Brussels January 1950
EXTRAORDINARY GENERAL MEETING
Brussels. Hotel Plaza. 21-22nd January 1950
2. Minutes of the London Conference
3. International Directory
5. Modification of the Committee
6. Collective Assurance
7. Argentine Debtors
8. Additions and changes in the rules
9. Other business.
MM. W. S. Kundig, President - Percy H. Muir, Vice-President - Menno Hertzberger, Treasurer - Einar Gronholt-Pedersen, Counsellor - André Poursin, Counsellor.
Belgium Mr. Fl. Tulkens
Denmark Mr. E. Gronholt Pedersen
France Mr. F. De Nobele
Gt. Britain Mr. C. D. Massey
Holland Mr. Menno Hertzberger
Italy Mr. E. Aeschlimann
Norway Mr. J W. Cappelen
Switzerland Mr. N. Rauch
Countries unrepresented by force of circumstances:
Austria, Finland, Sweden.
(Notes for English readers: At the moment of writing the following are approximate rates of exchange with the £ sterling: Swiss Francs 12.20 - Belgian Francs 140 - French Francs 1000).
The aforementioned being present, the President opened the meeting at 10.15am and read the following discourse in French, which Mr. Muir then translated into English: -
In opening this extraordinary general meeting and speaking in the name of the League, I wish first of all to express our thanks to our Belgian colleagues, and above all the President of the Belgian association of antiquarian and modern booksellers, for the fine welcome they have prepared for us and for the practical assistance that this association has afforded us in the organisation of this meeting.
You are called together, Gentlemen, principally to examine the finances of the League and to decide on a new method of calculating the subscriptions for 1950. You have in your hands the Memorandum that I have sent you in which certain proposals are presented. You have received also a letter from Mr. Muir in which another proposal is presented. You will have examined all these proposals and perhaps some others which have not been circultated but which have been prepared by members present at this meeting. I ask you to examine them all, to discuss them quite objectively ignoring individual interests and regarding only those of the League, and remembering the moral and material possibilities afforded by the associations that are represented here. I hope that we may arrive at an agreement due to mutual concessions. I am extremely anxious that the discussion of these proposals should be purely academic and I propose to you to take no vote until we have arrived at a point of agreement which will be satisfactory to us all, for I am anxious that no nation whatsoever, large or small, should feel itself outvoted by others. It is in this spirit, gentlemen, that we shall begin our deliberations.
President: You have all received the memorandum that I have addressed to all the Presidents of associations and I repeat that I assume full responsibility for it, not having had the opportunity of consulting the other members of the Committee. If there is anything in the memorandum which is not to your liking you should regard the responsibility for it as personal to me.
No. 1 on the Agenda - Finance
We begin with finance. You will have examined the balance sheet which forms a separate appendix to the memorandum.
Has anyone anything to say about the balance sheet? I must point out a modification in the receipts, because since listing them I have received payment in full from Gt. Britain and a second instalment from Sweden of a futher Sw. Frs. 225.
Mr. Aeschlimann: You were authorised to credit the outstanding sum of Sw. Frs. 150 for the Italian subscription, but this is not shown.
President: I will make a note of that and I apologize for the omission.
Mr. Aeschlimann: And also for the Copenhagen Minutes you should credit us.
President: For the Copenhagen Minutes the payments due are shown in the balance sheet. I have received since then payment from Holland Sw. frs. 75 and from Italy, Sw. frs. 45.
Mr. Tulkens: Please acknowledge also the Belgium payment of Sw. frs. 6.
President: Thank you. I will make a note of it.
Mr. De Nobele: France will pay forthwith.
President: There is the question of Gt. Britain. A slightly paradoxical situation arises here. The Bank of England demands that I provide them with proof that these Minutes were printed in France and that the amount was paid in pounds sterling. But we shall find a way round this.
Mr. De Nobele: On the subject of Austria, what was the amount of the subscription it was decided to claim from them.
President: We decided, in London, at the time of the admission of Austria into the League, to ask them for a subscription for half a year, namely Sw. frs 450. However the position of Austria has since changed. When Mr. Nebehay, the Austrian President, submitted a request for admission he provided me with evidence of his authorisation to pay.
We are jointly using every effort to obtain payment. In view of Austria’s situation it is impossible to forecast the sequel. We should not forget that Austria is in special circumstances, under a quasi-military regime.
Is there any further observation on the subject of the balance sheet?
There was none.
President: Let us pursue our task.
There is the question of expenses. You have seen in my memorandum that I propose that in order to remedy the chronic deficit in our finances expenses should be reduced. You will observe that the greatest expense is caused by the meetings of the Committee. When these meetings were discussed at Copenhagen, we foresaw the need for one of two meetings every year, but we have been obliged to hold several more meetings, with the effect that the expenses, even when reduced to a minimum because Committee members are paid only the bare cost of their fares to and from the meetings; (they bear all other travel and hotel expenses themselves) are still considerable. But these expenses are indispensable. Mr. Poursin, with a view to cutting down the expenses has suggested that you authorise us, - for the liquidation of day-to-day matters, which nevertheless entail fairly frequent meetings, - to meet in less than full session and to hold plenary meetings only for discussions of primary importance. In this way the outgoings would be perceptibly reduced. As you will see, from page 3 of the Memorandum, by providing for one plenary session and two restricted sessions in the year we should effect a considerable economy.
I am going to put Mr. Poursin’s proposal to the vote in the following way: - That the Committee be authorised to meet in restricted sessions to dispose of day-to-day matters - with the reservation that the three members present (which would be a majority in a full committee) should agree unanimously; it being fully understood that the President should inform the two absent members of the Agenda and of the questions to be discussed, inviting their recommendations.
Are there any observations on that?
Mr. Massey: I suggest that the restricted meetings are not necessary as it is better that all members of the Executive Committee should attend every meeting. The full Committee could meet 1 or 2 days before the General Assembly and afterwards discuss the deliberations of the Assembly directly after the Conference. Then only one extra meeting of the Committee would be necessary, unless more were thought necessary.
Mr. Hertzberger: I am of the same opinion as Mr. Massey, that the decisions cannot be effective when they are taken only by an agreement of 3 out of 5 members of the Committee.
Mr. Muir: About the proposal of Mr. Massey, I have to say that, after all, every member of this committee is a working bookseller, and you all know that the amount of time necessitated by the annual conference is already a very considerable slice out of his working-time, at a period when most of us are very busy. In that way, the Conference would take 10 days or more out of the working-time of every member of our Committee. It will be very difficult to do that. That is the first point.
The second point is, that if your would limit the meetings your Committee has in the course of the year, you would also have to limit your aspirations accordingly and the hope of seeing other plans realized. You cannot expect your Committee to undertake obligations on the scale that you have proposed, if these meetings are to be limited to two in the year.
Mr. Massey: It should not be necessary for the Committee to meet more than one day before and one day after the General Assembly. It is a question of the amount of work. I did not say that the Plenary Assembly had to take place once in a year, but the question is how to reduce the expenses. My opinion is to leave the question if it is necessary to have 1, 2 ore more meetings of the Committee to the Committee itself, who will fix these in proportion to the work that has to be done.
Mr. Muir: May I again put the Committee’s position as I see it on this point. We are dependent upon you for two things (1) your instructions as to the work you require us to do (2) The finances with which you provide us to carry out that work These two things are clearly interdependent, but there is a distinct danger of that important fact being overlooked. We are at the moment engaged in a discussion, the object of which is to find ways and means of carrying out the most ambitious programme possible for the League, while, at the same time, anticipating a smaller budget. Every Association affiliated to the League wants its own subscription reduced, some want it reduced drastically; and at the same time it seems to be suggested in some quarters that the programme should continue on the same scale as heretofore, oblivious of the fact that the present high rate of subscription has already been found inadequate to the performance of that programme on its current scale, and by the current methods. Such a point of view is not realistic. If you cut down the subscription because you find them too high for your to bear, then you must at the same time modify your expenses in proportion. There is no magic purse of Fortunatus from which your Committee can draw funds; these come only from your subscriptions. I suggest, therefore, that we now begin to discuss Mr. Poursin’s proposal not in the light of what is ideally desirable, but in the light of the reality of the reduced funds you are probably going to vote the League.
Mr. Tulkens: In my opinion we should be well advised to grant full liberty to the Committee, seeing that it is their business to organise their labours, and this is therefore much more a question for them to decide than for us.
Mr. Poursin: The point of departure was as follows: - Is it possible for the representatives of the National Associations to authorise certain meetings of the Committee restricted to three out of its five members?
Mr. Tulkens: The most important thing is that the work should be done.
Mr. De Nobele: In other words, may we not confine ourselves to the original question whether we agree to deliberations of a Committee of three instead of five, and leave the question of the number of meetings to your decision.
Mr. Poursin: May I explain the proposal we have made? Our first consideration was to reduce the expenses of the League. It remains to be seen whether, as in all established institutions, your Committee, which has a mission to fulfil, might delegate its powers for the following session, for the examination of day-to-day affairs, to two, three or four members. To take one example, the Directory, we have various things to review, Mr. Muir and I, because we have undertaken this work between us. Very well, we have found the means of meeting one another at our own expense, in a sub-committee of two. A delegation of such powers appears to me a normal extension of this practice and one that is employed by every well regulated organisation.
