Thursday, 11 November 2010

New Standards Demanded for Antiquarian Book and Prints Trade

I see that over on the Unidroit-L, apart from the other usual obnoxious slime of personal attacks from antiquity collectors and dealers stalling debate, there is now a controversial post in which Bailey & Ehrenberg PLLC's cultural property lawyer Peter Tompa and Californian part-time dugup antiquity seller Dave Welsh suggest that new standards are needed in the antiquarian book and print trade. Members of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association and other related bodies (like its US counterpart) should be beware and checking with their lawyers. Tompa and Welsh are now suggesting that the trade in antiquarian books and prints be held to standards which the antiquities trade does not aspire to. They apparently suggest in all seriousness that it should be considered wrong for people to go into shops where antiquarian books and prints are being sold and purchase any without due diligence. Should they do so, they warn they may somehow run foul of the 1970 UNESCO Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property. This text potentially has severe consequences for the entire antiquarian book and print trade if true.

I have discussed the suggestions of lawyer Tompa and dealer Welsh, and the differnces between the collection of some classes of object from others, at further length elsewhere.

Welsh says:
"From the way Barford reacted to this in his blog, he seems to believe there should be one standard for archaeolog[ical finds] and another for everything else, a perspective which might perhaps be characterized as "Archaeologie ueber alles."
Yes [ignoring the sneering cultural reference] I do. I think there should be one standard for collectors of items (like netsuke) made of elephant ivory and those carved of boxwood or soapstone, that is not so much "elephant über alles" as common decency and responsible behaviour. That is all we are asking of those who choose to collect and trade in artefacts coming from the world's archaeological record. A bit of decency and responsibility. Tompa and Welsh's attack on those who buy antiquarian books and prints is neither - nor does it have any real legal or moral grounds. Seen in its wider context, it is just another antagonistic coiney rabid rant.

Vignette: Old stomping grounds, Hay-on-Wye book-buyers paradise on earth (I know a few more where the heart quickens at the scent of old books, but am keeping them to myself).

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