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The ILAB Code of Usages and Customs

This compendium of the usages and customs of the profession of antiquarian booksellers defines the usages generally and universally recognized in all commercial transactions relating to the profession, either between professionals, or between professionals and institutions or individuals. Antiquarian bookselling in this context includes manuscripts, autograph letters, prints, maps and drawings, as well as books, and any other written or printed material.


1. DEFINITION. This compendium of the usages and customs of the profession of antiquarian bookseller defines the usages generally and universally recognized in all commercial transactions relating to the profession, either between professionals, or between professionals and institutions or individuals. Antiquarian bookselling in this context includes manuscripts, autograph letters, prints, maps and drawings, as well as books, and any other written or printed material.

2. CODE OF PRACTICE. Members of the national associations affiliated with the ILAB (hereafter, for the sake of brevity, referred to as members) should conduct all commercial transactions according to these usages which expressly indicate that members offer to their clients a clearly defined code of practice based on high ethical standards.

3. DESCRIPTION AND DISCLOSURE. Members shall be responsible for the accurate identification and description of all material offered for sale. All defects, significant restorations and sophistications or omissions should be clearly noted and made known to those to whom the material is offered or sold. For example, although it would not be untrue to state that a particular work has 52 plates, by failing to mention that there should be 54, one would be guilty of withholding information. Unless the parties agree otherwise, a full cash refund shall be available to the purchaser of any misrepresented material, including the cost of return shipping.

Intention to return an item should be communicated as soon as possible within an agreed time frame and in accordance with local laws. When no prior agreement has been made, the communication of intent should be made no later than ten days after receipt of the goods.

Refunds should be made or credited to the credit card promptly when a customer has made a return acceptable to the dealer.

4. TECHNICAL TERMS. Members should, as professionals, be conversant with and responsible for the correct use and interpretation of the technical terms of the trade.

5. PRICE. Members shall be responsible for the professional pricing of all material offered for sale, regardless of whether they are dealing with experts or amateurs.

6. AUTHENTICITY. Members shall vouch for and make every reasonable effort to substantiate the authenticity of all materials offered for sale. Should it be determined that such material is not authentic or is questionable, then it shall be returnable for a full cash refund, or on some other mutually agreed terms. Material shown to be not authentic, or of disputed or undetermined nature, shall not again be offered for sale unless all facts concerning it are clearly disclosed.

7. STOLEN PROPERTY. Members shall be responsible for passing to the buyer clear title to all material sold, and shall not knowingly purchase, hold or attempt to re-sell stolen material. Due diligence practices include knowing, or confirming, the identity of a vendor, recording all purchases and taking reasonable steps to ensure the legitimacy of goods being offered. In the event of books suspected of having been stolen, or having been proved to have been stolen, it is the responsibility of the members to contact the original owner. They shall co-operate fully with law enforcement authorities to recover and return stolen material, and to apprehend those responsible.

8. DAMAGE IN TRANSIT. Responsibility for damage or loss in transit shall rest with the sender. Members should attend to the careful and appropriate handling, packing, posting and shipping of material to ensure that it reaches the buyer in the same condition as when purchased.

9. TERMS AND CONDITIONS. It should be understood that books are normally offered for sale in catalogues, and on online databases and websites at the price affixed, subject to prior sale, and that payment is either due in advance or, when satisfactory credit has been established, promptly on receipt of the goods, or within 30 days of invoice if prior arrangement has been made. In the case of special offers, courtesy requires that an option to purchase be assured for a certain time which should be specified. Any divergence from these generally accepted terms should be expressly stated.

10. BANK CHARGES. The supplier must be paid the full amount of his invoice; the buyer is responsible for all clearing and bank charges relating to the transaction.

11. TENDERS. When a bookseller makes an offer to purchase books the price should be valid either for an immediate transaction or for a stated period of option.

12. CLEAR PRICING. Members should ensure that all material offered for sale in an open shop or at a book fair is clearly marked with the selling price. Material not for sale or being processed or reserved, should be appropriately segregated.

