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Guide to the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Inc. Records and Papers, 1949-1999

Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Inc. Records and Papers, 1949-1999



81 boxes; 42 linear feet

This collection contains materials generated by the work of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America since the mid-twentieth century.

Access Restrictions
Access restricted. Applications to consult the collection must be made to: President, Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, 20 West 44th Street, New York, N.Y. 10036. The Ethics Committee and Membership files are sealed until 2052 and specific permission to examine these files must be obtained from the ABAA president, in consultation with ABAA counsel. Container list will be provided upon approval of this application.

Preferred Citation
[Description and Date of Item], [Box/folder number], Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, Inc. Records, 1949-1999, The Grolier Club of New York.

About the Finding Aid
This finding aid was prepared by Grolier Club Archivist Barbara J. Dunlap in 2000, with revisions and additions in 2012 by Grolier Club Archivist, Rachel E. Greer and revisions in 2018 by Allison Hughes.

Records, ca. 1949-1976 were housed originally at ABAA headquarters; later records were housed there and also kept by ABAA presidents. Material from the 1990s was apparently retained by elected officers. All known records were transferred to the ABAA archivist David Margolis ca. 1997-1999, who in turn transferred them to the Grolier Club. A second group of records were transferred by the ABAA archivist to the Grolier Club in 2011.

Historical Note
The Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America was founded in 1949 as a professional association for antiquarian booksellers in the United States. Currently, members of the ABAA are required to be actively engaged as a controlling owner in an antiquarian bookselling business.

In the years immediately following World War II, a number of European antiquarian book dealers formed national associations, and in 1947 came together to organize the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. In this same spirit of cooperation, some fifty members of the antiquarian book trade in the United States met on February 24, 1949 at the Grolier Club in New York City. They founded the Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America (ABAA) to be a non-profit organization that would “further friendly relations and a cooperative spirit among the members” (Article I of the Constitution), as well as work for the benefit of the trade, and explain its work to the public. With his decades of experience in the antiquarian book trade, Laurence Gomme, head of the Rare Book and Binding Department of Brentanos, was unanimously elected president at the first annual meeting held on March 31. The organization was incorporated on May 25, 1949. The first headquarters were located at 3 West 46th Street. By the first meeting in September the new organization had nearly 200 members, growing to over 600 by the late 1990s.

By September 1949 there were six regional chapters. Since the 1960s many of these have sponsored book fairs. The first ABAA sponsored Book Fair opened in New York on April 4, 1960. In 1963 the Antiquarian Book Center opened at Rockefeller Center, founded by dealers Elisabeth Woodburn, Bernard M. Rosenthal, and Madeleine B. Stern, and under the sponsorship of the Middle Atlantic Chapter. For over two decades the Center sponsored cooperative catalogs, exhibitions of members’ stock, and lecture programs, also serving the trade through referrals. In 1951 member dealers created the Antiquarian Booksellers Benevolent Fund (ABBF) which is supported by the generosity of the membership and makes grants of temporary assistance to booksellers. The Association publishes a membership directory and a Newsletter for members. Over the years ABAA has also published individual publications and the journal: The Professional Rare Bookseller (1979-1987).

Scope and Content
This collection contains founding documents, minutes, correspondence, financial records, publications, legal materials and miscellaneous memos and notes documenting operation of the ABAA between its founding in 1949 and the present. Notable correspondence files include exchanges between the association president and broadcaster Alistair Cooke in 1957 regarding the latter’s description of dealer behavior at a book auction. The records also include papers of some ABAA presidents, particularly those of Leona Rostenberg, Warren Howell, Lawrence J. Witten and Robert D. Fleck. In addition, the collection contains records for Antiquarian Booksellers Benevolent Fund (ABBF) and the Antiquarian Booksellers Center (ABC) as well as material documenting the activities of and relationship with the International League of Antiquarian Booksellers. Other notable material includes audiocassettes of meeting minutes from 1990-2006.

Related Materials
Ongoing records of the association at ABAA headquarters, 50 West 44th Street, 4th Floor, New York, N.Y. 10036.

Access points

Cooke, Alastair, 1908-
Gomme, Laurence J. (Lawrence James), b. 1882.
Fleck, Robert D., 1947-
Howell, Warren H. 
Rostenberg, Leona.
Witten, Lawrence.
Antiquarian Booksellers Benevolent Fund.
International League of Antiquarian Booksellers.

Antiquarian booksellers. United States. Publications.
Antiquarian booksellers. United States. 20th century.
Antiquarian booksellers. Trade Associations. United States.
Booksellers and  bookselling. United States. 20th century.
Out-of-print books.


Organization and Arrangement
The collection was organized into fifteen series and a number of subseries by archivist Barbara Dunlap. Please see the Scope and Content and Arrangement notes in the container list for more information about each series. Accruals were processed by archivist Rachel Greer in the same series organization as the original portion of the collection with a few additional series unique to the Accrual. The series are as follows:

Series I: Constitution and Bylaws
Series II: Minutes: Annual General Meetings and Board of Governors Meetings
Series III: Antiquarian Booksellers Benevolent Fund
Series IV: Membership Applications
Subseries IV.1: 1949-1969
Subseries IV.2: 1970-1979
Subseries IV.3: 1980-1989 (box 16 of this section contains correspondence related to membership applications and breaks the arrangement of the rest of the series)
Subseries IV.4: 1990-1998
Series V: Financial Records
Series VI: Regional Chapters
Subseries VI.1: General and California
Subseries VI.2: Midwest, New England, Pacific Northwest, Southeast and Southwest Chapters.
Subseries VI.3: Middle Atlantic Chapter
Series VII: Book Fairs
Series VIII: Antiquarian Booksellers Center
Series IX: Legal Counsel
Series X: Correspondence Files
Subseries X.1: Dealers' Correspondence with Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America, 1949-c1960/61 (arranged alphabetically)
Subseries X.2: Subject Files 1949-1960 (arranged alphabetically)
Subseries X.3: Administrative Assistant/Executive Director Correspondence 1960s-1998 (bulk, 1970-1990) (arranged chronologically)
Series XI: Presidential Files
Series XII: Committees
Series XIII: International League of Antiquarian Booksellers (ILAB)
Subseries XIII.1: Correspondence
Subseries XIII.2: Congresses & Fairs
Subseries XIII.3: Website Controversy
Subseries XIII.4: General Files
Series XIV: Publications
Series XV: Miscellaneous
Accrual 2011-Series II: Minutes: Annual General Meetings and Board of Governors Meetings
Accrual 2011-Series IV: Membership Files
Accrual 2011-Series V: Financial Records
Accrual 2011-Series VI: Regional Chapters
Accrual 2011-Series VII: Book Fairs
Accrual 2011-Series X: Correspondence Files
Accrual 2011-Series XII: Committees
Accrual 2011-Series XIV: Publications
Accrual 2011-Series XVI: Press Files
Accrual 2011-Series XVII: Media Files
Accrual 2011-Oversize Series XIV: Publications

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