History of the of the Syndicat Français de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM)
Founded on 23rd June 1914 on the initiative of 29 booksellers, the Syndicat Français de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne is the second oldest booksellers’ association worldwide, preceded by the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (ABA) only which was founded as early as 1906. Members of SLAM like André Poursin and Georges Blaizot wrote ILAB history as founding members of the League and as ILAB’s third president after William S. Kundig and Percy H. Muir in the early 1950s. Fernand de Nobele and Alain Nicholas served as ILAB Presidents from 1968 to 1972 and from 1996 to 1999. In the years 1950, 1961, and 1988 antiquarian booksellers from all over the world followed SLAM’s invitation to attend the 3rd, 14th and 29th Congresses of the International League. In 2014, SLAM celebrates its centenary with another major event: From 13th to 16th April booksellers from Europe, Asia, Australia and the United States gathered in Paris for the 41st ILAB Congress preceded by the Salon International du Livre Ancien and 25th ILAB International Antiquarian Book Fair which assembled nearly 200 rare book experts and their exquisite offers at the Grand Palais (Paris).
This history of the SLAM from 1914 to 1957, written by René Cluzel, was published in an early edition of the ILAB Newsletter.
Retracing the history - not to mention the prehistory - of the Syndicat Français de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne (SLAM) is not an easy task. The witnesses of the early days disappeared and the documents are often missing. As the archives were not kept with care, for want of fixed addresses (acquired only this year, in the rue Gît-le-Coeur) the traces we have managed to discover arc often faint, sometimes contradictory, and always inconsistent.
The Bouquinistc Français, official organ of the SLAM, not having appeared till seven years after the Syndicat was founded (1920!) we find ourselves in a shadowy period from 1914 to 1920, under the presidency of Edouard Rahir. From 1920 to our own times, the Bouquiniste Français, acquired by the SLAM in 1945, which became the Bulletin de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne in 1963, gives us a better insight into the problems, preoccupations and activities of the SLAM.
For the period before 1958 we have had to consult the available years in the Bibliothèque Nationale de Versailles (reference JO 82007). We may note that the SLAM has all the numbers appearing after 1958. We have also had recourse to various obituary notices; speeches and articles published on the occasion of Edouard Rahir’s death; President Dauthon's report on the Syndicat's activities from 1939-45; and reminiscences of some of our older colleagues at the time of the fiftieth anniversary in 1964.
We shall therefore seek to arrange our material around the Presidents who in the first instance have embodied the history of our association. We shall always try to underline the permanence and indeed the recurrence of the problems which exercised them and which remain with us today; relations, fiscal and otherwise, with government; customs and postal regulations: public sales; the status of ‘expert’: achievements of bookselling; the benevolent fund; etc.
The Foundation of SLAM
What strikes one most at first, from the beginnings of the SLAM, is the care with which not only the pioneers but their successors sought to 'spread the Book abroad' and also, of course, ideas about books. As Julien Cain, administrator of the Bibliothèque Nationale, stressed in 1958, this involved the 'Role and function of Bookselling, new and old'.
1914 saw the opening of a world tragedy, but likewise the end of a world distinguished by a certain life style - that of the 'Belle Epoque'. A certain manner of conducting antiquarian bookselling was similarly to be overturned. 23rd June 1914 saw the first sittings of the general constituting assembly of SLAM. And it was not perhaps by chance, goodwill, or simple love of genial fellowship that its founders decided to create it. With the First World War (the Second only speeded up the process) the quiet and peaceful years of a 'commerce', in the true and noble sense of the word, one which knew nothing of scarcities, crises, and administrative hassles, were to come to an end.
Who were the men who felt so keenly the need for a regrouping in the body of our profession? Jean Bergue (rue de Condé), Maurice Picard (rue Bonaparte), Auguste Blaizot, Henri Picard, Leon Carteret, Eugene Jorel (3 rue Bonaparte), Georges Chretien, Camille Bloch (146 boulevard St. Germain, later rue St. Honoré), Jean Rivière, Edouard Rahir, Jean Schemit, Charles Bosse, Emile Nourry... There were 29 founder-booksellers at the preparatory meeting and the first Syndicat had 44 members. All these men, like their predecessors Techener, Claudin, France, Morgand, were in the service of the Book. Having decided to form a great family, they proceeded to meet at a banquet at the beginning of July 1914 in a small room in the Palais d’Orsay.
No professional problem then arose in any acute fashion, but all felt the need to gather about a president, who was in this first instance Edouard Rahir, It was important to get to know each other better and strengthen bonds in a profession where independence was traditional, to be able to face the future of the world of books with confidence.
Edouard Rahir, President of SLAM, 1911-1922
Edouard Rahir seems one of the best servants of books, inasmuch as he came to bookselling very early. In fact, from the age of 16, in 1878, he was employed with Morgand and Fatout. On Fatout’s death he became Morgand's closest colleague whom he succeeded in 1897. He was essentially a specialist in the research, selection, and study of precious and rare books. He devoted much of his life to a great bibliographical work on the illustrated books of the 15th and 16th centuries. He was the author of the notes in the ten volumes of the Morgand Bulletin, published from 1876 to 1904 and the three catalogues of 1878, 1882.and 1893.He too drew up the Destailleurs (1875-91), Guyot de Villeneuve (1900-1), and unique Elzevir collection (1896) catalogues, as also of the Duruit (1899), Baillet, Henri Bordes (1902), Lantelme (1904), Montgermont (l903) and Henri Houssaye (1912) collections.
In 1907 he published the 'Bibliothèque de l'Amateur', a veritable monument of condensed bibliography, of which a second enlarged edition appeared in 1924. Such was the scholar, at the same time one of the best bibliographers of recent times, who was called to take on the first SLAM presidency in 1914. His vice-president was A. B1aizot, Georges Chretien was Secretary, and A. Besombes, L. Carteret, and E. Jorel committee members. As such he was above all concerned to maintain and continue the traditions of French bookselling. In accordance with the rules he was elected for three years, but remained in office for seven owing to the war and the calling up of numerous booksellers. After 1918 the SLAM returned to active life with all emphasis on a vigorous proselytism. It was important to grow and become a significant and well- structured organisation. The idea of a published Journal arose in this context.
Under the aegis of Ch. Bossc, E. Jorel, E. Nourry, J. Riviere and J. Schemit, the first number of the Bouquiniste Français appeared on 15 January 1920. At first twice- monthly, it became a weekly from No. 22, 1 December 1920. Its location was 31 rue Bonaparte, Paris 6eme. In their first editorial, the founder-booksellers thus justified the publication's raison d’être: 'The French antiquarian book trade, the antiquarian booksellers of France, have as yet no professional organ while the well-known English weekly The Clique and the daily Munich publication achieve considerable circulations'.
