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Copenhagen 1948 - The Founding of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

How it all began: the minutes of the Congress in Copenhagen 1948, where the ILAB was officially founded and where the first President and the first ILAB Committee were elected. Lots of decisions were taken before the delicious Farewell Dinner with: "Harengs à la Danoise, Homards, Crevettes, Écrevisses, Saumon fumé, Anguille, Canard, Dindon, Côtes d'Agneau, Fromage", and Tuborg. Einar Grønholt Pedersen was President of the Danish Association of Antiquarian Booksellers at that time and host of the Congress which was to become the hour of birth of the League. He opened the Congress with an excellent speech about ILAB's aims and its ideas which unite the affiliates all over the world, in 1948 - and today.

Published on 11 March 2011

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How it all began: the minutes of the Congress in Copenhagen 1948, where the ILAB was officially founded and where the first President and the first ILAB Committee were elected. Lots of decisions were taken before the delicious Farewell Dinner with: "Harengs à la Danoise, Homards, Crevettes, Écrevisses, Saumon fumé, Anguille, Canard, Dindon, Côtes d'Agneau, Fromage", and Tuborg. Einar Grønholt Pedersen was President of the Danish Association of Antiquarian Booksellers at that time and host of the Congress which was to become the hour of birth of the League. He opened the Congress with an excellent speech about ILAB's aims and its ideas which unite the affiliates all over the world, in 1948 - and today.


Opening speech by the President of the Danish Association of Antiquarian Booksellers, Mr. E. GRØNHOLT PEDERSEN


Ladies and Gentlemen,

As President of the Danish Association of Antiquarian Booksellers, I have the pleasure and the privilege to welcome you to this International Congress, and to include a special word of welcome to those of you who have come from abroad - a welcome to Denmark - to Copenhagen.

Last year Holland took the initiative and invited antiquarians from all over Europe to attend a conference in Amsterdam. To this conference, in fact, the United States sent a special observer. The object of this important meeting was to consider the possibility of establishing an international organization for antiquarian booksellers, the need for which several of us had already begun to realize.

On that occasion Denmark was honoured by being requested to plan and arrange the second international congress where delegates from the different countries would be empowered to vote and decide on the question of establishing an international organization. And so, with your kind attendance and these words of welcome, we now open this Congress - this historic Congress - which, we feel, is going to mean so much to all antiquarian booksellers.

I am sure I can say, for all of us Danes who are occupied in the trade, that it is a very distinct pleasure to see assembled here today, delegates from every country possessing an Antiquarian Booksellers' organization. We take this as evidence of the importance of this Congress and the work which is going to occupy us in the course of the next few days.

I am sure all of us taking part in this Congress feel deeply grateful to the Dutch, whose initiative has made it possible for us to assemble here. Never before have so many antiquarian booksellers from so many different countries been called together to discuss matters of common interest.

It has rightly and frequently been said that trading in second hand books is an indispensable link in international co-operation. Cultural and scientific circles also acknowledge the significant part played by antiquarian booksellers and follow with interest the work we do. They will be interested in a still more effective co-operation of antiquarian booksellers all over the world. To strengthen the connection between the different countries, to raise the general standard of the profession and improve its efficiency in procuring rare publications, are matters of vital importance. This, briefly, is our aim. Though all the organizations have not a large number of members, their work benefits whole communities, often demanding disinterestedness of the bookseller and placing a responsibility on his shoulders.

The commodity we handle - the book - is, I daresay, about the most international thing on the world market. It is the support of the research worker and the scientist, the indispensable tool of the intellectual worker thirsting for knowledge. It satisfies the desires of all thinking and sensitive individuals. It is the inspiration behind new ideas, new deeds - and last, but not least, it fulfils a great mission in enlightening the masses.

Our mission is to find the right book, preserve and finally convey it to wherever it is needed and can bring benefit or pleasure. A mission which, by its very nature, imposes upon us a responsibility which we must not neglect.

With these thoughts in mind, I am sure that our meeting and discussing of the various problems on the agenda of the Congress will bear fruit. We are not political groups serving any specific party. We will listen impartially to one another's ideas and opinions on the subject under debate. There can be no doubt of the possibility of bringing this Congress to a successful conclusion, provided each one of us is possessed of the kind of understanding and spirit which tends to break down national barriers.

Our purpose, our task, and our temporal welfare are things which are not necessarily irreconcilable - on the contrary, I should like to express the wish that during the whole Congress we may preserve a feeling of fellowship which alone can produce the positive results which each and every one of us is looking forward to.

Finally, I should like to say that even if in our country and in this city we still feel some of the after-effects of the war and are therefore unable to provide for you as we should have liked, I am convinced that all our guest will feel, not only that we - their colleagues - are naturally their hosts during their entire stay in Denmark, but that wherever they go they will meet with the same cordial hospitality. And so on behalf of the Danish Association of Antiquarian Booksellers, I should like to bid each and every one of you welcome to this Congress. I should also like to extend my hearty thanks to all, who by word and deed have helped to make this Congress possible and I hope, one which will cling indelibly to our memory.


The speech was held at the Hotel d'Angleterre, Copenhagen, on September 1st, 1948. Afterwards the delegates from Holland, England, France, Belgium, Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Italy met for a three days conference to set up a constitution for the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers and to discuss its principles, rules and regulations.

>>> Read the minutes of the International Conference of Antiquarian Booksellers in Copenhagen 1948

>>> The History of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers

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