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Published on 13 March 2013

William S. Kundig had been the first president of the Swiss Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association (VEBUKU), founded in 1939. Nine years later he also became the first president of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB).

After his election at the first ILAB Congress in Copenhagen in 1948 he was the driving force behind the scenes. Kundig never stopped in his endeavours to unite the national associations and its booksellers under ILAB’s roof. “Without his determination and forceful character”, Percy H. Muir said, “the League could well have foundered before it was truly launched.” In 1950 he had to retire due to serious health problems. But his wit, charm and diplomacy are legendary. 

The following obituary was published in the ABA Newsletter 18 in December 1951, shortly after William S. Kundig’s sudden death.

William S. Kundig was the first ILAB President. Elected at the first ILAB Congress in Copenhagen in 1948 he was well known for his energy and talent to bring things to life.

William Kundig was an international bookseller, and very well known as an auctioneer in Switzerland. He was a man about whom a book could be written, there were so many sides to his character. His stories about the Trade, of sales, booksellers and customers, were legendary. He was, in the best sense of the word, a born comedian.

All those who were present at the International Conference in London two years ago, will remember the energetic way in which he presided at the International League’s Assembly. His enthusiasm and forceful personality dominated the scene; he swept aside criticism, and was at that time the power which unified the League. His speeches were given with immense verve and were almost always admirable.  

His qualities were such that he was the fitting choice to be the first president of the League. He was elected at its inauguration at Copenhagen in 1948, and presided in London the following year. In Paris in 1950, however, he had to resign through ill health, having served for only two of his three years of office. At the Paris Conference he was made President of Honour of the League, and he was present at the Conference in Brussels this year, where he appeared to have made a remarkable recovery. He was also a past president of the Swiss Association, and a member of the ABA. 

It is with great regret that we record the death on October 29th of W. S. Kundig of Geneva.

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