From its first number the Bouquiniste Français carried listings of works for sale and wanted at fair prices, but also professional information with calendars of sales, announcements of the appearance of catalogues, changes of ownership, opening and closing hours, postal charges, details as to carriage and transport. Regularly it raised certain thorny problems: the law of 25 June 1920 and the taxes which burdened commerce and industry (No. 13): the regulations of 29 August 1920 as to the tax on turnover (Nos. 16 &. 17): the luxury tax (No. 19). But luckily all this was diversified with little articles on bibliographic curiosities - Johann Faust; Where do old bindings go; Charles Sorel, on the knowledge of good books; book thieves; diary of a quayside stallholder. There were often reports or minutes of committees and general meetings. In No. 28 we learn that Messrs. Gougy, Paul and Rapilly have been appointed experts with the Administration of Customs. The reintroduction of the 10% discount between member-booksellers, modification of the luxury tax, and an open letter to the Under-Secretary of State for Posts and Telegraphs from J. Lebouc, on the slow arrival of catalogues (already!) - fill up other numbers.
The Bouquinistc Francais, 'weekly organ of the old and new book trade', appeared regularly until the Second World War, when it was replaced by duplicated sheets. It reappeared later, modified after its acquisition by SLAM in 1945. Thus it was in Edouard Rahir’s presidency that took shape the first association, the first journal, and the first principles of the profession, drawn up in the framework of a Conference at the 'Cerclc de la Librairie' on 27 May 1924. It sought above all to perpetuate the high ideal of bookselling based on nobility, competence, and integrity, coupling it with all the vocations which fostered the birth of the book and stressing the role of booksellers in 'the propagation and making known of the great works of the human spirit'. And as it came to the point of declaring: 'Bookselling is not a calling, nor an art, it is a commerce'. An essential precept if one uses the term in its original sense of communication, exchange of ideas, social relations. As we shall see, the SLAM has held to this interpretation in seeking to stimulate between booksellers discussion on and in favour of the book.
Many ideas bore fruit and would come to be perpetuated by all the following presidents. A tradition was born.
Auguste Blaizot, President of SLAM, 1922-1925
A year before Rahir, Auguste Blaizot was all of fifteen (he was born in 1874 at Blainvillc sur Mer) when he cut his bookselling teeth with his uncle Emile Lecampion, bookseller in the Passage du Saumon from 1840. On the latter's death in 1902, he succeeded him in the business, transferred to 22 rue Le Peleticr. There one found, besides 'novelties' and some modern and romantic works, New Year's gift books and - morning papers (!). His successive addresses at 26 rue Le Peletier. 21 boulevard Haussmann and finally in 1928 at the current address, 164 Faubourg St. Honoré, marked his rapid ascent.
At one time, when great dealers and great collectors were only interested in books published before 1900 and when the idea of a library of modern books was not taken seriously, Auguste Blaizot in spite of everything managed to draw attention to fine modern illustrated books. He was one of the first to point out the matchless originality of such works as Lepère’s A Rebours or Bonnard’s Daphnis et Chloe which now command high prices. Thanks to his faultless touch for the truly fine book outside current fashion, he very soon became the most acknowledged specialist for lovers of modern illustrated books of quality. Having boldly and ably defended, early in the century, the illustrated books of Lepere, Bonnard, Toulouse-Lautrec, Maurice Denis, Dufy, ete. he is the originator of the lustre now enjoyed by the art publication and the modern book trade. He was able to create a new generation of bibliophiles by sharing in the formation of prestigious libraries - Descamps-Scrive; Paul Voûtc; Barthou; Beraldi; Bordes; Villeboeuf; Latécoère, ete. His qualities as an enlightened 'amateur' (in the true sense) led him also to publish books illustrated by P. Vidal (Les Aventures du Roi Pausole); Kupka (Lysistraté et Prometheus);Jouas (La Cathédrale and La Cité des Eaux); Degas (La Famille Cardinale); Maurice Denis (L'Annonce faite à Marie); and Barbier (Le Centaure and La Bachante).
He was for the modern book what Edouard Rahir was at the same period for the old enthusiast and guide. It was thus quite natural for him to succeed to the presidency of SLAM in 1922, when he was elected with, at his side, L. Gougy (Vice-president), Georges Chreticn (secretary), René Colas (treasurer), and Jorel, Lardanchet, Nourry, H. Picard, and Rapilly as committee members (the number growing from two to five). On his election at the General Assembly of 30 June 1922, Auguste Blaizot confirmed that the SLAM now had 94 members and asked everyone to propagandize actively by distributing the list of members. He charged a sub-committee to smooth out possible differences which could not fail to arise between some members. He took on the dilatoriness of the customs and postal administrations and demanded that people should make a point of complaining without delay. The following year he intervened himself in applying to the registry department to discover the correct procedures and the application of taxes and rights of export and import, with the object of publishing (January 1924) and circulating among our members a clear and full booklet on the subject.
To strengthen the bonds between booksellers affiliated to the association he proposed that the fraternal discount should be limited to SLAM members only. In the same spirit he inaugurated an association dinner. The first annual dinner was held on June 26, 1923 at the 'Sociétés Savantes, a tradition maintained to our own time. 54 booksellers were present at this first banquet (Bouquiniste Français, 7 July 1923). Two months earlier (14 April 1923), there had been a lunch at the Restaurant La Perouse on Blaizot's being made a Chevalier of the Legion d'Honneur. This gathering was presided over by Louis Barthou. He was one of the first to dare to propose to his colleagues a scheme for the status of 'expert' with the ministerial officials in charge of public sales. Works offered for sale needed to be guaranteed and their possible defects noted. In a committee meeting of 27 June 1923, he in fact announced the official nomination of customs experts - Gougy, Emile Paul, Rapilly and Blaizot.
The new Rules, having been drawn up and printed with care, were deposited with the Prefecture of Police. Blaizot saw in this one of the best publicity arguments to bring to bear on booksellers starting in business to stress the necessity of the association. Moreover, he said, it is the best weapon we have to ensure the successful pursuit of our claims. Besides customs and postal problems, the SLAM's representations at that time related mainly to the suppression of the luxury tax which was a heavy burden on all old books and which was to plague all SLAM presidents until World War II.
At the general meeting of 6 May 1924 a membership of 231 had been achieved, and A. Blaizot declared 'We would like all booksellers to be of our number'. Again with a propaganda end in view it was decided to publish a brochure on the laws, decrees and regulations touching all taxes, and again the problem of the abolition of the luxury tax was attacked. The Bouquiniste Français, the organ of SLAM, being still the property of some of the founder-booksellers, Messrs. Puzin and Quereuil proposed a scheme for its purchase, which however was not realised until twenty years later. In this year Anatole France died. SLAM sent a wreath to the funeral of one whose father had been a bookseller and who had always shown a warm affection for our calling and those who pursued it.
A final anecdote. The first edition of Les Fleurs dn Mal was withdrawn from a public sale under a prohibition by the Tribunal of 10 December 1924 (!). The council of SLAM protested violently against this fatuous decision, sixty-seven years after the celebrated lawsuit of which Baudelairc had been victim. It took the occasion to warn members against the sale and the announcement of 'Special Books' in their catalogues.