Mr. Massey: In view of Mr. Poursin’s explanation we might surely agree to let the Committee decide the best procedure, and to meet as two, three, four or five, but only on condition that all the members of the Committee are themselves agreeable to such a course.
Mr. Hertzberger: We would agree to the proposal of Mr. Massey to leave it to the Committee to decide the size of its meetings, whether two, three or four, according to the work that has to be done.
President: Are you agreed? Are there any other observations?
Mr. Aeschlimann: You will not alter the rules, then?
No one against. Adopted. You will therefore entrust to the Committee the decision of the form to be adopted by its meetings.
You have examined in the Memorandum the prospective expenses for 1950. You will have seen that the total expenditure - with the margin of Sw. Frs. 396 for the unforeseen - totals about Sw. frs. 5,000. I do not see any possibility of reduction. Gentlemen, have you any suggestions for reduction? It seems to me, even, that we ought to anticipate possible unforeseen expenditure at a higher figure than Sw. frs. 396.
Mr. Tulkens: The item under “postage, customs fees” - what does this cover?
President: There is allowance for circulating notices and information, minutes, etc. For example, when I received the Minutes of the Copenhagen Conference from Paris the Swiss Customs demanded from me an astronomical sum for duty. There was, also, the cost of distributing these Minutes. It is with a view to the possibility of the recurrence of such items that I have provided Sw. frs. 250 for the item Postages etc.
Mr. Tulkens: Could not these expenses be reduced?
President: We have dispatched a hundred or more letters fro the circulars alone. I assure you that a provision of Sw. frs. 250 is a minimum.
Mr. Tulkens: With a view to the reduction of expenses would you not meet at a more central point than Geneva? For example, in Paris.
Mr. Muir: Remember that Geneva is the home of the President and the Secretary, both of whose expenses must be paid if we meet elsewhere.
President: We will study this possibility with the closest attention and we will adopt the course that is least expensive for the League.
Mr. Rauch: One might occasionally hold meetings in Paris when Mr. Kundig was there in any case on business.
Mr. Hertzberger: The Dutch Association would like to say that they would prefer meetings to be held more centrally, for example, in Paris or Brussels. In that case I would pay my own fares, whereas to go to Geneva causes me great difficulties with my government to obtain the necessary funds.
President: To sum up, I propose that you leave it to the Committee to do what is best, and I repeat that we have no objection, and one sole aim, which is to economise.
Mr. Tulkens: What is envisaged as “Unforeseen”?
President: I do not know! The obsequies of the President!!!
Mr. Tulkens: In that case the sum is insufficient, because everyone will want to be there.
Mr. Aeschlimann: All that I would like to add is tht the total of Sw. frs. 5,000 should not be exceeded.
Mr. Poursin: I believe that all that we have envisaged under “Unforeseen” is the possibility of an extra meeting of the Committee, for which Sw. frs. 396 would be totally insufficient.
President: No further observation? No one against? Adopted.
Now to cover our expenses we need subscriptions to accord with them. At Copenhagen we have worked swiftly and empirically on this subject.
Mr. De Nobele: I do not know whether the decision was established empirically or hastily, but it has been accepted by everyone. I insist very particularly upon that.
Mr. Tulkens: You say that everyone accepted, but you will recall that we authorised a certain degree of liberty to the Committee for it was not possible at that point for us to decide the exact amount of the subscription for each country.
President: We had fixed exactly a sum of Sw. frs. 900 for each country and for the two large countries - France and Great Britain - a double subscription, namely Sw. frs. 1800. We provided for two exceptions - Norway and Finland - but the proposal to fix the annual subscription for each Association at Sw. frs 900 was in fact accepted.
Mr. Tulkens: At Copenhagen we did not know what the costs of the League would be.
President: We fixed this first subscription provisionally until we should discover what the League would cost.
Mr. Tulkens: The first year’s subscriptions were paid.
President: Of these subscriptions we have still to receive: -
Sw.frs 300 from Belgium
100 from Finland (which has made a very meritorious gesture in paying the same sum for 1948)
450 from Sweden and we have the formal undertaking of Mr. Ronnell that it will be paid.
Mr. Tulkens: This is surprising , for Mr. Ronnell told me the contrary.
Mr. Muir read the relevant passage from Mr. Ronnell’s letter as follows: -
“However, should the Brussels Assembly not consider being in a position to revise the London resolution, the Swedish Association will be ready to pay for this once half the subscription of fr. 900 for 1949. MMrs. Bjorek and Borjesson and myself the other half (though these two firms are also participating to a large proportion in the half paid by the Association) on condition that the subscription for 1950 will be allotted in accordance with the following proposition.”
President: We will take the proposition later, but you observe that Mr. Ronnell is quite explicit.
Mr. Tulkens: In Belgium we are 32 members, that is practically the whole number of the booksellers in Belgium. We pay Belg. Frs. 500 as our subscription annually, which produces a total income of Belg. Frs. 16,000 to cover all our expenditure. If we have to pay Sw. frs 900 annually to the League (which is equal to Belg. Frs. 11,500) that would be equivalent to passing over to the League 70% of our total Budget. Furthermore the great majority of the Belgian booksellers do not realise the immediate utility of the League. We have actually paid Sw. frs 600. I could persuade my Association to pay a further Sw. frs 150, which is the half of what is still demanded from us. Would that suffice? I would like very much to know the percentage of their total budget paid by other countries - I refer to the smaller ones - to the League.
President: Well, Norway, for example has paid in a much higher proportion.
Mr. Tulkens: We have paid Sw. frs. 600 - we offer a further Sw. frs 150. It is an enormous effort. I would add that I do not speak as an individual, but in the name of our Association.
President: In consideration of the financial state of the Belgian Association what do you think, gentlemen, of their offer to pay Sw. frs. 150 in total satisfaction of their outstanding indebtedness for 1949? Sweden will pay in full.
Mr. Tulkens: I have been given a mandate by my Committee. I cannot disavow it. I repeat that, for them, the League is something quite distant, they do not take account of its usefulness, and in any case those of our members whose interests are limited will hardly realise its usefulness. I communicate this to you to relieve my conscience. I will undertake to propose to my Committee to pay the entire sum, and if they are not in agreement I will arrange personally the satisfaction of Belgium’s debt of honour to the League.
President: Our further hopes are limited to the receipt of the Finnish payment, and the release of the funds voted by the Austrians. May we now resume the question of the subscriptions? I will remind you in resume of all the proposals that are in the Memorandum, and also of some new proposals. After that I will ask if there are any other proposals, and I suggest that discussion of all the proposals be postponed until every one is before you. Do you agree?
Mr. Massey: Would it not be better to discuss each proposition one by one?
President: The first proposal you will find in the Memorandum at the foot of p. 3 of the English text. Briefly it is that each association should pay Sw. frs. 10 for each of its members, with a minimum of Sw. frs 100 and a maximum of Sw. frs 2000 (in the case of Britain and France). This proposal has now been modified so that the maximum is reduced to Sw. frs. 1800. You have the details and the amount payable by each country on p.3. If you will kindly modify the figures in that list in regard to France and Great Britain and replace them by Sw. frs. 1800 in each case you will obtain a total of Sw. frs 6350. This proposal includes a provision for retaining the voting powers as in the past, which means one vote for each country except France and Great Britain which retain two votes each.
The second proposition is on p. 4. To create three classes of countries with varying rates of subscription and voting power. I have said in my Memorandum that I find this difficult to apply. I will explain what I mean. I find it so, not by reason of the amounts provided for, but by reason of the number of votes accorded to the different classes of countries and of the repercussions that that might cause in our Conferences. The majority could be defeated and the small countries would risk being always in the minority.
There is now a third proposal which is new. That each Association volunteers the amount of its financial contribution to the League, without reference to the number of its members, and it being understood that France and Great Britain dispose of two votes each at present… will you please make a note of that proposal?
We have further a fourth proposition, that of Mr. Muir. Mr. Muir has just told me, however, that he wishes to withdraw his proposition as it coincides very closely with the third one that I have just put before you.
We have another proposal from Mr. Ronnell (of Stockholm), it is that Associations comprising 100 members or less pay double the amount per capita (by members of the Associations comprising at least 200 members). For example, Sw. Frs. 15 (or 18) per capita for the small Associations, and Sw. frs. 7.50 (or 9) per capita for the large Associations (France and Gt. Britain). The minimum contribution to be Sw. frs. 100 (or 150). I have made a reckoning of the income that would produce - or rather Mr. Poursin has done so. Will you please note these figures which I will dictate.
A tabulation based on the Sw. frs. 15 minimum (7.50 for France and Gt. Britain) would produce:
Gt. Britain 2250
Mr. Muir: This proposition of Mr. Ronnell’s gives us a total rather greater than we have budgeted for. I propose to reduce the figures by one third. A rapid calculation shows that this would produce Sw. frs. 5,900.
President: Let us now make the same calculation but reducing by only one quarter. We obtain Sw. frs 6,700.
Are there any other proposals? No.
We will now study each of these proposals. Let us begin with the first proposal. It is before you… What observations would you like to make?
Mr. Tulkens: As far as Belgium is concerned, I find this proposal most interesting for it responds more closely to the financial resources of each Association. In asking my members for a contribution of Sw. frs 10 I should meet with more understanding. This proposal seems to me advantageous to every one for each Association, as it grows, will improve its financial position and can demand further efforts from its members.
