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Oxford welcomes the booksellers of the world! Registrations for the 44th ILAB Congress are now open!

"There are few greater temptations on earth than to stay permanently at Oxford in meditation, and to read all the books in the Bodleian” (Hilaire Belloc)
ILAB Oxford 2022

By Simon Beattie, Daniel Crouch & Sian Wainwright

It is with great pleasure that the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association invites you to share a week with us in the libraries, museums, and colleges of the University of Oxford, home to the oldest university in the English-speaking world.

Using Oxford’s former prison (now the Malmaison Hotel) as our base, “inmates” will experience the treasures of the Bodleian Library, the Ashmolean Museum, the Natural History Museum, Wormsley, Waddesdon, and several Oxford colleges and their libraries, as well as punting on the river Cherwell, walking in the footsteps of Lewis Carroll, C.S. Lewis, and J.R.R. Tolkien - and raising a glass to the delights of bookselling at the Perch Inn.

We’d like to take this opportunity to share with you what we have planned for your week in the “City of Dreaming Spires”…

Friday 9 September - Welcome

We look forward to welcoming our ILAB colleagues to Malmaison Oxford, built in the 1880s in Oxford’s medieval castle to serve as the city’s prison, and now converted into a boutique hotel. Your week will commence with drinks in the prison courtyard, which will be followed by dinner in the atrium. “Lights Out” will be delayed by festivities continuing in our dedicated common room within the hotel.

Inmates will be divided into chain gangs for each day’s hard labour.

Saturday 10 September – Museum Day

>> Ashmolean Museum

Britain’s first public museum, the Ashmolean is the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology. Founded in 1683, it covers half a million years of human creativity, from ancient Egyptian mummies to modern art. Chain gangs will be divided into manageable groups to tour the museum’s collections of Western Art, Prints, Asian Art, and a History of the Museum.

Lunch will be in the Ashmolean’s Rooftop Restaurant, with views across the city.

>> Oxford University Museum of Natural History

Designed as a cathedral to science, this glorious Victorian Gothic building opened to the public in 1860. Among its collections we will find the most complete remains of a dodo in the world. Lewis Carroll often visited the Museum with the young Alice Liddell and her sisters, and the animals they saw there, including the dodo, became incorporated into the stories Carroll created for the girls. We shall see the archives of William Smith, geologist and maker of “The Map that Changed the World”, works by Maria Sybilla Merian, and a book that named 200 species of butterfly.

>> Museum of the History of Science

Housed in a building originally designed for the Ashmolean Museum in 1683 (the world’s oldest surviving purpose-built museum), the Museum of the History of Science holds an unrivalled collection of early astronomical and mathematical instruments from Europe and the Islamic world, including Elizabeth I’s own astrolabe. Also on display is the blackboard used by Einstein at an Oxford lecture in May 1931, with his chalked equations connecting the age, density, and size of the Universe.

In the evening, we are kindly invited to a drinks reception at Blackwell’s, the largest academic bookseller in the UK and founder–member, in 1906, of the ABA, the oldest organisation of its kind.

After drinks, we shall move on to dinner in the magnificent vaulted Hall of Balliol College, one of Oxford’s oldest colleges (founded c.1263), whose alumni include writers such as Matthew Arnold, Graham Greene, Gerard Manley Hopkins, Aldous Huxley, and Robert Southey.

Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
Ashmolean Museum, Oxford

Sunday 11 September – Bodleian Day

>> Bodleian Library

One of the great libraries of the world, with collections of international importance, the Bodleian will open its doors to us for a private viewing of some of its particular treasures.

The largest academic library in Britain, the Bodleian was founded by Sir Thomas Bodley in 1602, though its oldest reading room, Duke Humfrey’s Library, dates back to 1487. Recently refurbished (in 1598 by Thomas Bodley), the library boasts Tudor oak bookcases and a magnificent ceiling composed of panels painted with the arms of the University of Oxford.

Bodleian Library, Oxford
Bodleian Library, Oxford

The library’s collections include the only known copy of the first of Shakespeare’s works to be printed (Venus and Adonis, 1593), the Gough map, one of only three extant copies of the first edition (1605) of Cervantes’ Don Quixote, the Bay Psalm Book, 1640, Handel’s conducting score of Messiah, Kafka’s manuscript of Die Verwandlung (Metamorphosis), Wittgenstein’s manuscript of Logisch-philosophische Abhandlung, c.1918, the oldest surviving manuscript for half Plato’s dialogues, a 2nd/3rd-century papyri of Homer’s Ilia, the 1477 Ptolemy, as well as world class collections of Tolkien, Lewis Carroll, and C.S. Lewis. The Bod also holds the John Johnson Collection of printed ephemera: the largest collection of its kind in the world.

Lunch will be in the Bodleian’s new Weston Library (opened 2015), dinner in the gloriously ornate fifteenth-century Divinity School.