So many plans and suggestions which all go to show how well A. Blaizot carried out his mandate with an effective authority. In these times of dangerous laxities, he was not backward in boldly denouncing inadmissible and notorious abuses. At the expiration of his term, he was named President of Honour. After a career of fifty-three years it must be recognised that his whole life was devoted to the service of the book.
Emile Nourry, President, 1925-1928
Emile Nourry, bookseller-author, better known under his pseudonym 'Saintyvcs, began as a bookseller in Dijon (Place du Theatre). From there he set up in Paris, first in the rue des Saint-Pères, later in rue Notre Dame de Lorette. Finally in 1909 he settled definitely in 62 rue des Ecoles where he made his reputation as a specialist in religious questions and biblical studies and as publisher of the works of Alfred Loisy. He drew up numerous catalogues devoted mainly to folklore, hagiography, and the occult, with the help of his loyal colleague Jules Thiebaud who had started with him as an assistant. Thiebaud who produced the reference bibliography on hunting (Bibliographie des ouvrages français sur la Chasse, Paris, Nourry, 1934) succeeded him at the rue des Ecoles from 1935-64. As a writer. Nourry pursued the same subjects and published the following works:
1904: La Réforme intellectuelle du clergé et la Liberté d’enseignement
1907: Les Saints successeurs des Dieux
1908: Les Vierges Mères
1916: Les Mystères des Evangiles
These were works of religion and hagiography. As for occult sciences in connection with medicine and popular tradition, he published:
1912: La Simulation du Merveilleux
1913: De la Magie médicale à la psychothérapie. La Force Magique.
1921: L’éternuement et le baillement au Moyen-Age
1923: Les contes de Perrault et les récits parallèles.
1926: La légende du Docteur Faust; among other works.
This list is not exhaustive; it shows the range of his interests which stretched from the Bible to prehistory by way of folklore. It should be mentioned that he was director of the Revue du Folklore Français and of the Revue d'Anthropologie and that the frequency of appearance of his catalogues was every month!
His fame and his immense ability led him to the presidency of SLAM. He was elected on 26 May 1925 with G. Chretien as vice-president, M. Escoffier (secretary), René Colas (treasurer), and as committee members Francisque Le Francois, Mounastre Picamilh, H. Picard, M. Rivière, Sergent. The council thus constituted found itself having to face for the next three years a period of economic difficulty which went from bad to worse. Nourry, already charged under Blaizot’s presidency with preparing a report on the export of valuable books, sought to achieve compromises. He believed that the huge existing movement in favour of the French language was not to be discouraged, and that this support for our language could be only proportionate to the importance of French currency to foreigners. Old books should therefore be exported while safe-guarding our cultural patrimony by prohibiting the export of books, documents or manuscripts either unique or believed to be such. He suggested the setting up of a commission, to consist of librarians, customs officers, and member-booksellers (of SLAM). However, the following year the general meeting decided that it was not necessary to seek a public administrative ruling provided that booksellers undertook to sell to a State library 'works of a capital importance'.
On January 28, 1926 the office was already concerned with stolen books, and recalled that the association had printed and made available to members forms for advising their colleagues of stolen works. It published the list of members, and mindful of the value of propaganda maintained that 'it is the duty of all who trade in books at second- hand to belong to our organisation'. But the greatest worry in mid-1926 was over the devaluation of the franc. The office came to publish two successive tables of price equivalents, having studied all the consequences of the depreciation of the franc against the pound sterling. It called for the greatest vigilance on the part of all colleagues if they wished to avoid real losses and find themselves buying clearer than they sold. The first table allowed for the re-pricing of books costed in old catalogues with an increase which went from 50% to 5% a year. The second table provided a key for modifying prices marked in volumes without having to erase them continually, the nine first letters of the alphabet representing the first nine numerals and the letter S zero. Thus the lettered price, unlike those of the figures, would not change in the books; but its conversion into francs would be related to each new table re-calculated by SLAM. And faced with the country's economic situation, the office declared: 'We cannot believe that our labours and our spirit, linked with the labour and spirit of the whole nation, will permit a catastrophe... We believe in the economic revival of France .. we must take part in the voluntary contribution scheme'. Despite this the annual dinners continued, in February 1920 at the Club de la Renaissance Françaisc. in May 1927 and March 1928. Each time Nourry showed his verve and wit when he spoke of 'the good and bad things booksellers say about women'. Often treating books as intrusive nuisances, they invariably show themselves to be devoted and efficient companions and colleagues. And he concluded with this twist: 'In fact, because booksellers know books they are able to speak of women'. Another time he developed this theme: 'Why are sad faces rare if not unknown among sellers of second-hand books". The menus of these dinners were designed and engraved sometimes by Jouas, master etcher, sometimes by Louis Jou. In 1926 the presence from abroad of the booksellers Maggs and Rau was recorded. In 1928 Maitre Maurice Garçon was invited to preside over the evening and delivered a speech on the special relations of booksellers and booklovers.
In the course of the meeting of 12 May 1926 the booksellers came to a 'modus vivendi' with the auctioneers after having protested that all books should be guaranteed and that faults and imperfections should be announced clearly and unambiguously. Taxes on sales were thus published: sales on commission, 2.5%; sales between booksellers, 2%; inland sales 12%; sales abroad 12%. In subsequent meetings of the committee, general conditions, as approved by SLAM were established, as to sales procedure, despatch of goods, methods of payment, and special arrangements for foreign buyers.
There were moves to propose an addition to the rules for the settlement of possible differences between members: 'The association should constitute itself a committee of arbitration to operate in all disputes or litigation arising between one member and another or between members and third parties... ruling as to the constitution and procedures of the arbitrating committee or committees to be drawn up by the office'.
In another context, the Bouqniniste Français of 19 March 1927 noted the appearance of an international directory of the antiquarian book trade with an analytical listing of dealers classified by country and speciality. The bookshop of Straubing and Muller published it from Weimar under the title Addressbuch der Antiquare. The general meeting of 21 May 1928 saw the conclusion of Nourry’s term; his essential role was to have brought the notorious luxury tax down from 12%, to 6%, for books valued at over 300 francs, and from 6%, to 3% for the remainder. Proof of the effect of his constant propagandising was as reflected in the membership of SLAM, now standing at 315.
Maurice Escoffier, President 1928-1931
A new committee was elected. as follows: Escoffier, President; H. Picard, vice-president; Briquet, Secretary; Quereuil, Treasurer; other members, Dosse, Dauthon, le Francois, Puzin, and Sergent.