Mr. Rauch: I also think the first proposal the best, but it would be advisable to see whether the third proposition is not more advantageous. Certain countries might make a generous gesture. But if we obtain no greater advantage from the third than from the first proposal then I would vote for the latter.
Mr. Massey: Will all the proposals be discussed?
Mr. Aeschlimann: Speaking for Italy I am in agreement with the first proposal.
Mr. Pedersen: The Scandinavian countries prefer the first proposal.
Mr. Massey: If this proposal should be accepted and the figure of Sw. frs. 1800 be retained for France and Great Britain, the amounts demanded for the other countries are, proportionately, too small. I would suggest, therefore, that the subscription for Great Britain be reduced to Sw. frs. 1500.
Mr. De Nobele: This first proposal has some defects. One of these is that to calculate the subscription by number of members puts on a footing of inequality countries with strong as compared with those with weak currencies. Belgium and Switzerland, which are countries with strong currencies, are not called upon to pay more proportionately than countries such as Austria, for example. In Italy, the Circolo does not represent the antiquarian book trade in the same way as the French Association represents that trade in France and the A.B.A. represents it in England. The Circolo is a group of a certain number of booksellers, a group, I believe, that does not accept the participation of everyone.
Mr. Aeschlimann: We make no such exceptions, all that is necessary is to apply.
Mr. De Nobele: That is an internal matter. If Italy pays on a basis of 35 members, that does not represent the whole of the antiquarian book trade in Italy. These 35 are the most important, those that have the greatest financial power and in that case Italy should be regarded as a large country and should pay a larger contribution.
President: This proposal takes account of the fact in fixing a maximum of Sw. frs 1800, which represents Sw. frs 5 per member, whereas Italy pays Sw. frs. 10 per member. Account has been taken, in this proposal, of the fact that there are countries like France and Gt. Britain on the one hand and much smaller Associations on the other, but that these latter have a certain number of large booksellers among their members.
Any other observations?
Mr. De Nobele: I wish to reply to your objection that if, for example, my supporters say to me: “The League does not interest us, give it up, we do not wish to pay.” If such a situation should arise we should be obliged, perhaps to renounce the League. We would form a small circle of booksellers numbering possibly 25 and we would bring you a subscription (at Sw. frs. 10 per member) of Sw. frs. 250, proportionate to the number of booksellers directly interested in international affairs.
Mr. Tulkens: In these conditions Belgium could do the same and would arrive at two members.
President: Let us form an International Club of great booksellers…
Mr. Massey: If this proposal were accepted, and supposing that Gt. Britain and France paid Sw. frs. 1800 each, these two countries would pay together Sw. frs. 3,600 whereas the rest of the countries together would pay Sw. frs. 2,750, and that would render France and Great Britain extremely powerful in relation to the League.
Mr. Rauch: I propose that we pass first to the third proposal. I believe that we may have some surprises, that certain countries will make a gesture and will offer generously, and that thus we shall find an adequate support to cover the expenses that have been foreseen.
Mr. Tulkens: It is regrettable that it should be always the small countries that are invited to make a sacrifice. Our country has a strong currency, but business is very poor.
Mr. Hertzberger: I agree with Mr. Tulkens, but from the practical point of view I agree with Mr. Rauch to take the third proposal next.
Mr. Poursin: It might be possible, before passing to the third proposal, to ascertain what the proposal of Mr. Ronnell would produce if reduced by one quarter.
President: We have also the second proposal… (At this point it was unanimously agreed to reject the second proposal).
Very well, then we have still the proposal of Mr. Ronnell.
Mr. Muir: It might be possible to amalgamate the Ronnell proposal with the first proposal by fixing Sw. frs. 10 per capita for the small syndicates, and Sw. fr. 5 per capita for the large Associations. This would produce a total of Sw. frs. 6,050 (Gt. Britain would pay Sw. frs. 1500 and France Sw. frs 1800)
President: Are you agreed that Mr. Ronnell’s proposal should be joined to the first proposal on the lines suggested, Norway paying Sw. frs. 100?
Mr. Tulkens: I appreciate very much the suggestion of Mr. Muir, but, from the point of view of justice why not leave the rate for everyone at Sw. frs. 10, but fix a limit? Otherwise the small countries might say: “Why are there different rates?”
President: Do you wish that we should discuss the third proposal? And to begin with let me speak to you about it, for it is to some extent my child: it is completely unjust and arbitrary in principle for it says that each country should itself announce the amount that itself will bring to the League. I say that it is arbitrary and unjust because I have taken into account the potentialities of some countries with few members but with many financial resources, the possibility of transfer of funds, and of the interest that certain countries have, more than others, towards the League. It is self-evident that Belgium and Holland, for example, have more interest in relation to the League than Finland. Finally, I know that I have the consent of certain delegations to certain figures. May I ask how much each country would be ready to pay?
If you are agreed, let us begin in inverse alphabetical order. Switzerland. Mr. Rauch, what do you propose?
Mr. Rauch: I propose a minimum of Sw. frs 600, which would cost us 15 per member.
President: Sweden. I think we could count on Sw. frs. 350 and possibly even 400, but as Mr. Ronnell is not here, I cannot make a firm figure.
Mr. Rauch: his proposal is already between Sw. frs. 360 and 400.
President: Very good. Let us say 400 for Sweden.
Mr. Cappelen: 200
President: Bravo! What a magnificent gesture (general applause for Mr. Cappelen).
Mr. Aeschlimann: For Italy 500
Mr. Hertzberger: From Holland we can count upon Sw. frs. 500
Mr. Pedersen: From Denmark, Sw. frs. 500
President (and others): Bravo! This is really fine. These countries are really offering their maximum.
Mr. Tulkens: Belgium offers Sw. frs. 400
President: Mr. Tulkens, be generous. I reckon on a supplement. (Mr. Tulkens withdraws behind his Committee and would not promise a higher sum).
President: Austria. I believe we may reckon on Sw. frs. 300, it is not enormous, but I know that there are many difficulties.
And now we come to the Grand Seigneurs. Mr. De Nobele, the word is with you.
Mr. De Nobele: France offers Sw. frs.1500.
Mr. Massey also offered Sw. frs.1500 from Gt. Britain.
President: Total Sw. frs. 6,500. That is a little short, gentlemen. I had hoped fro at least Sw. frs. 6,800. Will France not offer a little more?
Mr. De Nobele: In view of the advanced hour may I suggest that we leave that to the meditations and the euphoria which ensue from a good luncheon.
President: All the same, if we could finish with this question this morning… Do I understand that France and Gt. Britain cannot consider rising to 1800?
Mr. De Nobele: I request a suspension of the meeting.
President: If Mr. Massey agrees to the advance will you go with him, Mr. De Nobele?
Mr. De Nobele: The point is that France and Gt. Britain are not prepared to provide one half of the expenses and it is that that I have tried to avoid in offering 1500.
Mr. Tulkens: Why cannot the proposal of Mr. Ronnell be accepted?
President: We accept nothing. At the moment we are merely discussing.
Mr. Tulkens: Thinking always of the small budgets of certain associations I would like to ask Mr. De Nobele: “what is the percentage of your subscription income that is payable to the League?”
Mr. De Nobele: 40 to 45%
President: About 40% of the national subscriptions collected by the French and British Associations are paid to the League. Now, gentlemen, let us get a stage further with our work.
Mr. De Nobele: You have asked for Sw. frs. 5000
President: I know, but I desired to create a small reserve. Do you maintain your proposal to pay 1,500 to the League? And you Mr. Massey?
Mr. De Nobele and Mr. Massey reaffirmed their offer of 1500.
President: The proposal would thus bring 6,500 to the League.
We must now put it to the vote. With which proposal would you like to begin?
Mr. Tulkens: I propose that we have lunch first, and the Belgian Association has the honour to invite you all to partake of an aperitif.
President: We begin again at 2 o’clock precisely.
Mr. Tulkens: May I remind you that we have our Association’s meeting this evening at 7 pm precisely and that you are all cordially invited to attend?
Saturday, 21st January, 1950.
The session was reopened at 2.30 pm.
President: We will now put to the vote the proposals discussed this morning.
Mr. De Nobele: I have another proposal to make. The bitter fact is that we have assembled in our present numbers, some of us from a considerable distance to discuss a very reduced budget. Would it not be possible - if the third proposal is accepted - and if everyone has already expounded his views, to ask everyone to increase by 20% his offer of this morning? We would achieve a total of Sw. frs. 7800 instead of Sw. frs. 6500.
President: Who is in favour of the increase of 20% suggested by Mr. De Nobele?
France (2 votes) Gt. Britain (2 votes)
(The voting being equal the President gave his casting vote against the proposition of Mr. De Nobele, which was therefore defeated).
President: We must now vote on proposal N° 3. Who is in favour?
(The other proposals went therefore by default).
No. 2 on the Agenda - Minutes of the London Conference
President: We come now to the second item of the Agenda - the Minutes of the London Conference. Is it your wish that these should be printed and published? It should be understood that each Association is required to take sufficient copies to supply all its members, otherwise it will be impossible to defray the costs of production. It is not possible to allow any Association to take only 1 or 2 copies. These Minutes should be regarded as an important item for circulation to be sent to the great libraries, business organisations and international institutions such as Unesco. If we do not print them we deprive ourselves of some of our propaganda. It is for you to decide whether to print them or not. The cost price will be nearly Sw. frs. 2 per copy. It is essential that the Committee should know the intentions of each Association on this subject… It would be also very interesting and very important for us to be able to send it to all the great American libraries and to some of our important customers, etc… Who wishes to speak on the subject?
