The safari takes on an international dimension. A slightly complex journey, but I reach Weimar (without undue incident) for a meeting of the presidents of the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB). Quite an occasion, with booksellers from at least fifteen different countries (and representing many more) – from Australia, Japan, Canada and the USA to Denmark and Hungary – assembling to talk our way through the problems and complexities of the international trade.
A welcoming dinner in the famous old hostelry on the market square followed by a day of sight-seeing. All about Goethe and Schiller around here. We learn as much about the former as we are comfortable with, tour his house, view his study, his pictures, his busts, his furniture, his bed, his self-designed cabinets, his plates, his medals, his … whatever. The threat of even more Goethe in the afternoon inclines me to slip away quietly to the Bauhaus Museum – small but perfectly formed. After a cup of coffee in the sunlit square with ILAB President, Arnoud Gerits, we rejoin the main party for a tour of the Anna Amalia Library
– a rococo miracle of elegance and light, now lovingly restored after the appalling fire. The booksellers fascinated by the advanced restoration techniques being used on the damaged books. And on to dinner at Zum Weissen Schwan, a favourite of Goethe himself.
On Saturday we start to earn our keep. A day-long meeting of the presidents, with the ILAB Committee and its tireless staff. Here’s not the place for a full report, but we discussed, among many other things, the circuit of international bookfairs, the major upcoming events in Switzerland (2012) and France (2014), the sharing of new ideas to promote our activities, the preparation of an international guide to book-collecting in its various forms, the ever-expanding ILAB website, the international directory of members, and the wider geographical spread of associated booksellers around the world.
All in all, a highly congenial and really rather impressive example of international co-operation. New friendships and better communications forged. We in the United Kingdom possibly tend to regard ILAB and all its works as a little remote from the everyday experiences of our members, but that, as Adam Bosze of the Magyar Antikváriusok Egyesülete suggested to me, is because we are a large association with a strong internal and external English-language market. For his members in Hungary, membership of the League is a vital outlet to the international stage. Let us not underestimate that.