Professor at the School of Political Sciences (Ecolc des Sciences Politiques) Maurice Escoffier was surely one of the most distinguished presidents we have known. He devoted himself to the service of the book not only as bookseller and SLAM president but also and above all as bibliographer. He compiled and published at great expense his Bibliography of the Romantic Movement (Paris, Giraud Badin, 1934) dedicating it to the members of SLAM; a work of reference which became an authoritative classic. He was one of the first to draw attention to the movements parallel to and on the fringes of Romanticism. He became also the titular bibliographer of those who came to be known as 'The Little Romantics' (Cahiers du Sud 1949). Further, it must be recorded that as a kind of offshoot to his work he attempted a definition of 'Edition Originale' in a text which has become famous: 'An edition is termed "originale" because it goes back to the origin of a right of ownership; it can be established as conforming to the manuscript or original text of the work which is the object of the right, and if this right has been ceded, it can have been only with the consent of its holder... An edition is "originale" because it is in opposition to the copy, that is to say the counterfeit: it is order as opposed to disorder.' These restatements were to modify the manner in which bibliographers saw such things in future - as also booksellers. A new light was thrown over a whole area of bibliophily.
Hitherto the membership had not ceased to grow and the subscription to increase. Escoffier was the first to require the removal of membership from those who would not pay their subscriptions after two registered letters. He rejected an imposing but artificial listing of members who would not conform to the spirit of the association. In consequence the number of booksellers affiliated to SLAM stabilised at about 300, striking a balance between the requests for admission and the expulsions. At the same time he for the first time reduced the membership fee so that entry could be wide open. He demanded that the association's booklet should appear every year and be kept regularly up-to-date. He made a special appeal to the spirit of the association in stressing that it was a collective influence which, more than any other, could watch over our special interests.
From 1928- 30 the committee sought specially to resolve three problems. First as to the luxury tax; it asked for a relaxation whereby the value at which a book became subject to tax should be raised from 300 to 1200 francs. Unfortunately, the law of 25 February 1Ç20 was passed in negation of this suggestion, subjecting all printed books of the 15th and 16th centuries, of whatever value (even below 300 francs) to a luxury tax of 12 %, as for art editions on special paper of which the edition did not exceed 300 copies. Our office protested vigorously against this arbitrary measure. Next it tried to find a solution to the problem of fake bindings. It set up a commission of enquiry on the falsification of bindings and the later superimposition of ancient and sought-after provenances. This commission consisted of Messrs. Besombes, Briquet, Le François and Roth. Finally, M. Puzin drew up a report on the application of the law affecting social insurance, seeing it as a humanitarian measure of much importance and asking each member to join the scheme immediately. He pointed out that it covered illness, disablement, old age, and death with provision for family and maternity expenses.
In the same area M.H. Picard reported on transportation insurance and the book trade. From the beginning of his mandate, Escoffier had mooted the idea of the status of 'honorary bookseller' with the following conditions: retirement from business, at least 20 years of trading, membership of a corporate association, and merit. The status would be recognised by a diploma and a permanent card of admission to all general meetings and bookselling congresses. In the public domain, due homage was paid to Philippe Chabaneix, poet-bookseller who had just been awarded the Moreas prize, and to Edouard Rahir the first SLAM president, the dispersal of whose books in 1930 had met with resounding success. On that occasion Mme. Rahir made a presentation to the Bibliothèque Nationale of three precious works: the Opuscules of Marot, Rabelais's L'Isle Sonnante and Calvin's L'Institution Chrétienne with a dedication to Francois I.
The annual dinner on 10 May 1929 was honoured by Jean Giraudoux who announced himself as 'a modest collector of 17th century material'. That year the menu was engraved by René Sauvage. The following year, on 12 June 1930, the dinner was presided over by Tristan Dereme, and the menu planned and drawn by Dignimont. On this occasion Tristan Dereme pondered on 'the second hand book' ('Livre d’occasion'): 'What is an "occasion"?' will you allow me to play the pedant a little and remind you of the verb 'cadere' and its supine 'casum', and recall that the 'occasion', 'chance', 'accident' and 'echeance' (literally 'falling-due', 'due-date') are in a sense hatched from the same Latin nest. He left us to draw our own conclusion about these four terms whose connection is indeed perhaps not wholly fortuitous. Are they the four cardinal points of antiquarian bookselling? For a poet everything is possible.
Henri Picard, President 1931-1934
Henri Picard was born at Sens on 26 February 1872 of parents who followed the modest calling of 'wigmakers'. Losing his father at the age of 13, he was forced to move to the capital to earn a living. His taste led him to rum at once towards bookselling. He started with his second cousin Alphonse Picard in the rue Bonaparte. A strenuous worker, he did several years there before going to Sirey (law bookseller) and then to Martin. There he was in charge of organising public sales held in the rooms of the Bons Enfants and Sylvestre. In 1893 he approached the bookshop of Flammarion and Vaillant who were looking for a competent person to draw up catalogues. He got the job and was engaged at the same time at the Galeries de L'Odeon. It was at this time that he met Auguste Blaizot who became his friend; he also met Rahir, Nourry, Besombes, Lemailler, G. Chretien, Cornuau and Margraff.
In 1902 his patron Lucicn Gougy took steps, without his knowledge, towards the purchase of the Fonds Martin, 126 rue du Faubourg Saint Honore (former house of Ronner founded in 1860).
Devoted to the cause of his profession, he accepted the mandate entrusted to him by the general meeting of 20 May 1931. He was elected President with Puzin as vice- president, Deruelle (secretary), Jacquenet (treasurer), and Bosse, Dauthon, Jammes, Quereuil and Siroux as committee members. His whole term was marked by the world economic crisis which struck France with full force. At the first dinner at which he presided (when the menu was illustrated by Falke) he declared: 'The economic crisis has reduced the buying power of our customers. We sell as many books but the transactions are at a lower level... We must all strive to maintain the confidence of our clientele and also to deserve'. Despite the crisis, he sought to promote books with the help of writers such as Emile Henriot and Gerard Bauer. 'Continue to love books and you will sell them all the better' he declared to the general meeting of 7 June 1932.
At the beginning of 1933 the crisis deepened, and SLAM decided to put out a propaganda booklet reproducing press articles which had appeared during 1932. They had been written in praise of second-hand books on the initiative of the association. Incidentally it may be noted that old books were at that time holding their own well both in public sales and in priced catalogues. An Economic and Customs Action Committee came to be set up to which the office gave its support, publishing a manifesto for 'customs demobilisation'.
However, Henry Picard confirmed that the French market continued fairly favourable to us, but that foreign markets were virtually closed to us because of the lack of currency and of the devaluation (A.G.M. of May 16, 1933). And at the end of his term, when he came to draw up his balance-sheet as it were, he commented that throughout the world crisis, transactions in books had been those showing the least depreciation.
During his three presidential years Henri Picard sought above all to be at the head of the committee of the members, not of the membership. He strove to make himself useful, replying by return to information requested of him. He began by revising the conditions of sale, of despatch and of payment to make them more explicit. He too tackled the question of public sales in which he had brought to light abuses as to fallacious descriptions. He protested against the practice of some dealers who, to justify their own prices, did not hesitate to quote the comparative prices of other booksellers. In general terms, he sought to encourage and defend French trade against foreigners recently established in France (Committee, 17 April 1934).
