Georges A. Deny
“Dans le monde du livre ancien et de la recherche bibliographique, deux personnages sont, jours après jours, confrontés à des problèmes de recherche, d’identification et d’évaluation d’oeuvres anciennes, précieuses ou non: Le conservateur de bibliothèque et le libraire antiquaire. Le second, tout particulièrement, car de sa science et de ses connaissences dépendent son commerce et sa réputation.“
Georges A. Deny
A Tribute to Georges A. Deny by Eric Speeckaert, read during ILAB's General Assembly in Edinburgh on 24th September 2000
On 1st October 1999, the warm sunshine shone upon the booksellers who were attending the scattering of Georges Deny's ashes, ILAB President of Honor, at Brussel's crematorium.
Faithful to his philosophical convictions which lead him to carry out high responsabilities in the Belgian Free-Masonry, Georges Deny was also true to his Belgian and foreign colleagues.
Born in Brussels on 15th May 1920, Georges was an eminent sportsman and a great amateur of "la petite reine", the French poetic name for bicycle. He was the Belgian champion back in 1938 - in the junior amateur category - and in 1939 in the military category. He took part in the world championships in Amsterdam in 1938. In 1940, the war put an end to his sports career. His participation to the fighting earned him decorations and the unenvied title of war invalid.
Georges did not like to advertise his past and feats of arms. He was a man of the present, and he made the most of every day while sharing with his friends and family his joy of living and his epicurism.
Being very discreet, we do not have any record as to his beginnings as a bookdealer. He joined the Belgian Association of Antiquarian and Modern Booksellers in 1946, and his international contacts lead him to work with the ILAB Committee, first as its Treasurer from 1958 to 1960, and then as its President from 1960 to 1965, a time of unrest for the League. In 1962 he founded the Triennial World Prize of Bibliographical Search (today: ILAB Breslauer Prize for Bibliography) of which he was President up to 1967, and thereafter its Secretary up to 1977.
In February 1975, Antoine Grandmaison as President of Honor of SLAM, presented him with the distinction of the Knight of the Arts, showing thus that Georges Deny's merit in the world of books went way beyond his country's boundaries.
Georges Deny did not seek honors or official mandates, he just assumed his responsabilities when the need arose. His good humour, his charisma, his moderation and his discretion, but also his sense of duty, allowed many conflicts inherent in every profession to be solved.
He published in 30 years less than 25 catalogues, in small quantities, and all in his favourite fields - philosophy, occult, freemasonry; but he left a classic to posterity: the first complete and annotated edition of Paul Fesch's Bibliography of Freemasonry and Secret Societies, which he published in 1976 after having found a complete set of proofs of the original edition.
Those who met him in his different bookshops, which looked more like amateur cabinets than shops, will remember his laughter and his welcome. A good cigar or a pipe in his hand, he liked to share his knowledge and experience without having any commercial interest or objectives, despite the great number of precious or curious books lying on his shelves.
Brave in the face of adversity and of the illness which was carrying him away inexorably, he remained an example of courage till the end.
(The tribute was published in the ILAB Newsletter 53.)