ILAB Code of Usages and Customs


Buy Rare Books With Confidence. 

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.

ILAB Code of Usages and Customs

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 customers a clearly defined code of practice based on high professional standards.

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.

Technical Terms

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


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


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.

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.

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.

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.

General Conditions of Sale.

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.


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.

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.

On Approval: Term & Responsibility

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.

A prospective buyer who asks for material on approval or on consignment  shall hold himself 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.


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

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.