In another sphere, it fell to him in April 1932 to deliver a funeral speech on the death of Noel Chavary 'last representative of a family of paleographers'. The next month the Bouquiniste Français offered the condolences of the association on the first page, following the report of the assassination to which Paul Doumer, President of the Republic, had fallen victim. Finally he had the honour of presiding at the presentation of the Legion of Honour to Messrs. Blaizot and E. Nourry (Bouquiniste Français, 17 December 1932) in the presence of one of the greatest bibliophiles of the time, M. Louis Barthou, then President of the Council, who was to be assassinated two years later at Marseilles, at the same time as King Alexander I of Yugoslavia.
His presidency over, Picard was made a President of Honour and until 1957 rarely missed meetings. For long the doyen of the book trade, he offered a shining example of a life wholly devoted to books with 74 years of bookselling, 57 of them on his own account.
Georges Puzin, President 1934-1937
The General meeting of 29 May 1934 elected the first SLAM president not to be a Parisian bookseller : Georges Puzin. established at Versailles, rue de la Paroisse, since 1908. His team consisted of M. Quereuil (Vice-president), Dauthon (Secretary), Jacquenet (Treasurer), with Chadenat. Cornuau, Deruelle, Raoust, Leleu, and H. Saffroy as committee members. He came across from the start as a man of dialogue with the following statement: “We must get to know each other better, exchange ideas and plans and discuss them, even argue about them so as to arrive at a practical exchange of views and ensure the continuity and raison d'être of the SLAM”.
A man of dialogue and above all a social man, Georges Puzin was born on August 2, 1872 in Paris. He was educated at the St. Charles little seminary in Paris. Having taken his law degree, he served a term for qualifying as a notary but did not follow through. In 1907 he gravitated towards books and became a Customs approved expert at Court. He set up in the avenue Wagram, then at Versailles where besides the rue de la Paroisse he opened a second shop in rue Maurepas in 1930. Some older booksellers still remember the red-letter days of the gatherings at his place, especially on days of public sales when numerous Latin Quarter booksellers would descend on Versailles at aperitif time. He collected around him his colleagues and friends Bosse, Giraud-Badin, Andrieux, Kra, Margraff, Bonnet, etc. On other days he would receive his many customers and friends, among them Tristan Bernard, Willy, l.eon Blum, Colette, the Tharaud brothers, Anatole France, Paul Bourget, Louis Barthou (whose obituary he wrote), Sacha Guitry, and others.
Gifted with a keen and practical mind, on his election he asked that the following six measures should be taken: (1) A single tax on turnover of 1.10%; (2) Inviolability of the association's rules; (3) Repeal of the visitors' tax; (4) Opposition to new vexatious fiscal measures; (5) Propaganda abroad; (6) Limitation of the number of foreign traders in France. Faced with an escalation in book thefts, he warned his colleagues to be wary in their private purchases and respect the police regulations in force. In this context he reminded them that it was illegal to buy from minors and that payment should be made at the seller's house in the absence of sufficient proof of identity. Further, he requested caution in the despatch and passing on of works, proposing that a register of consigned books should be kept.
France was then in the depths of the economic crisis, in bookselling as in other spheres; business was bad, with few purchases and fewer sales. G. Puzin took up the matter of the unfair competition of the Hotel des Ventes (auction house). He was particularly opposed to the amateur-dealer, and regretted that at public sales the amateur paid the same dues as the bookseller. He concluded that the skilful amateur could do business without expenses. And if this situation became normal, the bookseller would only have to shut up shop and work with “a telephone, a pen, a note-pad, the addresses of major customers (whom one always ends up knowing), confidence, and “bluff”... we are now seeing books sell at auction for more than in the bookshops”. O tempora! O mores! Don't forget this was in 1936.
In the same connection G. Puzin addressed a strong letter of protest to M. Flandin, President of the Council, concerning the purchase made in London of 300 autograph letters from Napoleon to Marie Louise without the mediation of a bookseller. He requested that purchases of books at public sales on the Stare's account should henceforth be entrusted to French dealers. A pertinent suggestion which, alas, did not lead to a satisfactory conclusion.
Let us close this period with an anecdote about second-hand classics, suspected of harbouring microbic germs. Our office considered that a shadow of doubt had been cast over our trade after the publication of a brochure by two doctors: ‘No, I don't want to die while reading second-hand books’. Georges Puzin replied vigorously, developing an amusing argument concluding in these terms: ‘Let us face the future with all the hygienic aids that may be offered to us’.
All this goes to show the state of bewilderment and great uncertainty in which France then found itself.
Henri Dauthon, President, 1937 - 1945
Rahir had been the president of the First World War, Henri Dauthon was that of the Second; this explains the exceptional length of their term of office, each of seven years. During this difficult period, Henri Dauthon had occasion to bring to bear his conciliatory policies with patience, good humour and simplicity.
He had begun in 1919 with his father-in-law M. Jore1 (one of the founders of SLAM) in the rue des Beaux-Arts, and succeeded him in 1928 at 3 rue Bonaparte. There he developed the speciality of the firm : the theatre. Their catalogues are still of use as reference books. Elected president in 1937, he was called up in 1939. At that time the officers were as follows: H. Dauthon, President; A. Deruele, Vice-President who for the first year of the war was at the same time President, Secretary and Treasurer. In 1940, after the German occupation, war conditions led to scarcities in all fields including antiquarian bookselling. The intrusion of the state even into associations extended to the publication of the 'Otto List' or list of books prohibited as contrary to Nazi ideology. SLAM refused to approve it, a natural act of resistance as was that concerning the situation of the Jews. The occupying powers were intent on hounding Jews from their businesses and replacing them with managers chosen by the authorities. To forestall certain abuses, SLAM sought to secure the selection of these managers by professional organisations. In this connection Messrs. Bosse, Deruelle, Jacquenet, Jammes and Privat took on this delicate task.
In another area, as a result of the law of 16 August 1940 introducing the organisation of professions, the idea was born of a committee for antiquities and collectible objects. During this period the committee for books was constituted within the 'Cercle de la Librairie' reclassifying edition , bookseller, printer , etc. SLAM was represented by a working party consisting of Messrs. Michaud (president), Bosse (vice-president) and Blaizot, Dauthon, Deruelle, Giraud-Badin, Petitot and Raoust. This group was essentially concerned with forestalling any contrary consequences to the collective interests of the antiquarian as opposed to the modern book trade.
The SLAM also sought the regulation (a word then in vogue) of public sales (combating artificially 'run up' sales), and requested that vendors' names should be made public. Similarly a regulation of the status of “expert” so that a law should be established and officially ratified, the required conditions being professional competence, reputation, integrity and acknowledged pursuit of the profession. Professional rulings were thus formulated to defend the conscientious dealer against disloyal competitors who offered damaged, defective or incomplete works, false coat of arms, or dubious autographs. At the outbreak of the war in September 1939, the SLAM drew up binding rules for all formations, extensions, or transfers of book businesses, with, of course, the sole object of safeguarding called-up members and preventing their being supplanted in their businesses during their absence. Despite the draconian conditions the SLAM received 330 such requests but granted only 25.
