to maintain authenticity of all material offered for sale, correct description of all such material, disclosure of all significant defects or restorations, accurate and professional pricing of all material, clear marking of all prices and care in the conduct of appraisals or valuations.

ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography[edit]

The ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography was first awarded in 1964.[6] The Prize of $10,000 is awarded every fourth year to the author(s) of the most original and outstanding 'book about a book' in the broad field of bibliography worldwide. Any aspect of bibliography (e.g. enumerative, textual, history of the book, design, binding, book trade, etc.) is admitted. Certain categories are not eligible, notably manuscripts, catalogues of books intended for sale and translations of works appearing in another language. Apart from the Prize, the jurors may at their discretion award Honourable Mentions to other deserving entries.

The purpose of the Prize is to draw attention to what it regards as the best academic work being done in the field, to reward and honour it in appropriate terms, and to publicise the League's support for original scholarship.

The panel of judges (or jurors) consists of three professional scholars or librarians and three antiquarian booksellers. They are chosen with an aim to represent the widest possible range of nationalities so that the panel is qualified to adjudicate on books in various languages and on all aspects of bibliography and the history of the book.

Georges A. Deny (of Brussels) was appointed as the first Secretary of the ILAB Prize for Bibliography. He laid down the ground rules and supervised the first and second Awards. He was succeeded by Dr. Frieder Kocher-Benzing (of Stuttgart) who was the longest serving Secretary presiding over the third to eleventh Prize, then by Konrad Meuschel (Germany), Raymond Kilgarriff (Great Britain), and Mitsuo Nitta (Japan).

In 2008, the name of the Prize was changed into ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography to honour a generous gift granted by the Breslauer Foundation which was set up by Dr. Bernard H. Breslauer (1918–2004),[7] an ILAB dealer who had a lifelong passion for bibliography. The first ILAB Prize for Bibliography was awarded in 1967 to Jean Peeters-Fontainas, followed by famous scholars like Claus Nissen, Wytze Hellinga, I. C. Koeman, Francois Weil, Gerhard Dünnhaupt, Anthony Hobson, and Lucas Heinrich Wüthrich. The 15th ILAB Breslauer Prize was awarded in 2010 to Lotte Hellinga and Jan Storm van Leeuwen [nl] for the Catalogue of Books printed in the XVth Century now in the British Library, BMC. Part XI – England (Hes & De Graaf Publishers BV, 2007) and Dutch Decorated Bookbinding in the Eighteenth Century (Hes & De Graaf Publishers BV, 2006). The 16th Prize was awarded in 2014 to Jon Gilbert for Ian Fleming: The Bibliography,[8] being the first work on a twentieth century writer to be awarded the prize. Arnoud Gerits (The Netherlands) was the Prize Secretary.

ILAB Congresses and International Book Fairs[edit]

ILAB Congresses and International Antiquarian Book Fairs are open to all antiquarian booksellers affiliated to the League through their national associations. They are cultural and social events held every two years in another country, where the delegates have the possibility to study the treasures of book printing and arts, and to deepen business contacts.

The first congresses were held in Amsterdam and Copenhagen, followed by London, Paris, Geneva, Milan, New York City, Ravenna, San Francisco, Tokyo, Los Angeles, Melbourne and many other cities. In 2008, the 38th ILAB Congress and the 22nd International Book Fair took place in Madrid, while in 2010 antiquarian booksellers and bibliophiles met in Bologna for the 39th Congress and 23rd International Antiquarian Book Fair. The next congress and fair will be held in Switzerland in 2012.

ILAB also sponsors international book fairs organised by the national associations, as for example in Paris, London, New York City, San Francisco, Sydney, Stuttgart, Madrid, Barcelona, Amsterdam, Tokyo or in the Scandinavian capitals. These fairs provide members the opportunity to exhibit for sale books, prints and manuscripts.