Mr. Massey: There seem to be various possibilities on this. I have heard it suggested that only sufficient duplicated copies would be made to supply one to each Association. In this case I presume that Gt. Britain would receive only the English text of the proceedings. We of the A.B.A. regard this circulation of these Minutes to all our members as so important that, if this system were adopted, we should certainly arrange to have it printed, either in our News Letter, or in The Clique.
What we would like best, however, and what we think most strongly advisable is to print the Minutes of the London Conference in a similar form to those of the previous conferences and to circulate them as widely as possible. We think every possibility of competitive estimates for printing in various countries should be exploited. I believe printing is very cheap in Italy, for example.
I understand that France is of the same opinion as to the importance of printing these Minutes.
Mr. Tulkens: I believe the A.B.A. has taken a considerable number of copies of the Copenhagen Minutes. May I ask whether they were given, or sold to their members?
Mr. Massey: We have them to our members.
Mr. De Nobele: I am of the same opinion as Mr. Massey, that the printing of the Conference Minutes is indispensable. I would even add that its publication is urgently needed. Our members have heard about the London Conference. The speech of the President and the programme of the festivities have been circulated to them, since when there has been no doubt that full publication is required. It is a matter of urgency… Now it is, of course, for you to decide whether to print or not. If you decide in the negative, then the French Association will print the Minutes in the “Bouquiniste”.
Mr. Poursin: I would say that for the Committee this urgency and this necessity appeared to be such that everything was made absolutely ready for publication two months ago, that the text was then already in the printer’s hands and that we telegraphed to him to hold it up because of the lack of money in hand. Certainly your opinion is that of the Committee, there is no doubt of that.
Mr. Massey: I agree entirely with Mr. De Nobele.
President: Any other observations?
Mr. Muir: If the French Association is ready to publish the French text in the “Bouquiniste”, and if Mr. Massey on the other hand, is ready to arrange for the printing of a full English text, would it not be possible for both of them to supply us with offprints to be distributed among the remainder of our members?
Mr. Poursin: There arises the question of the cost prices. It is certain - or almost certain - (I have not studied the question but it is all the same familiar to me because I am in a sense the executant) that if the British and French Associations print separate impressions their cost prices will together approximate very closely to the cost of subscribing to the League’s own publication; in which case it would be preferable to make a separate thing of it. I believe that the cost to the French Association would be in the region of F. fr. 35,000. Let us suppose that the ABA would expend a similar amount and we arrive at approximately the same figure as they would be called upon to pay for the number of copies needed for their two associations. I believe that all the Associations affiliated to the League would agree that an edition in both languages would be more valuable than two separate editions; English on the one hand, and French on the other.
Mr. Tulkens: Would the League publication comprise a verbatim account of the London Conference?
President: Yes, the full minutes just as they were taken down in shorthand.
Mr. Poursin: The solution proposed by the A.B.A. and the French association would occasion the same expense, but the presentation of the brochure would be less attractive.
Mr. Hertzberger: In my opinion it would be preferable to do this in the form of a brochure rather than in two separate booklets which would not permit of sending abroad an elegantly presented work. Further, we have already published the Minutes of Amsterdam and of Copenhagen; those of London would form a logical sequence, the whole making a lively memorial of the League’s activities.
President: Any other observations on this subject?
I will not ask you to vote for or against the printing of the Minutes of the London Conference, with the understanding that each Association will take at least as many copies as it has members.
Mr. Massey: Is it necessary to include foreign members in that number?
President: No! Each Association is bound to take as many copies as it has domestic members only.
(Nine voted in favour of printing the Minutes. Only Mr. Gronholt Pedersen voted against).
No. 3 on the Agenda. The Directory
President: We come now to No. 3 on the Agenda. The Directory. I shall ask Mr. Poursin to address you on this, but before doing so I take it upon myself to tell you that we cannot put the Directory in hand unless we have the required number of subscriptions assured to us; and we also require certain funds in advance to enable us to carry on with it. It is for you to decide on the number of copies to be printed and on the amounts you are prepared to advance with the subscription.
Mr. Poursin: The position is as follows: We have all the material practically ready, that is to say the replies to the questionnaire that you have sent to us. Our work has been a little complicated by the fact that we have had to deal with specialities of a widely diverse nature. We have finally established a list of specialities - very considerable for it occupies two pages - in French and English. This work is almost finished with the exception that I must request the Associations in the so-called Latin zone to publish, in their journals, a final list. Here, my dear Mr. Aeschlimann, is the definitive list. This is, in the words of a gunner, a ranging shot. We are now in a position to establish a definitive classification of specialities. A certain number of entries remain to be inserted; and there is also the question of headings for the sub-specialities.
The addition, by each Association, of an article on one of the great booksellers who has passed on might be an attractive feature.
Mr. Aeschlimann: As far as Italy is concerned I would think of Mr. Olschki.
Mr. Poursin: Yes, certainly. In requesting from each of you an article of this nature I am thinking of giving to our Directory a less commercial aspect.
Having said so much, here is the price we have arrived at. I have approached my usual printer n France. It is understood that there will be competitive prices. Two printers have tendered. The price quoted to me about a year ago was Fr. Frs. 375,000 but that printer has not hitherto carried out for us any work of this nature. From the other printer - who printed the minutes of Copenhagen - I have obtained an estimate of Fr. Frs. 484,000 for 1500 copies, with a similar cover to that of the last German Directory - bound in cloth. I have provided for 208 pages for the Directory itself, without reckoning the pages for publicity or for the necrology. The German Directory had 292 pages with about twice the number of addresses that we shall have. Thus, I anticipate that for 1500 copies, if we reckon on Fr. Frs. 600,000, we shall be somewhere near the right maximum figure, supposing that the economic situation remains stable.
There remains the work of preparing the entries and of revision, which will occupy a good secretary for at least a month and a half. Personally I have not the necessary staff in my own establishment. Let us reckon on a cost for this work of Fr. Frs. 50,000, which gives us a total cost figure of Fr. Frs 650,000, a figure that I regard as very low. If we add a figure of Fr. Frs. 150,000 for eventualities, it seems to me that we might estimate the selling price at Sw. frs. 15 and for booksellers, a price of Sw. frs. 10, on the basis of a cost price of Fr. Frs. 800,000 for the whole.
The position outlined above has been the same for the last two months and have been held up only by lack of the funds necessary to proceed.
Mr. Aeschlimann: May I ask what lapse of time you anticipate before publication of this Directory?
President: The use of the French word Annuaire to describe this publication is not correct for it leads to confusion, some will think that it will be reissued every year. The English word “Directory” is more appropriate and in French we ought to say Répertoire. And our Répertoire will be published, if not every year, at least as often as necessary.
Mr. Poursin: Supposing, for example, that the Americans do not join us until next year, it would be necessary, following their entry into the League, to publish a supplement. As to the delay in publication, to reply to Mr. Aeschlimann’s question, we are now at the point where we approach the final touches. The copy cannot be given to the printer before the end of March. There will be some 800 pages to compose and for that it is necessary to reckon on about three months.
Mr. Tulkens: During the London Conference we have discussed the inclusion of advertisements. Has this been abandoned?
Mr. Poursin: It is necessary before taking that into account that we reconsider the cost price of the Directory. Do you think that we might obtain a better price in another country? If you wish you could approach your own printers, but I must say that unless there is a difference of no more than, shall we say, Fr. Frs. 25,000, I should think it impracticable to approach another printer. The question takes this form. I will pass on to you the specifications.
Mr. Aeschlimann: I am in favour of choosing a printer on the spot.
President: There is also the question of the possibilities of exportation from the country in which the printing is undertaken. In Italy, for example, the export difficulties would be very great, and in this case not even a lower price would interest us.
As for the question of advertisements in the Directory, it will be necessary to reserve a certain number of pages for each Association, let us say proportionate to the number of its members and to the importance of the country concerned, and to make it the business of each association to allocate the advertisements among its members.
Mr. Massey: Could we be given some idea of the ratio in which the advertisement pages will be apportioned, and how.
Mr. Poursin: I think we might ask the presidents if they have any idea how much they could use for advertisements. Nobody will be entitled to more than one page. Imagine a country with very few booksellers and that it would be allocated six pages of advertisement. It is impossible that these six pages should be used to advertise one bookseller only.
Mr. Massey: Is it really necessary to have advertisements at all?
Mr. Poursin: From the financial point of view it is not necessary. If we achieve a cost price which will certainly be much lower than Fr. Frs. 800,000, and if we dispose of 1000 copies among members of the League, we should still have 500 copies for sale.
Mr. De Nobele: A point of figures only! If we divide 650,000 by 1500 we obtain a cost price of Fr. Frs 434 per copy. The selling price could be Fr. Frs 800 to members and 1800 to non-members, I should think.
Mr. Massey: If advertisements are necessary at all, each country should have the possibility, if it wishes, of taking as many pages of advertisement as any other country. We see no reason why small countries should be limited to less publicity than larger ones. But are advertisements necessary at all?