It was also under Henri Dauthon's presidency that the purchase of the Bouquiniste Françaiss was carried through. It was not until the end of 1941 that the management, consisting of M. Bosse and his associates (Messrs. Schemit and Marcel Rivière) suggested the sale of the journal. After various negotiations as to the stock of paper, material, and price, the SLAM decided on the purchase on March 11, 1941. However, it was adjourned until February 2, 1945, first because of the suppression of a great part of the press by the German authorities and secondly the death of Charles Bosse which occurred meanwhile. So that it was the successors of Charles Bosse who sold the Bouquiniste Français to the association for the sum of 43 000 francs with all stocks and the wherewithal to print the paper for two years at the rate of two eight-page numbers per month.
Finally, in the social sphere, the SLAM, at the request of the 'National Security', now become 'Social Security', created an emergency fund supported by the members of whom the great majority voluntarily subscribed. This surge of solidarity testified to the important role of SLAM in relation to its members in difficult circumstances, particularly in the aftermath of the war. President Henri Dauthon therefore comes across during his two terms, on human, social and corporate levels, as one who in peculiarly troubled times devoted himself to the cause of books with remarkable self-sacrifice and competence.
André Poursin, President 1945 - 1948
Born in 1897 in Auvergne, it was as he approached the age of thirty that André Poursin took to dreaming of books while he was working in industry. Starting with activities at once professional and bibliophilic, he opened a first bookshop at Pont Audemer. Ceaselessly searching for rare books, he scoured the district, tirelessly visiting sales, libraries and bookshops. Bur he very soon came to Paris, setting up in rue Jacob and thence to rue Montmartre, in 1936, where he succeeded in making his shop one of the most frequented in Paris. Called up in September 1939, he distinguished himself at the front as a captain and was decorated with the officer's rosette (he had already gained his gold braid and the Legion of Honour in 1910).
At the end of the war in 1945 he accepted the presidency of the SLAM. He was elected at a meeting on 21 June1945, with C. Privat as Vice-President, F. de Nobele as Secretary , Picard as Treasurer, and Messrs. Cornuau, Froment, Gautier (in whom he soon discovered an unequalled arbiter in cases of dissension), Lecomte and Marchand as committee members. He began by congratulating Henri Dauthon on the acquisition of the Bouquiniste Français which “puts into our hands one of our major instruments of action and the best medium for our information”. He then set out his programme: he particularly wished to be of help to young people in our trade. He insisted on the need for an administrative secretariat ready at all times to put itself at the disposal of any member. Unfortunately the subscription was too modest for that; a voluntary contribution to double the budget would be necessary.
In the course of this first post-war year the SLAM office had to decide on the delicate matter of the Israelite estates which had been confiscated at the request of the provisional administrator: “The acquiring parties would have to make repayment. Here was a question of responsibility which it was proper to assume in the interests of one and all.” The office sought further to secure the relaxation and if possible the abolition of the transaction tax (18%) which was imposed on all books before 1801 and on all those of an artistic character and printed on special paper. As for exports, it seems that there was no problem for books printed since 1801; for all others, an authorisation had to he obtained, delivered by the Ministry of National Education to the Directorate of Letters and Arts. As to requests for imports. they had virtually no chance of success, given the dire shortage of foreign currency. The committee was now looking for association premises, of two rooms, first or ground floor, on the Right Bank in the 1st or 2nd arrondissement.
In December 1945 the Bouquiniste drew attention to a useful initiative: the firm of Sonnier hoped to make up incomplete works, establishing and centralising a register of incomplete works scattered amongst the book trade. In the middle of his term, President Audré Poursin declared: 'Our country is experiencing a quickened moulting of its economic structure and this has guided the efforts of our association'. His work bore particularly on tax questions (luxury tax, equalisation duties, the introduction of new penalties), on rents and salaries (protection of the tenant from dilapidation of commercial property; the establishment of salary scales) and on the organisation of our profession (the introduction of a status of ‘expert’ involving relationships with numerous bodies). The problem of valuations and their payment was studied by M. Poyer who produced a notice: ‘Every request for a price is in effect a request for a valuation...and in consequence is liable to remuneration'. This notice, recently brought back unto circulation, is still relevant and can be found posted up in several bookshops.
Besides the search for premises for the association and moves towards an administrative secretariat, this committee was concerned with a promotional project. At a time of commercial stagnation, it envisaged the possibility of taking collective publicity measures. Meanwhile it developed the Bouquiniste by instituting a feature 'Varieties', besides the fiscal, administrative, and association news already carried. The difficulties and peculiarities of our profession were there ventilated, and there were bibliographical articles, echoes of auction sales and a correspondence column.
As post-war President, André Poursin took up his task with intelligence and vigour at a moment when France was with difficulty struggling back to her feet. The association, now almost 300 members strong, set itself the task - apart from what we have already recorded - of providing everyone with essential services for the exercise of our business - such as bicycle tyres, cloth, packing paper, string (cf. Committee,10 March 1946), or lighting for showcases. All this involved a great deal of hassle extending sometimes to Customs or foreign exchange offices, which the SLAM continually attempted to expedite.
André Poursin contributed, too, to the setting up of emergency funds which did not fail to render valuable service in the aftermath of the war. And finally, he participated with F. de Nobele and G. Blaizot among others in the creation of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers in which he never ceased to take a keen interest.
Fernand de Nobele, President 1948 - 1951
Towards the end of his term André Poursin was looking for a successor and asked Fernand dc Nobele if he was interested, in as much as he had been secretary in the preceding presidency. Having no particular association activity and being of Belgian origin he was something of a new face, and offered himself as candidate. Who was he? Born in Brussels on August 22 1910, after a secondary education at the Montaigne and later Louis le Grand Lycées, he served his apprenticeship in bookselling with Margraff at the former firm of Lehec. There he met Raymond Clavreuil who was assistant and whom he was to replace (on Clavreuil's departure for military service) for over two years up to 1930 . He then went to work with his father in rue Saint Sulpice where they published catalogues of varia.
On his own return from service in 1931 they worked until 1939 at which date they moved to 35 rue Bonaparte in the premises occupied by Quereuil who held the privilege of public sales in France. War broke out, and from 1940-42 de Nobele was a prisoner in the Palatinate. He escaped in 1942 and went into hiding in a district of Central France where for a year he became a farmer. In the spring o f 1943 he came back to Paris, where he lifted his cover gradually for fear of denunciation. He took off again with the three-volume Benezit which he had bought in some quantity.
At the Liberation the association got to its feet again; he was Secretary under Poursin and was himself elected President in June 1948 with Michel Gründ and Raymond Clavreuil as committee members. The keynote of his policy, as he is pleased to recall himself, was to reawaken the whole of this small world and then remove the barriers set by administrative presumption, in discussion with the authorities that be. He was specially occupied with customs problems while seeking to protect our patrimony in relation to the level of exports. Julien Cain (then Director General for Books at the Ministry of Culture) had received a deputation of booksellers, granting them his confidence on condition that unique pieces were offered to the Bibliothèque Nationale, it being understood that this did not apply to books appearing in the Bibliothèquc Nationale's catalogue nor those being offered at public sales. As for imports, these would be permitted only in penny numbers to control the flight of currencies from French territory. However that might be, it was decided in March 1950 that all books over 50 years old were to be henceforth excluded from all customs formalities.