National associations[edit]


  • Carter, John. ABC For Book Collectors.[9]
  • Kaye, Barbara (Mrs. Percy Muir). Second Impression, Rural Life with a Rare Bookman[10]
  • Mandelbrote, Giles (Editor). Out of Print And into Profit. A History of the Rare & Secondhand Book Trade in Britain in the 20th Century. New Castle, Delaware: Oak Knoll Press & The British Library, 2006[11]
  • Muir, Barbara. The Formation of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Los Angeles: Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of America, 1996[12]
  • Hertzberger, Menno (editor). Dictionary for the Antiquarian Booktrade in French, English, German, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Spanish And Dutch. Paris: International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, 1956
  • Franco, Edgar. Dictionary of Terms & Expressions Commonly Used in the Antiquarian Booktrade in French, English, German And Italian. N.P.: ILAB, 1994[13]
  • Maas, Nop and F. W. Kuyper (editors). Offeren Aan Mercurius En Minerva: Nederlandsche Vereeniging Van Antiquaren 1935-1995. Amsterdam: De Buitenkant, 1995
  • Muir, Percy. Minding My Own Business. London: Chatto & Windus, 1956[14]
  • Gerits, Anton. Books, Friends, And Bibliophilia, Reminiscences of an Antiquarian Bookseller. New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2004[15][16]
  • Rota, Anthony. Books in the Blood. Memoirs of a Fourth Generation Bookseller. Ravelston and New Castle: Private Libraries Association and Oak Knoll Press, 2002[17]
  • Verband Deutscher Antiquare (Editor). Handbuch 2011/2012. Essays von Umberto Eco, Alberto Manguel und Jürgen Serke sowie eine Geschichte des Verbandes 1949 bis 2010. Elbingen: Verband Deutscher Antiquare, 2011.
  • Marchiset, Nevine. The International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, an historical index (1947–2017). New Castle: Oak Knoll Press, 2018 [18]


  1. ^ "22 National Associations". Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  2. ^ International Antiquariaat (Menno Hertzberger & Co.) N.V., Amsterdam (1951), Four centuries of printing : a collection of books of interest both for their scholarly value and for their physical attraction, Internationaal Antiquariaat, retrieved 11 June 2023
  3. ^ "Menno Hertzberger League of Antiquarian booksellers - Google Search". Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  4. ^ Muir, Percy H. (Percy Horace) (1956), Minding my own business : an autobiography, Chatto & Windus, retrieved 11 June 2023
  5. ^ Lycett, Andrew; Ian Fleming, p.76. London; Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1995
  6. ^ ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography, official website.
  7. ^ Voelkle, William M; Wieck, Roger S; Saffiotti Dale, Maria; Pierpont Morgan Library (1992), The Bernard H. Breslauer collection of manuscript illuminations, The Pierpont Morgan Library, ISBN 978-0-87598-095-9
  8. ^ "AND THE WINNER IS: JAMES BOND - 16th ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography". Retrieved 20 January 2020.
  9. ^ Carter, John; Barker, Nicolas (2004), ABC for book collectors (8th ed. / [with corrections, additions, and an introduction by] Nicholas Barker ed.), New Castle, DE Oak Knoll Press, ISBN 978-0-7123-4882-9
  10. ^ Kaye, Barbara (1995), Second impression : rural life with a rare bookman, Oak Knoll Press ; London, UK : Werner Shaw, ISBN 978-1-884718-04-5
  11. ^ Mandelbrote, Giles (2006), Out of print & into profit : a history of the rare and secondhand book trade in Britain in the twentieth century, British Library : Oak Knoll Press, ISBN 978-0-7123-6350-1
  12. ^ "History Essay - ABAA Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America". Archived from the original on 26 January 2008. Retrieved 18 January 2008.
  13. ^ Hertzberger, Menno (1956), Dictionary for the antiquarian booktrade, in French, English, German, Swedish, Danish, Italian, Spanish and Dutch, International League of Antiquarian Booksellers, retrieved 11 June 2023
  14. ^ "Oak Knoll Books & Oak Knoll Press". Archived from the original on 18 May 2011. Retrieved 18 January 2008.
  15. ^ "IOBA Standard IOBA Standard: Volume 7(2) Article". Retrieved 2 May 2023.
  16. ^ Gerits, Anton (2004), Books, friends, and bibliophilia : reminiscences of an antiquarian bookseller (1st ed.), Oak Knoll Press, ISBN 978-1-58456-138-5
  17. ^ Rota, Anthony; Private Libraries Association (2002), Books in the blood : memoirs of a fourth generation bookseller, Private Libraries Association ; New Castle, Del. : Oak Knoll Press, ISBN 978-1-58456-076-0
  18. ^ Marchiset, Nevine; Fernández Pontes, Gonzalo, (writer of introduction.); Fletcher, Keith, (Bookseller), (writer of foreword.); International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (2018), International League of Antiquarian Booksellers : an historical index, 1947-2017, Oak Knoll Press, ISBN 978-1-58456-373-0{{citation}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)

External links[edit]

Media related to International League of Antiquarian Booksellers at Wikimedia Commons