President: We will make a note of every suggestion, but I cannot see why we should not accept advertisements on which we shall make a profit.
Mr. Muir: It is quite understood that the price to non-members will be higher - considerably higher - than to members. It would not be fair that, for example, booksellers who do not support their national organisations - and through them, the League - should be on the same footing as those that do, or that they should reap the benefits of our work for nothing.
Mr. Hertzberger: It does not seem fair that non-members of the League should get the Directory at all. It should be reserved for members of the League only and to official bodies. I propose also to permit no advertisements whatsoever.
Mr. Muir: This idea about confining the circulation of the Directory to members only is one that I have heard before and frequently. It seems to me to be based on a complete misapprehension of the principal function that the Directory will perform for our members. Its principal service to them appears to me to be in direct proportion to its circulation among collectors and great libraries. It would even pay us, if needs be to price the Directory below cost price to collectors and librarians, even to give to them free if by that means we could ensure a much wider circulation for it among those who buy books. I simply cannot appreciate any suggestion for limiting its circulation in any way. We are not a mutual admiration society, and our members have not instructed us to prepare a Directory in order that they may have the satisfaction of seeing their names in print. No, the listing of all the names and addresses of our members, with their principal specialities is, we hope a means of placing in the hands of book-buyers and collectors greater, better and more detailed information on the potentialities of this trade; and we hope that the result will be that we shall all get more customers and sell more books.
President: I cannot agree with Mr. Hertzberger either. The Directory must be given as wide a circulation as possible. How many foreign booksellers alone have we not known who had no idea where to find what they were seeking! On the other hand, I feel that without advertisements we may not get out.
Mr. Tulkens: We decided in London to accept advertisements in order to create new resources for the League.
Mr. Massey: Returning to the London discussions, I have the impression that the small booksellers may not be pleased if there are advertisements in the Directory.
President: But this question was decided in London, and I doubt whether we have the power to reopen it.
Mr. Poursin: But the support for accepting advertisements came largely from the A.B.A. and if they have now revised their standpoint I believe that the French Association would be disposed to reopen the question.
Mr. De Nobele: I see no reason why we should not change our opinions, seeing that we have been granted full powers. We might arrive at different conclusions on certain questions that were treated a little hastily in London.
Mr. Muir: It seems, therefore, to depend upon whether the British delegate has been furnished with instructions by his Association to reopen this question and to press for its reconsideration.
Mr. Massey: No! I have no such instructions. The support for publicity in London was given with the idea of providing the League with funds.
Mr. De Nobele: I put the question once more as it was put in London; that advertisements be sought, but not from booksellers. On principle I object to advertisements emanating from booksellers. My attitude remains the same; I do not exclude publicity from those other than booksellers.
Mr. Muir: Might it be left to the Committee to apportion the number of advertisement pages allocated to each Association and to leave it to each Association to decide for itself what sort of advertisements it accepts, always with the understanding that it should do its best to fill the pages allocated to it.
President: I propose that you should make a fundamental decision whether you would prefer to reopen this question altogether, or whether the London decision should be maintained.
(The voting was equal - five on each side)
I have the horrible task of giving a casting vote. But as we have some time in front of us before the Directory can be printed, I propose to you to refer the whole subject back to your own Associations and to give us your decisions in writing. We will decide in Committee whether or not to accept advertisements from booksellers.
Mr. Rauch: What net sum are the advertisements expected to produce?
Mr. Poursin: That was the question which we put to you and we addressed ourselves to the Associations. There is the question of quantative relations between each country. After a brief reflection, you would say to us as an indication: we could place so and so many pages of advertisements. On our side we could deduct from that wh at the Directory would be likely to cost. It is very simple, the gross cost of 200 pages is likely to be in the region of Frs. Frs. 500,000, i.e. Fr. Frs. 2,500 per page. It seems clear to me, under these circumstances, that we could not accept advertisements at a lower rate than Fr. Frs. 7,500 per page (say, approximately, Sw. frs. 90) which would give us a profit of Fr. Frs. 5,000 per page.
President: I do not believe that most of you are prepared to give us an indication of how many pages you think you could place. I therefore ask you to write later to the Committee on this subject and, if the proposal to accept the advertisements of booksellers is maintained, how many pages should be reserved for them.
Mr. Tulkens: Could not Mr. Poursin establish the price for advertisers who are members of the League and the price for non-members, so that we know where we are?
Mr. Poursin: I can tell you that there will be at least one opinion that no space should be reserved for any advertisement whatsoever by booksellers who are not members of their national associations. I think that the price that I have just given you is approximately the limit.
President: Any other observation? None!
I will now raise the question of subscriptions to the Directory. I would ask you to consult your members and to let us know as rapidly as possible how many copies you can subscribe for and to give an undertaking to pay in advance Sw. frs. 5 for each copy.
Mr. Poursin: And each Association could recoup itself for these sums from its members.
President: Do you propose a sum of Sw. frs. 5 or 10?
Mr. De Nobele: If it is the Associations that are to make the advance, there is a material question to decide. If we seek subscriptions from our members, we need precise information on the price.
Mr. Poursin: The question is not well framed. I would like each Association to take its own risks and to add a certain number of copies.
President: I will make you a proposition. Whenever you send me the number of copies subscribed for by your Associations, I will advance the funds required to set things going and you will pay in full on or before the date of publication.
Mr. Tulkens: That is magnificent. We thank you.
Mr. Hertzberger: Would it be possible to pay for the Directory in another country?
President: What do you think of my proposition?
(Grateful and unanimous acceptance).
In this case I ask you to send me as soon as possible the number of copies you need, with the understanding that you pledge yourselves to take up and pay for the copies subscribed by you.
Mr. Poursin: I naturally begin by thanking the President… It is important, nevertheless, that you take upon yourselves this charge.
I would like to put a question to you. Probably the Associations will promise us a minimum; I am sure that this minimum will be far less than the necessary size of the edition and if we confine ourselves to their numbers the cost price per copy will rise. We have calculated on a basis of 1500 copies, but it is impossible that the subscription should attain this figure, for our membership is less than 1000. It is therefore important to ask you this question. Are we authorised to print, let us say possibly double the number of copies subscribed for in order to reach an economic figure, given that one it has appeared we shall receive orders from masses of people. If we limit ourselves to 600 we should have a very high cost price and an insufficient number of copies. We look to you for our instructions and we ask your authority to make this reserve.
President: Are you agreeable to this suggestion to authorise the Committee and to cover it - if the number of copies subscribed for should be a minimum - in printing nevertheless the number they consider sufficient?
Mr. Massey: Have you an idea of the number of copies it is thought advisable to print?
President: 1500. Who is agreed that the Committee should be covered for the responsibility that it undertakes in the printing of the Directory?
Thank you, gentlemen.
Mr. Muir: The Presidents of the Associations are anxious to learn the approximate publication price of the Directory.
Mr. Poursin: Fr. Frs. 1000 for booksellers who are members of their national associations and from Fr. Frs 1500 to 2000 for others.
Mr. Aeschlimann: A purely formal question: An association could, of course, buy more.
President: Yes, of course.
Mr. Massey: Is it possible to know in advance what the advertisements will produce?
President: To reply to that we should require to know how many pages of advertisement would be taken up.
Mr. De Nobele: Could you fix the approximate sale price?
President: Let us say, double, Fr. Frs. 2000, for non-members.
Mr. De Nobele: I intend to ask for subscriptions in the Bouquiniste.
President: For the present let us say Fr. Frs 2000 for non-members.
(Editorial note: Most of the above discussion must be modified in view of the excellent news that the American Association has joined the League. The number of pages, the cost of production, the selling price and the approximate date of publication are all affected by this. The Committee will do its utmost to hasten the necessary negotiations; but the delay cannot be inconsiderable, if only because of the extra work entailed by analysing the American entries. The Presidents of the Associations will be informed at the earliest possible dates of the changes necessitated by this new state of affairs.)
No. 4 on the Agenda. The Dictionary
President: We will take No. 4 on the Agenda. The Dictionary.
This matter being much less advances (the position being much the same as in September of last year in London) I feel that there is no urgency and that we may postpone this discussion until the Conference in September next.
Mr. Hertzberger: I agree with that. The Dutch text is ready and I have added about 200/300 words. Could you send me a copy of the complete text as soon as possible?
(This was promised on returning to Geneva).
President: Any observations?
Mr. Aeschlimann: I certainly have a proposal to make; but I will hold it over until September. It is, in essence, that the Dictionary should be confided to a publisher.
President: That is something that we could not refuse to discuss. The question remains in suspense. The advantage of publishing it ourselves is that it would be the League’s own Dictionary and that Unesco might take, from us, a very considerable number for distribution. That is why it seems preferable to me that the Dictionary should be published by the League, which should profit by it, otherwise the profits will go to the publisher.
Mr. Massey: Any funds needed now?
President: It is with the object of not asking you for funds now that we shall resume discussion of the Dictionary next September and it will thus appear in the budget for 1951. We will take now:
No. 5 of the Agenda. Modification of the Committee.
President: My dear Menno, I ask you once more very earnestly; Do you not wish to withdraw your resignation of the position of Treasurer of the League? We all regret it, even though you do remain on the Committee. (Mr. Hertzberger silently declines). The hart has its reasons, of which reason is ignorant. Gentlemen, I ask Mr. Hertzberger, very amicably to withdraw his resignation. His is treasurer only in name, in reality I am the Treasurer, but even though he remains on the Committee I deplore his decision.