13. TRADE DISCOUNT. The importance of extending to ILAB affiliated members the courtesy of a trade discount on purchases from premises, shops, catalogues, book fairs, and the Internet is a core requirement. Therefore, members should permit any other member of an association affiliated and in good standing with the ILAB to buy from their stock any material offered for sale (i.e. priced) and in normal circumstances should extend to such buyers the customary and reciprocal trade discount of 10%.

It is also recommended that ILAB booksellers be urged to extend the customary reciprocal discount to the permanent employees, full time and part time, of their ILAB collegues.

14. ON APPROVAL: TERM. Consignments on approval requested by a prospective buyer must be supplied with a clear indication of the term allowed for a decision. When this term elapses the sale shall be deemed to be concluded if the goods have not been returned. If returned, postal charges both ways shall be borne by the prospective buyer.

MARCHANDISE A L'ESSAI: CONDITIONS. Les commandes à l'essai doivent indiquer clairement la période accordée pour prendre une décision. Si les pièces ne sont pas retournées à la fin de ladite période, la vente est considérée comme étant conclue. Si elles sont retournées, l'acheteur doit se charger des frais postaux d'envoi et de retour.

15. ON APPROVAL: RESPONSIBILITY. Members who ask for material on approval or on consignment shall hold themselves responsible for such material from its arrival until returned or fully paid for. However, this responsibility does not extend to damage and loss due to war or to any risk which cannot be covered by insurance.

16. MULTIPLE ORDERS. If a multiple order cannot be filled in its entirety owing to part of it having been previously sold, this does not constitute grounds for the cancellation of that order unless so stipulated on the order.

17. VALUATIONS AND APPRAISALS. Valuations must be carried out scrupulously in the spirit of these usages and customs. They involve the responsibility of the bookseller towards the owner of the material.

18. VALUATIONS: TAX LAW. Members offering valuation or appraisal services shall be responsible for being conversant with the relevant regulations as stipulated by local tax laws. They shall conduct such appraisals in strict compliance with these regulations.

19. AUCTION COMMISSIONS. Members who receive from a client instructions to purchase at a public auction sale should also accept responsibility for the careful inspection of the material to be bought and should not rely solely on information supplied by the seller or by the auctioneer. He or she should, of course, also exercise the utmost discretion and eliminate any risk of conflict of interest.

Unless otherwise agreed before the sale, a commission fee, on the hammer price, of 10% is normally charged on successful bids only. While bidding at auction is certainly open to variable commission rates, it is important for these to be discussed and agreed, in writing if necessary, before the auction.

20. BOOKSELLERS’ PREMISES. Members should refrain from approaching or soliciting customers in another member’s shop, book fair booth, or place of business without the introduction or consent of the proprietor.

Members should also identify themselves as booksellers upon entering the premises of another bookseller. Some members find it embarrassing to identify themselves in case it is impossible to purchase something from their colleagues. There is a shared responsibility to dispel any such embarrassment, in the spirit of the League.

ILAB booksellers are encouraged to welcome other members to their place of business, and it is also recommended that there is a voluntary offer of hospitality, co-operation, sharing of information, and other courtesies to all our ILAB colleagues.

21. INTERPRETATION. This compendium of customs and usage has been set out in English and in French. If any dispute should arise as to the interpretation of a paragraph from one language to the other, the Committee of the League shall decide which is the correct interpretation.

22. PRESERVATION. Members are committed to the preservation of historical materials and should not break complete and intact copies of books or manuscripts.

23. INVESTMENT SCHEMES. Members are advised not to promote antiquarian and rare books, or allied materials, as investment vehicles in themselves, or as part of investment schemes.

24. FINDER’S FEE. A courtesy that has had long standing within the trade is that of offering a finder’s fee to someone who has provided information that enabled a purchase or a sale. This is a matter of trust between members and is arranged on a case-by-case basis. While there is no fixed rate in the way of finder’s fee nor is it always a monetary compensation, typically, the fee has been 5 or 10 percent of the total purchase, or sale price when significant items or collections are involved.

25. COPYRIGHT. Catalogue descriptions and images are a species of intellectual property: members or their representatives should not steal or plagiarise from their colleagues; any quoted material should be acknowledged, and if substantial use is made of another bookseller’s text or images, permission should be sought in advance.