Monday 12 September – College Day

We shall visit four college libraries:

Christ Church

Founded in 1546 by Henry VIII, Christ Church is Oxford’s largest college, and contains Oxford’s cathedral. It is also where Lewis Carroll, who was Sub-Librarian during his time there, famously wrote Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865). We shall visit the eighteenth-century Upper Library, which retains most of its original furnishings, including stools made by Thomas Chippendale.

The library also includes a c1420 manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, an important collection of Hebrew manuscripts, and an illuminated lectionary made for Thomas Wolsey. The picture gallery holds a collection of some 300 Old Masters paintings and nearly 2,000 drawings, including paintings by Annibale Carracci, Fra Angelico, Salvator Rosa, Tintoretto, van Dyck, and drawings by da Vinci, Raphael, Michelangelo, Dürer, and Rubens.

Christ Church, Oxford
Christ Church, Oxford

Merton College

The library building at Merton, dating from 1373, is the oldest continuously functioning library for university academics and students in the world, with an extensive college archive which dates back to the foundation of the college in 1264. Notable collections include the personal papers of Max Beerbohm and the bookseller–publisher Basil Blackwell, as well as the Frank Brenchley T. S. Eliot Collection. Sir Thomas Bodley is buried in the College Chapel.

University College

One of Oxford’s oldest colleges (founded 1249), Univ, as it is generally known, was attended by writers such as Percy Bysshe Shelley, C. S. Lewis, Stephen Spender, and Nobel Laureate V. S. Naipaul. It is also home to the extensive Robert Ross Memorial Collection of material relating to Oscar Wilde, which we shall see on our visit.

All Souls College

Designed by Hawksmoor, All Souls College Library was completed in 1751, although its collections go back to the College’s foundation in 1438. The great eighteenth-century legal writer William Blackstone was a Fellow of the college, and had an influence on library acquisitions, as well as commissioning its reading desks. The library is also home to the deathmask of Christopher Wren and the memorabilia of T.E. Lawrence.

Lunch will be at the award-winning Vaults and Garden Café at the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. The church’s thirteenth-century tower will also be open, providing—for those willing to climb the 127 steps(!) past the Clore Library, constructed in 1320 to house the first University Library—some of the best views of the city. In the evening, there will be punting on the river, followed by dinner at the Cherwell Boathouse.

Tuesday 13 September – Away Day

A day out of Oxford, visiting two great private collections, one formed in the nineteenth century, the other in the twentieth, at Waddesdon (where we shall also have lunch) and Wormsley in beautiful Buckinghamshire.

>> Waddesdon Manor

The house was built by Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild (1839–1898) to display his collections (art, porcelain, furniture, books) and entertain the fashionable world. We shall be given a private tour of the Manor itself as well as being shown books and related items from the Rothschild Collections, specially selected for our visit.

Waddesdon Manor
Waddesdon Manor

>> Wormsley

Home to the Getty family since 1985, Wormsley houses one of the finest private collections of beautifully bound books and literature in the UK. Sir Paul Getty’s expertise and enthusiasm created a collection of both importance and beauty, unparalleled in recent times. The theme of the library is the Art of the Book, as expressed through printing, illustration, illumination, calligraphy and, in particular, bookbinding

Our farewell dinner will be at The Perch, one of Oxford’s oldest pubs, on the banks of the River Thames, to be followed by a traditional ceilidh.

Wednesday, 14 September - The 2022 ILAB Symposium “Libraries, Booksellers, and Collectors: New Ways of Cooperation”

Bookings for the symposium will be handled directly by ILAB, a notification with symposium details will be sent out in January 2022. All booksellers but also librarians, collectors and members of the wider rare book trade are invited.


A small number of scholarships will be made available to young and new booksellers to include the full cost of congress (but not travel to Oxford).

Please contact the organisers at the email below for further information.


The organisation of congress would not be possible without the significant subsidy being provided by our generous sponsors. We would like to take this opportunity to thank:

Simon Beattie; Blackwell’s Rare Books; Stéphane Clavreuil Rare Books; Deborah Coltham Rare Books; Daniel Crouch Rare Books; Keith Fletcher; Robert Frew; Peter Harrington Rare Books; Maggs Bros.; Bruce Marshall Rare Books; PY Rare Books; Quaritch; Shapero Rare Books

Cost & Cancellation Note

From £2,000pp, including hotel, all events, and all meals for single occupancy accommodation, and £2,725 for two people sharing a room, including hotel, all events, and all meals.

In the unlikely event that ILAB Congress 2022 is cancelled due to Covid, full refunds of the registration fee will be available to all attendees. Refund of hotel costs will be possible subject to a sliding scale dependent on the date of cancellation.


Please visit for registration and further details. Please email if you have any queries.

We look forward to welcoming you in Oxford in September 2022!

“I wonder anybody does anything at Oxford but dream and remember, the place is so beautiful. One almost expects the people to sing instead of speaking. It is all like an opera.” (W.B. Yeats)