Mr. De Nobele: I would like to ask Mr. Hertzberger the reasons that impel him to resign, for there certainly must be reasons and if they are valid we accept his resignation.
President: They are reasons of personal convenience.
Mr. Muir: Seeing that the Treasurer’s work is already done in Geneva by Mrs. Cottet, the League Secretary, I propose that we suppress the post of Honorary Treasurer and appoint Mrs. Cottet Secretary and Treasurer.
Mr. De Nobele: By all means as far as the material question goes, but in France, for example, these functions cannot be transmitted to anyone who is not a member of the Committee.
President: I will put this to the vote. Who is in favour of suppressing the post of Treasurer and of confiding its duties to Mrs. Cottet?
Mr. De Nobele: Shall we transfer the responsibilities to the President who would thus become Treasurer (as he is in fact) but I maintain that the post cannot be confided to an administrative secretary.
Mr. Hertzberger: The Dutch Association is of the same opinion as France.
President: Then I will make another proposal; to appoint Mr. Poursin Honorary Treasurer and to leave the work to me.
And now I ask Mr. De Nobele to withdraw his question to Mr. Hertzberger, I ask him in a friendly way.
Mr. De Nobele: I am quite ready to withdraw it, but Mr. Hertzberger should withdraw his resignation.
Mr. Hertzberger: I wrote to the Committee.
President: Are you agreed that Mr. Poursin should be Honorary Treasurer?
Mr. Poursin: What is the point of creating an honorary position denuded of all reality?
President: It is necessary to satisfy everyone. I insist that you accept the post of Honorary Treasurer.
Mr. Poursin: If it is specified formally that I have no responsibility and I leave that to our dear President, who has come so well out of it. The funds go to Geneva and, from Paris, it is impossible for me to do anything. This is a nomination not only useless, but even vexatious.
President: Do you agree?
Mr. Poursin: Yes, with these formal reservations.
No. 6 on the Agenda. Collective Insurance.
President: This collective insurance - if we can bring it about - an insurance at Lloyds which would cover all risks in your respective countries and abroad, in fact every despatch entailing risk, and it would be for all the members of the League, that is for all who take it up and take up their quota. Suppose that all our members take it up, the gross premium would be divided by the number of members insured. France, with its 360 members, would pay 360 parts of the gross premium, etc. etc. Collective insurance at Lloyds would have this immense advantage that it would be with a Company with which I have had long experience and which covers one in his national currency, or in dollars, or Swiss Francs on condition that the premium is paid in hard currency. For example, I am covered continually for everything that appertains to my business, for any object that leaves my premises and at the moment it leaves my premises, up to a sum of Sw. frs. 60,000 for any sending.
Mr. Tulkens: What control is there on their part?
President: Once a year I pay for my policy and at the end of each year I give a statement of my despatches. Thus if I sell a book for Sw. frs. 1000, which has cost me 500, and if that book is lost, the Company pays me Sw. frs. 1000. For sendings “on approval”, Lloyds take the view that the client might not have accepted the book, and they propose the net price plus 25% profit, or the selling price less 20%. I pay in all Sw. frs. 550 per annum.
Mr. Tulkens: In my arrangements I must send to my Company a copy of the invoice of every insured package.
Mr. Rauch: I am also insured at Lloyds and I would point out that the premium is based on the indications that one gives. For example, for me, it costs me about Sw. frs. 0.30 for Sw. frs. 100 insured.
President: My arrangements comprise annual assured sendings of about Sw. frs. 450,000
Mr. Massey: I will approach my Association on this; but I think they mostly have their own insurance arrangements.
President: If we take a collective policy it will be much cheaper. What I ask of you all is to bring the question before the next General Meeting of your Associations… In parenthesis, Mr. Tulkens sent me a case of books containing two books of value that disappeared between Brussels and Geneva. Lloyds paid without comment.
Mr. Tulkens: They came to see ma and asked me for an exact description of the books in order to make enquiries.
President: Take it up with your Associations if, in principle, they are interested in this and which of your members are personally interested and, if so, what is the approximate gross figure of their sendings, whether internally or abroad. Lloyds need these figures in order to calculate the premium asked of us. Let me know all that you send and all that you receive, this circulation figure and also the number in your Association who are interested in this thing. The smaller booksellers will doubtless not be interested.
Mr. Hertzberger: If a book is lost en route, what do you do?
President: Well I give notice of the fact. For example, if I ask for a book from you “on approval” or firm and that book is lost, I tell Lloyds and they pay me.
Mr. Rauch: (Addressing the President personally). If I send you a book, you are insured at Lloyd’s and I also, what happens?
Mr. Tulkens: Lloyds could probably insure a group of booksellers.
President: That is exactly what we are trying to arrange; a global insurance for all booksellers who are members of the League who wish to partake in it and all on one single policy.
Mr. Aeschlimann: Have you so far any text for this proposal?
Mr. Rauch: If 1000 members are insured, they would never risk disputing a risk for fear of losing the collective insurance so important to them.
Mr. De Nobele: If France has a group of booksellers interested in this collective insurance where would the premium be payable?
President: If you wish to pay the premium in French Francs you could pay in France. If you wish to pay the premium in Swiss Francs it is necessary to pay in dollars or in Swiss Francs and you would arrange to pay in or other of those two countries.
Mr. Tulkens: When we have the information shall we send it to the League?
President: Yes and I will forward it to Mr. Muir who will see our agent in London. Nothing will be done without the approval of the Associations. Only I need this information and I hope you will let me have it very quickly. We may discuss it further this evening.
No.7 on the Agenda. Argentine Debtors.
President: I have the pleasure to inform you that most of the Argentine booksellers have paid. I have just received from the A.B.A. a list of English booksellers who have been paid by their Argentine debtors.
Argentine can now pay in all countries except USA and Switzerland. If you now have Argentine debtors who do not pay you it is a proof of bad faith on their part for they can pay. On this subject I put in my Memorandum: “We dare to hope that the repeated approaches that the Committee has made have not been without effect on the decisions of the Argentine Government to release these payments for most countries.” In fact, in the new conventions old books are expressly mentioned as articles that should be paid for.
No. 8 on the Agenda. Additions to and Modifications of the Rules.
Mr. Hertzberger: I agree about two official languages, but suppose I speak sometimes in Dutch?
President: I would ask someone to translate into English and then into French.
Are there any observations on this addition to the rules? None. Then it is adopted.
Addition No. 2: That all decisions passed by a General Assembly of the League be loyally carried out by members. I must make a small comment. My intention on this was that when a decision such as taken today on the subject of the subscription for 1950, or if there is a decision relevant to the whole League, such as the decision to print the Minutes of the London Conference, that such a decision should have the force of a law, that is to say that in this particular instance Denmark, for instance, should not be able to say, we will not comply. I desire that when it is a question concerning the League in its entirely, these decisions should be carried out by everyone.
Mr. Massey: I think it should be established that a unanimous decision by the members of the League should be observed by everyone.
Mr. Muir: I think we should proceed with caution here or we may find ourselves defeating the very object we have in view. It is not the first time I have emphasized the need for caution in matters of this kind. There are certain questions on which the position of a delegate is actually strengthened by the right to refer decisions to his own Association for ratification and in which he is more likely to join a unanimous vote if he is granted that power.
We desire unanimity wherever possible and unanimity would make it more difficult for any particular Association to take exception to a decision of an important nature. But, for example, on a tricky point, where a delegate is rather uncertain of his Association’s standpoint, he might be more reluctant to make the vote unanimous if he knew that such a vote was absolutely binding on his own Association, than he would be if he were covered by the caveat of ratification. Moreover, as I have indicated, he would be more likely to achieve ratification from his own Association if there was a unanimous vote that if he had himself abstained.
Let us, therefore, be quite sure that we are taking the best road to unanimity before we embark.
President: The proposal must be modified. The objection is tangent; it could lead to abuses. In fact I think it should be withdrawn.
Mr. De Nobele: I agree entirely in view of its ambiguity. If I understand correctly the meaning is that when an undertaking is assumed it should be fulfilled. Nevertheless, it might be useful to provide for cancellation of membership for non-payment of subscriptions voluntarily agreed to.
Mr. Poursin: That is to say that it is necessary to carry out one’s engagements.
President: Addition No. 3. This would empower us to call conferences of the Presidents such as this and would give this and similar conferences the status of an Extraordinary General Meeting. Any observations? No objections? No. 3 is adopted.
Mr. De Nobele: As the representative of the French Association, I propose as an addition to the rules: Any National Association that shall fail to carry out the obligations that it has undertaken towards the League, and especially where the subscription is concerned, may be expelled by a decision taken at a General Assembly.
Mr. Poursin: I do not know whether it would not be advisable to revise the wording of that to make it more comprehensive before a vote is taken. It could create a certain number of difficulties; It seems to imply a certain limitation of the conditions of exclusion. We are a League of co-optation, if someone is unanimously found disagreeable it is necessary that we have powers of exclusion. In statutory form it is a rather serious matter, unless the text is carefully reviewed beforehand.
Mr. De Nobele: There might be other reasons. For example if a certain country gave cause for offence.