The office meeting of 17 December 1949 resolved from then on to appeal to the solidarity of new members to reinforce the Emergency Fund. Today this continues to be standard procedure. An increase of the subscription was decided on; the 1,000 francs seemed derisory given the free services of the Bouquiniste and the fact that no entry fee was charged. At about the same time SLAM organised an auction for the benefit of former prisoners and deportees, with the gratifying assistance of Maître Ader. Sadly, for lack of sufficient generosity this sale was not a great success.
The year 1950 was marked by the organisation of the fourth International ILAB Congress, at the Cercle de la Librairie (the first had been in Amsterdam in 1947, the second in Copenhagen,1948, and the third in London,1949).This congress which concluded with an exhibition organised by M. Guignard at the Bibliothèquc Nationale where forty exceptional books (from incunabula to modern publications) were shown, drew a considerable attendance. It stimulated new contacts with foreign booksellers, and, in a general way, all professionals, through new markets and new international exchanges. The League had of course been founded by M. Hertzberger with the Swiss W. Kundig as its first president. From the start fifteen countries joined, and very soon after the United States, Brazil and Germany. The fostering of intellectual, cultural and commercial relations between different countries was seen to be very important. Fernand de Nobele was its president for five years (1968-1972) and did much on its behalf, and towards the publication of the 'Usages and Customs' concerning the international transactions between booksellers. On March 1, 1951 the ILAB emblem was adopted with the motto ‘Amor Librorum nos unit’.
A little later M. de Nobele distributed to members the logo chosen by the committee for the French association. It consisted of two books side by side, in black and white, decorated on the left with a fleur-de-lys and on the right with a Phrygian cap, the lot surmounted with the letters 'SLAM' in a semi-circle. In the same year the president, acting in the spirit of the French association and of the League, made the point at the congresses of London and Paris that 'We no longer have to defend opposing interests but common interests'. At the end of his term , incidentally, SLAM boasted 412 members, of whom 44 were trading abroad.
Besides his abilities as bookseller and as president, it should not be forgotten that F. de Nobele made his mark as an expert and publisher. He organised and guaranteed the success of a large number of public sales, of which we will quote for the record only the three most celebrated - the Goutket sale (husband of Colette), including early original editions and major works of bibliography; the Jean Davray sale, jointly with Castaing and Pierre Bérès (6 and 7 December 1961, of MSS and valuable books of the15th to 20th centuries), and the P... sale with M. Guérin and Mme Vidal-Mégret (architecture, decoration, ornament and fête books, 2 and 3 February 1961). As a publisher, we are indebted to him for many publications, reprints or original; those of the S.H.A.F. (Society for the History of French Art), the directory of French printed books of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the re-issuing of Salverte's Les Ebenistes du 18eme siècle, of Baudriers Bibliographie Lyonnaise, and of Delen's La Gravure dans les Pays-Bas.
His reputation as a specialist bookseller in the fine arts is assured through his series of copious catalogues, beginning with a table of contents and covering all subjects: Fine Arts, Decorative Arts, Collectible Objects, pictures, prints, etc.
Georges Blaizot, President, 1951 - 1954
From his birth in 1901, he lived surrounded by the family bookselling atmosphere. He was of course the son of Auguste Blaizot, a founder of the SLAM. At twenty-seven he was working with his father in the Faubourg Saint Honoré bookshop. He succeeded him in 1941 and very quickly made his mark as one whose life revolved wholly around the book; first as a scholar, regularly publishing articles in the Bulletin de la Librairie (Grandeur and Misery of our profession in 1961; The Riches of French Bookselling in 1964, etc.) and especially with his catalogues of the bindings of Pierre Legarin and Paul Bonnet, thus ensuring that they became widely known; then as a bookseller, managing the family business and issuing catalogues which have remained famous and are still working tools constantly referred to. An ‘expert’ with the Court of Appeal and the Trade Tribunal, advisory expert with the customs administration, he was in charge of important public sales between 1935, the year of the celebrated Barthou sale, and the no less famous Esmerian sale of 1973.
A lover of modern illustrated books, he published a certain number of works himself including the Annonce faite à Marie, Les Moralités Légendaires, Le Poète Rustique, Orénoque, etc. The general meeting of July 3, 1951 elected him President, with P. Chrétien (Vice President), M. Blancheteau (Secretary), M. Picard (Treasurer), and Messrs. Cart, Loliée, Maupetit, Poncelet, Privat and Thiebaud (committee members).
The same year, at the Brussels Congress, France was charged with the setting up of an international committee of honour for the League and the drawing up of a Code of Usages. Meanwhile, M. Hertzberger brought out his International Dictionary of the Book Trade which translates and defines in several languages bibliographical terms necessary for the understanding of catalogue descriptions. Messrs. Scheler, Poursin and Blaizot revised it in 1953. This technical dictionary runs to over 200 terms. Following a committee meeting of September 22, 1951, it became clear that the Bouquiniste was in a desperate situation and that it was urgent and vital to increase the number of subscribers and advertisers.
The next year the following rule was established, now always applied: every request for admission to SLAM must be countersigned by the two sponsors of the candidate, these two sponsors being chosen from amongst members of the association. With an eye to propaganda, in January 1952, SLAM took up the idea of an exhibition of old books at the Galerie Royale. The title of this exhibition, which eventually took place from March 11 to April 15, 1952, was ‘La Civilisation du Livre’. This was Georges Blaizot’s idea, recalling the phrase of Georges Duhamel: ‘Our civilisation should be called the civilisation of the book.’ The exhibition, with 18,000 visitors, proved an unprecedented success and provided new contacts between the public and the antiquarian book trade, allowing everyone to realise the cultural significance of the antiquarian book trade.
In February 1953 the SLAM office appealed to all members’ sense of solidarity with the Dutch who had just been victims of disastrous floods. On the subject of customs duty revision once again, a talk took place between the president of SLAM and M. Arrighi de Casanova. It dealt equally with the nature of the facilities to be granted to the annual ‘Salon du Livre’ and to the Rauch sale then shortly to be held in Geneva. Indeed, Julien Cain, had recently declared: ‘I am always in favour of the application of as liberal a system as possible for books both as regards imports and exports.’ Always with the proviso, naturally, that the export of unique items regarded as part of France’s heritage would not be approved.
An oddity to be recalled in 1953 occurred when the office raised an objection against M. Juhel-Douet, a bookseller at Blois, who had published a catalogue of sales open to offers. This practice which did not conform to the usages of the association brought as a by-product a revision of the conditions of sales with the addition of packing costs and the establishment of researched, calculated and thus stable prices. At the Milan Congress the proceedings terminated with songs. The president of SLAM took the opportunity to celebrate the birth of a new song - the Booksellers’ Song, here in an approximate English translation (words by Michel Vancaire, music by G. Van Parys):
‘Many are the booksellers
Come from far and near
Dealers from everywhere
Talking about their trade
Talking about their troubles
Talking about their hardship
But when you’re among pals
Half the battle is won…’
This song ran to three stanzas and a refrain.
