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Vienna Diary

Published on 19 April 2011

 Vienna Diary

Vienna - a beautiful jewel of a city, a cradle of European art, music and literature and the home of the famous “Wiener Schnitzel”. From October 6th to 10th the delegates of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers met in Austria’s capital for their annual Presidents’ meeting. It was Norbert Donhofer, president of the Austrian Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association, who brilliantly organized two memorable events of the antiquarian book calendar at the same place at the same time: The ILAB Presidents’ Meeting and the 26th Congress of the Association Internationale de Bibliophilie (AIB). 

“What a remarkable week it was and how privileged we were to see so much of your beautiful country’s heritage up close. We have been won over by Austria’s lovely river landscape, superb monasteries, fine cuisine and wine and rich book culture. Above all, your hospitality and that of your colleagues has made a deep and happy impression on us.” (Ann Marie Wall)

It was a week full of joy, cultural pleasures and historic moments for the future of ILAB. A diary:

Tuesday, October 6th

Arrival of the ILAB Committee members, meeting at Vienna’s Albertina which houses on of the world’s finest art collections.

Wednesday, October 7th

The ILAB Committee met in the the House of the Austrian Book Trade to discuss the future projects of the League: Adrian Harrington (ILAB President), Arnoud Gerits (Vice-President), Poul Jan Poulson, Tom Congalton, Norbert Donhofer, Paul Feain, Bob Fleck (ILAB President of Honour), Michael Steinbach (Immediate Past President), the Executive Secretary and the new Web Editor.


Thursday, October 8th

Göttweig – Melk – the “Nibelungenlied” and the lovely river Danube: a whole-day excursion together with the delegates of the 26th Congress of the Association Internationale des Bibliophiles. The weather was exceptional for the season: a blue sky and a temperature of 30°C. We left Vienna by bus very early and arrived at the Benedictine Monastery of Göttweig near Krems, rebuilt in the 18th Century after it was burnt down. The fresco decorating the imperial staircase, representing the Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI as Apollo, is considered a masterpiece of baroque architecture in Austria. The abbey’s library has a collection of 130.000 books and manuscripts and a particularly important collection of engravings. We were shown 120 masterpieces of the graphical cabinet, the museum, the church and exceptional manuscripts and early printed books, the oldest a Latin psalter from St. Gallen dated 870 or 880. A most delicious buffet lunch was prepared at the tavern of the monastery, where all the delegates and their partners had the opportunity to relax before getting back on the buses.


Our next stop was one of the world’s most famous monastic sites, also renowned for its extensive library which includes a great number of medieval manuscripts: the Benedictine Monastery of Melk. Today’s impressive baroque abbey was built in the 18th century and still harbours a school for about 900 pupils. We were shown the museum, the church and - exclusively for the ILAB and AIB delegates - a private exhibition with famous manuscripts and early printings on astronomy, science, natural history, philosophy, and literature: early editions of the works of Galen and Copernicus, “De temporum ratione” by Beda Venerabilis, the Benedictinian rules, Jacquin’s “Icones Plantarum” with marvellous colour plates, a Coronelli globe and – a manuscript fragment of the “Nibelungenlied”, written in the 13th century. Back to the Danube where a boat awaited us to take us on a cruise to the city of Krems. It was a perfect opportunity to enjoy the last hours of summer (it started raining the next day) with a good glass of Austrian wine in hand, chatting to friends and watching the beautiful view. Alas, all good things come to an end, and when the sun went down, the boat cruise was over. Once again, a delicious dinner at the Castle of Grafenegg, owned by the Duke Tassilo Metternich-Sandor, who was there to welcome us, before we went back to the buses for the return to Vienna after a long and enjoyable day.


Friday, October 9th

The day began with an Extraordinary Presidents’ Meeting and standing ovations for two new ILAB members: At 9 a.m. the presidents of the national associations formally admitted the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Associations of the People’s Federal Republic of China (ABAPRC) and the Forum Antikvarov Bukunistov (Russia) (FAB) to the ILAB. The vote was taken unanimously, and it was truly an historic moment, when ILAB President Adrian Harrington shook hands with Yu Hua Gang from China and Alexey Lukashin from Russia. (read the whole article) The League started with 10 members in 1948 and the aim of fostering peace and friendship through economic and cultural exchange between the nations. At the beginning of the 21st century the ILAB has really become global: with 22 national associations and more than 2000 rare booksellers in 32 countries, throughout the world. At the following Ordinary Meeting from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. the delegates discussed ILAB’s future projects: the stolen book database, an associate membership in the Confederation of Fine Art and Antique Dealers Associations (CINOA), the ILAB Breslauer Prize that will be awarded in 2010, and, most important, the forthcoming ILAB Congress and International Antiquarian Book Fair. It will be held in Bologna in 2010. ALAI President Umberto Pregliasco presented a fascinating programme (including a football match) that leads the Congress participants to the highlights of Renaissance culture, to the cradles of Italian art, music, literature, and book printing as well as to the marvellous sites of the Italian landscape. His words at the Presidents’ Meeting made sure: No ILAB affiliate, no rare book dealer and no bibliophile will be able to resist: They will all to come to Bologna in 2010.


In the evening Norbert Donhofer and his wife Inge welcomed the presidents, their partners and the delegates to a gala-diner at the elegant venue of the Palais Tedesco. It was a joyful evening after a successful day and, again, with a delicious meal. Between the courses with “Kürbiscremesuppe”, “Kalbsrücken”, “Schwammerlsauce” and “Mohnknöderl” Adrian Harrington thanked Norbert for his tremendous work and his enormous talent for organizing great events and bringing people together. The applause did not come to an end.


Saturday, October 10th

“I was […] accepted and received as Kapellmeisterin the service of his Highness, the prince; this is where I wish to live and where I wish to die.” Joseph Haydn, who wrote these words, lived and worked in Eisenstadt at the Esterházy castle. On Saturday we visited the exhibition “Haydn explosive” at the beautiful Baroque castle, before we went to Vienna for an event every antiquarian booksellers dreams of: a book fair held exclusively for the delegates of the ILAB Presidents’ Meeting and of the 26th Congress of the Association Internationale de Bibliophile. The Austrian dealers offered their best objects in the Austrian National Library: elegant bindings of the “Wiener Werkstätte”, incunabula, colour plate books, rare and valuable early printings, natural history, autographs and first editions, even a collection of manuscripts by Ludwig Wittgenstein. We all enjoyed our trip to Vienna, which was an extraordinary one – for the League, for the future of the rare book trade and for everyone who was fortunate enough to be a part of it.

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