President: I propose that this be restricted to the subscriptions and to say “Any National Association not having voluntarily fulfilled its financial obligations to the League may be expelled by a decision taken at a General Assembly.”
Mr. Rauch: Supposing that country cannot pay.
President: I will put it to the vote. Who is in favour of this addition to the rules? No objection?
(This article was adopted and added to the rules).
President: Now we come to the modifications. Paragraph 6 is unnecessary as we have dealt with it under Finance.
Paragraph 8. (A purely formal regularisation of the responsibility for finance). No objections? Adopted.
Gentlemen, there remains only the final item on the Agenda; Other Business. Would you prefer to begin on these matters now and to finish with them, or do you prefer that we should continue tomorrow?
The heading Other Business comprises not a few subjects, let us decide unanimously, in view of the advanced hour, to close this meeting and to begin afresh tomorrow, Sunday, January 22nd at 10 a.m.
Brussels, Sunday 22nd January, 1950 - 10.30 a.m.
General Assembly (2nd Day)
President: Gentlemen, I declare the meeting open.
First of all, I have forgotten to ask you yesterday on the question of the Rules, if you agree that they should be printed, in two languages, separately, because up to the present these Rules have not appeared except in the Minutes of the Copenhagen Conference. Since then they have been modified on two occasions and no complete text exists. I believe it is important to distribute them to the members of the League, to send them to America, and each Association can give them to its new members, for they will be automatically affiliated to the League.
Now Gentlemen, let us resume our discussion. I will circulate to you two things: (1) My insurance policy with Lloyds for the year 1948/49, a policy no longer of value to me. I show it to you so that you may study it and I would propose to have Photostats made of it which I would send one to each President of the national associations. It will explain the matter to you much more clearly than anything I may have told you about it yesterday.
Are you agreed that I make these Photostats? (Agreed).
Now I will circulate a Glossary that appeared in the Antiquarian Bookman (an American publication), and which has been passed on to me by Mr. Tulkens. It includes technical terms in several different languages.
Before going any further I will thank Mr. Tulkens and the Belgian association for the magnificent soiree that we have been offered yesterday.
(General and prolonged acclamation…)
President: Gentlemen, be serious.
I received only yesterday evening a letter from Mr. Nebehay, President of the Austrian Association, a letter that I will ask Mr. Muir to read to you, as it is in English.
(This letter expressed the agreement of the Austrian Association with all the proposals, and with the modifications of the Committee meetings and the rules. For the subscription preference was expressed for the first proposal.)
President: Mr. De Nobele, have you received any designs for the emblem?
Mr. De Nobele: I have to inform you that nobody has replied to my letter except Mr. Cappelen (Norway) and Finland, which has sent me a copy of its national emblem. On the other hand, I have a sketch for the emblem from France, made by Paul Bonet, who, as you know, is a great artist.
Mr. Cappelen, junior: My father has asked me to give you some sketches for an emblem for our League. Some time ago the foreign countries were called upon that every country should try to find a good solution. In Norway we asked some young artists to send us sketches. We told them that they would not be paid for their work. Four artists tried, but only three of them had finished by the time we went away. The sketches are not good. One of them might be of some interest, but we brought all of them with us to show you that we, in Norway, take an interest in the League and its international work.
Mr. De Nobele: Mr. Cappelen, I thank you, for Norway is the only country to respond to my demand.
Mr. Cappelen: As my personal opinion, may I add that we never will get a good emblem as long as we try to have both the English and the French texts in it. Can we not make any abbreviations and use only initials instead of the words in full? I am sure that is better.
Mr. Muir: The English artist said the same about this question, that it would not be possible to make an acceptable design with the words in full.
Mr. Massey: The A.B.A. has also discussed the matter. We are preparing some projects and will send them to the Committee when they are finished.
President: You will tell me what you think of these projects that you have just seen here. The Committee will take the question up again at its next meeting and will see whether any design may be chosen from those that have been submitted.
President: I would like to call your attention to the various tasks that Mr. Thommen has undertaken for us. There is first the official standing of the League. It has none at present. In fact it is established at Geneva which is the domicile of its President. I might find myself in difficulties over that. Because I imagine that one day the League may have a great deal of money. I have opened a banking account and when I made withdrawals from it the Bank Manager has said to me: “This is all very well, but how do I know that you are the President of this League and that you have the sole power of signature.” It is all not very legal.
Naturally I was able to arrange all that, these objections being hardly more than a matter of pure form on the part of the Manager, who knows me well. But in fact the position is the following: Should we enter the League on the Commercial Register of Geneva so that it may acquire a legal standing? It presents no inconvenience for even in the case of a change of President, even if no single member is in Switzerland, as a non-profit making organisation. It is a simple administrational formality. But is it worth the trouble? Is it necessary? For the financial question I have entered personal guarantees with the bank.
Mr. De Nobele: Could not the League be entered in some other place than the Commercial Register?
President: No, in Switzerland there is nothing else. Besides it is actually a false designation: Commercial Register.
Mr. De Nobele: Are there any disadvantages?
President: No. There are no fees. I see only advantages… Now I put the question to you for I think there is some point in providing the League with a legal address.
Mr. De Nobele: Yes, for unforeseen eventualities, war, etc.
President: While you pay your subscriptions by the “clearing” the Swiss Office of Compensation may say to me one day: “Your League, what is it all about? You receive these subscriptions, but who is to satisfy us that they do not find their way into France, or elsewhere…” If we are not registered, I am afraid that the Office of Compensation may one day rap me over the knuckles; and such contretemps may be averted by the entry of the League on the Commercial Register.
Mr. Massey: I think it should be done.
President: Then there is no opposition. We can enter the League in the Commercial Register in Geneva, as an International Society without profit-making ends. I will add that although the League might have no members in Switzerland the registration could remain without inconvenience.
President: Mr. De Nobele asked in London that there should be an enquiry into the various regulations and laws in the countries that are members of the League on the subject of book-thefts. Mr. Thommen was charged with this enquiry and has received no replies, apart from that given him by Mr. De Nobele before leaving London last September. This is also concerned with the sale of stolen books. The laws relating to this being different in every country, it is very important to know what they are.
Mr. Tulkens: Is the receiving of stolen goods not an offence in Switzerland?
President: As an example, if someone comes to my shop and brings me a valuable books, I am not called upon to demand the name of the vendor. If it is a stolen book I may keep it because “I acquired it in good faith.”
Mr. Rauch: For myself, who live in the Canon of Vaud - and not, like Mr. Kundig in the Canton of Geneva - in a similar case I should be called to return the book.
Mr. Tulkens: In Belgium we must ask for the identity of the vendor.
President: That is why it is necessary for the League to assemble the various codes and laws by which the theft of books and the purchase of stolen books is covered by the various countries.
Mr. Muir: The principal object of this request at the London Conference was I think, that despite certain differences about this matter, the members of the League might agree to make a kind of Gentlemen’s Agreement among themselves.
Mr. De Nobele: In the Canton of Vaud booksellers are classed with dealers in old clothes and are subject to the same ruling as we are in France. It is not a general law for the whole of Switzerland.
President: Gentlemen, I recommend you once more to send the necessary information so that we may arrive at a “Gentleman’s Agreement”.
Here is what Mr. Thommen wrote to me on the subject of the exchange of booksellers’ juniors and apprentices between the different countries of the League…
Mr. Massey: Mr. Thommen complains that nobody has replied, but my letter is dated January 15, the same as that of the letter of the President. How could he possibly have received any replies?
President: Gentlemen will you please reply now to Mr. Thommen for it is certainly advantageous to make such exchanges. For example, I am quite sure that if the son of a foreign bookseller wished to come to Switzerland that could be easily arranged.
Mr. Hertzberger: As far as Holland is concerned, it can also be done, but they will have to have the same salary.
Mr. Tulkens: In Belgium it is absolutely free. We may engage any foreigner we like but there is a minimum wage. Only music-hall artists need a work contract.
President: Now comes the question of the Black List. Nobody has sent me a Black List. I have asked for it instantly in London and that was agreed. Nevertheless I have received nothing.
Mr. Muir: Gentlemen you were also reminded of it by letters sent from Geneva as a result of the Committee Meeting of November 1949.
Mr. Tulkens: After how many reminders is a firm put on the Black List?
President: If a firm has not replied to my second demand, sent by registered post, or if it does not react in any way whatsoever, I put it on the Black List.
Mr. Tulkens: If a private individual is concerned it would be a rather more delicate matter.
President: With a private individual action is taken when he is proved to be a professional swindler.
Mr. De Nobele: There is in France an organisation calling itself l’UNIDIG, which possesses a card-index. This card-index is concerned almost exclusively with defaulting booksellers (new books). We had thought of obtaining copies of these cards but we gave up the idea because we had no direct interest in it. I do not think that the League would be interested either, because, in addition, it costs Fr. Frs. 20,000 annually. Further we have a Black Book in preparation, for the old one, dating from 1935, has no current interest. Between 1940 and 1946 there were no bad payers. The new Black Book has therefore only been begun a year or two since.
Mr. Hertzberger: Is the information on the Black List confidential?
President: All that is said here is confidential.
Mr. Hertzberger: I have had difficulties with a certain firm in New York, which behaves very craftily. They complain on the receipt of books that they are imperfect, but, as I have collated them, I insist that they are complete and that they should be returned. Only then does the firm agree to pay in full.
