Rare Book Monthly

Articles - April - 2018 Issue

Looking to Import Old Books into the EU? Be Prepared for Much More Paperwork if These Regulations Are Adopted

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Proposed new regulations will make it more difficult to ship books to European Union countries.

Booksellers and collectors aren't known for being terrorists, but new regulations that may be adopted by the European Union to stop terrorists may do more to interfere with book collecting than terrorism. The proposed rules brought about an "urgent alert" from ILAB (International League of Antiquarian Booksellers) which fears these regulations will terrorize the book trade more than the terrorists.

 

Here is the story behind these rules that could potentially disrupt the trade in books from countries outside the European Union to those within. Last year, the European Commission prepared a set of proposed regulations to submit to the European Parliament. It targets "the import of cultural goods." While such regulations have appeared over the past several decades to protect the looting of cultural artifacts of countries with ancient histories, these rules were created specifically "to step up the fight against the financing of terrorism" by interfering with the "illicit trade in cultural goods." ISIS, in particular, has been known to sell looted artifacts from antiquity from Syria and Iraq, though it is dubious how much of this is books and manuscripts. Old Middle Eastern books have a limited market in Europe, and often what comes from this region are fakes, designed to make unscrupulous collectors believe they are buying some valuable looted artifact for a very cheap price.

 

The proposed regulations, which will rely on individual states to determine specifically how to enforce them and punish violators, target books and manuscripts over 250 years old. The primary means of enforcement is clear - paperwork. Soldiers and bombs may not stop terrorism, but the scourge of paperwork surely can destroy anything, the book trade included.

 

The regulations target many types of items of cultural heritage, but we will focus on books and related material. They fall into two categories, (1) rare manuscripts (at least 250 years old) and incunabula, and (2) other books and manuscripts at least 250 years old. The first category requires obtaining an import license to bring them into an EU country, the second requires an importer statement. ILAB notes that other than incunabula and rare manuscripts, the rules governing exports from EU countries also require they have a value of at least €50,000 (approximately US $61,000). For imports, however, there is no minimum value requirement. While those not familiar with the trade may assume that any book over 250 years old must be valuable, those in the trade realize there is much unimportant material of that age which has very little value, particularly if the condition is poor.

 

The difference between the two categories is the level of paperwork they impose. Those items requiring an import license need a license to be secured in advance. It must be obtained from the "competent authority" in the country to which it is to be shipped. "The application shall be accompanied by any supporting documents and information substantiating that the cultural goods in question have been exported from the source country in accordance with its laws and regulations." If the country from which the goods were shipped subscribes to the 1970 UNESCO Convention, then "the application shall be accompanied by any supporting documents and information substantiating that the cultural goods have been exported from that country [note: as opposed to the original source country] in accordance with its laws and regulations." The "competent authority" in each EU country has 30 days to request information missing from the application, and 90 more days to decide whether to accept or reject the application. Applications can be rejected for failure to demonstrate that goods were legally exported from the source country if coming from a non-UNESCO country, or from the exporting country if a UNESCO treaty member. There is one more ground for rejecting a license: "the competent authority has reasonable grounds to believe that the holder of the goods did not acquire them lawfully."

 

For those items requiring only an importer statement, rather than a license, the importer has to provide a statement declaring the items were shipped from the source country according to its laws if coming from a non-UNESCO country, or shipped legally from the exporting country if a UNESCO member. "The importer statement shall include a standardised document describing the cultural goods in question in sufficient detail for them to be identified by the customs authorities."

 

If these regulations are adopted by the European Parliament, they will go into effect on January 1, 2019.

 

ILAB has issued a call for its members, and anyone else, to send letters of protest to EU authorities. In its alert, the ILAB states, "This text considers subjecting dealers to administrative obligations that are disproportionate with the pursued objective... The European Union, which was built on freedom of movement, must first and foremost protect such values against arbitrary barriers to free trade."

 

While the added burden of paperwork to legitimate buyers and sellers is obvious, what is less clear is what these regulations, as applied to books and manuscripts, will accomplish. Along with the burden of paperwork, it may be hard to even know whether you are in compliance. Most books have dates, but not manuscripts. Are they more or less than 250 years old? And what constitutes a "rare" manuscript? Aren't manuscripts one-of-a-kind items, rare by definition? If you are fencing stolen books, clearly that is not a legal sale, whether by export or internally. What about an item stolen a century ago? In most cases, the seller will not even know that they are selling stolen goods.

 

How do judgments as to legality of shipping get made in the EU country? The honest seller and buyer get trapped in a pile of paperwork, while the illegal shipper or buyer simply lies. How will the customs agent in Europe know the difference? My guess is the European countries will not hire a bunch of book savvy customs inspectors to carefully enforce these regulations. More likely, most will look through the paperwork to see if it is filled out correctly, without having a clue from this information whether the book was shipped legally. And then, there will be the sticklers, the occasional bureaucrat whose greatest pleasure is making someone else's life miserable. We have all run into them.

 

Finally, will non-European booksellers feel they have been put at a disadvantage? It will now be more difficult for an American bookseller to sell a book to an EU customer than for an EU bookseller to sell to an American customer. Will American booksellers want to retaliate? Maybe we will see a trade war, with the weapon of choice being burdensome paperwork instead of tariffs.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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