In April 1954 (the office had been working six months on this project) there took place at the Maison des Artistes, rue Berryer, in Paris (the Salomon de Rothschild Foundation) an important exhibition and sale of old and modern books, with the title ‘The Riches of French Bookselling from its origins to our own times.’ Taking part were some 70 bookseller-members of SLAM together with some art publishers and celebrated binders of the time - Rose Adler, Paul Bonnet, G. Cretté, H. Creuzevault, P. L. Martin, etc. Among the treasures exhibited were:
- The letter of Christopher Columbus announcing the discovery of America printed at the end of the Verardus published at Basle in 1494 (1st illustrated Americana) (Chamonal)
- The autographs MS of Camus’s L’Etranger bound by P. L. Martin (Viardot)
- The original MS of L’Homme Américain by A. d’Orbigny which constitutes the major ethnological work so far written on South America (De Nobele)
- The original edition of Appollinaire’s Alcools with the author’s autograph corrections, dedicated to E. Bourges, later to Eluard by Picasso (Hugues)
- The Manual of Saint Augustine published by Simon Vostre circa 1500, the only known copy of this first French translation (Leconte)
- La grande et vraie prognostication pour l’an 1544, only known copy of this almanac published by Rabelais under the anagram Seraphine Calbarsy (Sheler)
- The MS of the first draft of Radiguet’s Le Diable au Corps (Gallimard)
- The score of Faust in a mosaic binding with doublures, by Thouvenin (Blaizot)
- The Mémoires of Commines (1581), a copy formerly owned by the son of Philip II of Spain in a sumptuous ‘fanfare’ binding by the Eves.
An important illustrated catalogue, with a preface by Julien Cain, described the works on show with historical notes on the booksellers, publishers, and binders who took part. It provided readers with a text on ‘the different techniques of original engraving’ and numerous quotations concerning books and bibliography.
In conclusion, therefore, Georges Blaizot can be seen, during his three years in office, to have defended the association’s interests with resolve and justice. Moreover, he played a part in the creation of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB), of which he was president for some years (1952-1954). Finally, his love of books and his abilities led him naturally to diffuse his specialised knowledge within the ranks of the Cercle de la Librairie. Bookman, scholar, publisher, president of the SLAM and of the ILAB, and teacher, Blaizot’s life was indeed one of dedication to the book.
Pierre Chrétien, President, 1954-1957
At the general meeting of July 2, 1954, we have to record the departure of a slightly embittered and disabused President. After the rue Berryer exhibition, the directorate of Cultural Relations invited booksellers to participate in transatlantic exhibitions. Georges Blaizot, rather disenchanted, admitted: ‘We did not feel that there had been a sufficient display of interest from your part in these exhibitions; that is why we have not over-exerted ourselves to overcome the difficulties, which could have been accomplished if we had known that such was your wish… The next committee will therefore follow your lead on this matter; needless to say if it is given no lead it will indeed follow you, in other words, do nothing.’
More positively, he proposed the setting up of a general secretariat to assist the president in his task (this would come to fruition under Pierre Chrétien); the nomination of Léon Gautier as a permanent mediator between the members of SLAM and the office; and the extension period of return at public sales, which was changed from 24 hours to eight days (giving booksellers time to collate their purchases). The next committee was then as follows: Pierre Chrétien (president), A. Cart (vice-president), P. Picard (treasurer), M. Blancheteau (secretary), and Messrs. Chamonal, G. Colas, Fauron, Ad. Leconte, Jaladis and Maupetit (committee members).
Following the introduction of Pierre Chrétien by G. Blaizot: “For two years… your activities at the heart of the office were not exceptionally feverish - you seemed apart, something of a dreamer, a distant spirit… but the grace, I would say the faith of the association then descended upon you… at all events your efforts with the last exhibition were so great, so effective, and so energetic as to resolve all manner of difficulties”… the committee was elected virtually unanimously.
Pierre Chrétien took over the family book business on the death of his father in 1939. Georges Chrétien, son-in-law of Gustave Lehec (at 37 rue St André des Arts since 1878) founded his own bookshop in the Faubourg St Honoré in 1911. He was, along with Edouard Rahir, one of the founders of the SLAM and general secretary for several years. Once elected, Pierre Chrétien strove to rally his troops, calling attention to the development ‘a trifle slow, but sure, of the association spirit in a profession as individualistic as ours.’ Despite everything he was to render some valuable services.
The idea of a radio broadcast on bibliophily was discussed at the committee meeting of December 25, 1955. Thanks to the efforts of M. Beauzemont, the SLAM received a favourable response from M. Porché, director of the French radio and TV, which granted him a series of fortnightly broadcasts. These took the form of talks between M. Barbier and a bookseller, a writer, a “star”, etc. In February 1956, it is recorded that M. Beauzemont is actively engaged with the “Chronique de la Bibliophilie” which takes place two Tuesdays a month at 13.15. These talks fell within the framework of the transmission known as “La Vie des Lettres” directed by M. Barbier. Celebrated writer such as A. Arnoux, M. Genevoix, A. Maurois, took part. However, the programme was considered too literary, and to make it more bibliophilic, the SLAM committee asked all members to bring forward ideas on how one should proceed in relation to the general public. At the start of 1957 these programmes were abandoned as not being of sufficient practical interest to our profession. They started again the following October, M. Beauzemont having secured the chance of a personal broadcast in which he was able to speak of bookselling to a more pertinent and useful effect.
Besides this concern for radio publicity, President Chrétien made himself useful by personally dealing with some practical problems. The Emergency Fund, in consequence of an important donation, was able to make a monthly payment to the widow of a former bookseller and give substantial assistance to an aged colleague who found himself in difficult circumstances. The SLAM was also able to intervene successfully to obtain settlement from bad payers amongst foreign dealers.
On the international front, two Congresses were organised, in New York from October 9 to 14, 1955, and in London from September 9 to 13, 1956. At the American Congress 48 European delegates were present; the League president, G. Blaizot being unwell, was replaced by Mr. Stanley Sawyer. An exceptional exhibition of autographs (Goethe, Dickens, Balzac, Poe, Wilde, etc.) was held at the Grolier Club, on October 10. The day after next there was a visit at New Haven to the Yale University Library. The General Meeting of March 26, 1957 saw the end of Pierre Chrétien’s term of office. Always anxious to make himself useful, he reminded us of the care which must be brought to the writings of catalogues, the need to respect accepted rules so that they may be clear and free from all ambiguity. This preoccupation underlines, if such stress were needed, the quest for precision, rigour and honesty which motivated him as President during his three years of office.
M. Deruelle was to succeed him as President of the SLAM.
(Published in ILAB Newlsetter 39 - June 1987, translation by Martin Hamlyn).