Mr. De Nobele: The Publisher’s Association circulates to its subscribers a list of names with a code-letter to each which means “in default” or “reference necessary” or “known as a bad payer”, according to the different qualifications used.
Mr. Tulkens: If this is repeated several times could not the bureau be attacked?
President: In New York there are several bad payers, among others. X. who also sends arrogant replies.
There is another in New York. Y. I have succeeded in enforcing payment each time by menacing him with the Black List.
Mr. Tulkens: There is also the X.Y.Z. I do not understand why Want List continues to print the lists of rascals like these.
Mr. Muir: They pay against pro-forma invoices.
President: There is also T. He is not bad but he demands long credit. He has always paid me.
Mr. Aeschlimann: Is he in the American Association?
President: There has never been a legal proceeding against him. Whereas with some others…!
Mr. Pedersen has given me a letter about A. of happy memory!
(The letter was read saying that nothing would be paid out until all creditors had accepted the offer of the final payment of 40% in full settlement)
Mr. De Nobele: If the 40% is accepted the firm will begin again. There was already a predecessor of Antiquarius itself.
President: If the 40% is accepted the same situation may recur. But it is better to have 40% than nothing.
Mr. Aeschlimann will take up the matter of the Italian creditor-firm.
We will write direct to E. Brothers. As to Want List the matter is already liquidated.
President: We must now examine the question of Exhibitions. Various ideas have been proposed in London. There was the Marks proposal. (Mr. Massey undertook to re-open this matter in London).
Has anyone any observations on Exhibitions? No one.
There is also the question of an auction sale for the benefit of the League. Proposal made in London.
Mr. Rauch: I have written to all the Presidents about this. England could not obtain authorisation to send books abroad without repatriation of the currency neither could France. From Switzerland I received a few packages, but the books sent were of too little value.
Mr. Aeschlimann: Was there a reply from our President, Mr. Oschki?
Mr. Rausch: No.
Mr. Hertzberger: From Holland books cannot be sent to Switzerland without payment in return.
President: I have received a very pleasant letter from Mr. Jorma, of the Finnish Association. (Mr. Muir read the letter in English and Mr. Kundig translated it into French). He proposes that we should arrange an auction sale in Paris at the time of the next Conference, in September.
Mr. Poursin: Unfortunately it is impossible in September and that closes the question. Besides, in France, there are unavoidable expenses.
Mr. De Nobele: It is very simple in Paris, the sale expenses are 20% and a 10% registration fee also disappears.
President: Do you think it could be done?
Mr. De Nobele: There is the question of the date. In Paris, in September, no one would dream of holding an auction.
President: We will reply to Mr. Jorma, telling him that while we thank him for his idea it is unfortunately unrealisable.
Mr. Rauch: All the same the books are still lacking, for those I have received are almost unsaleable.
President: Purely as an informatory measure, I would like to ask each delegation present here its feeling about the German booksellers, in case - which is bound to arise - they would request affiliation to the League, whether it is advisable to include their candidature on the Agenda of the next Conference. I have received a letter from Herr Domizlaff, which asks, among other things, for details of the London Conference and whether the Directory is to appear without the German booksellers in it.
I will put this question to you individually. What is your opinion? Should we envisage the inclusion on the Agenda or should we dispose of it immediately?
Mr. De Nobele, what is your opinion?
Mr. De Nobele: My opinion, entirely a personal one, is that we should await the conclusion of a peace treaty before considering commercial relations with these gentlemen.
Mr. Aeschlimann: I have already said yesterday that the Italians think, practically, that for a Directory the Germans and the Americans are needed.
Mr. Rauch: I think Switzerland could not object if he other countries who were at war with Germany accept. It is obvious that it would be better that every country should be represented. A great country like Germany will be missed in the Directory.
Mr. Pedersen: Speaking personally and for the Danes: the Scandinavian countries would willingly accept the Germans into the League.
Mr. Tulkens: Commercial relations between Belgium and Germany are reopening supported by the Government. The Austrians have been accepted who were also enemies during the war.
Mr. Massey: Speaking for my Committee I am of the opinion of Mr. De Nobele to await the signing of a peace treaty. Bu tI also see the inconvenience of an address book which does not comprise the German booksellers.
Mr. Hertzberger: I am of the same opinion as Mr. De Nobele and Mr. Massey.
President: Now comes the question - as I shall certainly receive a letter of candidature - would it be convenient to carry the question before the next Conference? Naturally the Germans cannot appear in the first edition.
Mr. Muir: I speak not purely as a member of the Committee when I say that I hope we shall not vote on this. To introduce this question so soon might endanger that amity and goodwill which is at the root of our relations as members of the League. I feel that it is dangerous and undesirable to open the discussion of a question that might seriously affect the friendship between one member and another.
Commercially speaking short memories may be a good thing. I don’t know about that. But there are countries represented here, and who will be represented in Paris, whose memories are long and biter of a country from whose cruel depredations they have suffered twice in one lifetime. It is, I feel, premature to introduce this question yet awhile.
Mr. De Nobele: the word premature is exactly right.
President: Are you agreed? (Agreed).
President: Thre is the question of the Unesco Bonds. I do not know whether the Presidents have received the latest information on these, from December 1949. It is a very curious story.
Mr. De Nobele: For all practical purposes the scheme has become useless for Western Europe, because we can no longer pay for them at all. As regards the U.S. the discount is reduced to 15% for second hand books. We are obliged to pass our orders through the ABAA, which adds a commission of 15%, plus 3 to 4% on the arrival of the goods in France. We have all an interest in demanding foreign currency from the Office of Exchange.
Mr. Cappelen: We never use these bonds.
Mr. Tulkens: Neither do we.
Mr. Pedersen: Nor Denmark either.
President: Another thing. In the same bulletin, for the information of librarians, I notice that Unesco is prepared to announce catalogues of booksellers under a special heading.
Mr. Aeschlimann: Is it for catalogues of new books?
President: I called at the Unesco agency in Geneva for information and I was told that they are ready to announce any catalogue containing books that might interest libraries to which their bulletin goes. The address is Unesco, 19 rue Kleber, Paris.
Mr. Tulkens: Can one subscribe to their bulletin?
President: No. I receive it as President of the League, every month, and I am ready to lend it…
President: You may remember that you have asked me, sometime ago, to write to the Italian Government. I have received a very friendly reply.
(The President wrote on behalf of the Italian Association to suggest the possibility of discussing the amelioration of the conditions governing the import and export of rare books.
The reply was to the effect that the question had been transmitted to the relevant Government Department and that the Italian Association was being invited to send a representative to discuss the matter and to suggest possible means of relaxation.)
Mr. Aeschlimann: Our President, Mr. Olschki, is leaving for Rome to meet the Government’s representatives. We are grateful to the League, whose intervention has met with success and I will keep you in touch with the results of this interview.
President: You will recall the London Conference instructed us to write to all the governments. We have had numerous friendly replies, among them from the French Ambassador at Berne of a very useful nature.
Now gentlemen, I come to the end of everything grouped under “Other Business”. Has anyone any other points to raise?
Mr. Massey: There is one thing that I would like discussed with the experience in mind of the great difficulty of arranging a Conference like the one held in London last September. It is certain that the Paris Conference will attract a very large number of visitors and I am wondering whether it would not be advisable to limit the number of persons from each country. The cost continues to grow every year and I think it should be regulated.
Mr. De Nobele: That seems to me a matter for the Committee.
President: The Committee should regulate it. Mr. Dawson, of Los Angeles, is definitely coming and he is not yet a member of the League.
Mr. De Nobele: My personal opinion is that I am likely to be embroiled in terrible financial questions. We shall have many visitors, and if this competition to improve the reception of the visitors continues from Conference to Conference it will eventually entail material charges that will be impossible to support.
President: To what number should we limit the visitors from each country?
Mr. Muir: This is a question that concerns not only France but other countries in which later conferences will be held.
President: I think that we really could make some restrictions and that we might establish a rule for future conferences.
Mr. Muir: We might limit the number of invited guests, while encouraging as many other members as possible to attend, on condition that they pay for all the entertainments.
President: I would propose to limit to three the number of delegates from each country.
Mr. Poursin: That is rather few.
Mr. Aeschlimann: I thought five.
Mr. Rauch: I would propose to leave the delegates a little more time to see Paris with their wives and that one official dinner would be enough.
President: Let us leave the Parisians to do as they intend on that.
Mr. Aeschlimann: Could it not be decided that the delegates pay for their wives?
Mr. De Nobele: I think that would be contrary to French tradition. Let us say five delegates from each country, accompanied by their wives.
President: Any further discussion?
Mr. Hertzberger: In the name of the Dutch Association and of all the delegates here present I would like to offer our thanks to the President for the marvellous way he has conducted this meeting.
(Agreed with acclamation).
Mr. Tulkens: I am sure I also speak for all the delegates here present when I offer our thanks to Mr. Muir for translating all the French speeches and observations with such ease and ability.
President: Gentlemen, I thank you for all your understanding and for your remarkable spirit of conciliation. Without this mutual understanding we should have achieved nothing. Once more, our thanks to you all.
Mr. Muir: I would like to see recorded in those minutes our thanks for the patience and efficiency with which our two charming stenographers have fulfilled their arduous duties.
(Carried with applause).