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Messages from colleagues around the world: On the passing of Poul Jan Poulsen

On 28 February 2023, ILAB was informed by the Danish Antiquarian Booksellers' Association of the passing of Poul Jan Poulsen who held the position of ILAB Treasurer for 21 years and was a true ambassador of the association. Read condolences messages from colleagues and friends here.

Commemorative words by ABF, the Danish antiquarian booksellers' assocation

Poul Jan Poulsen died on February 22nd 2023. His passing comes as a hard blow to the antiquarian book trade in general, to the Danish Antiquarian Booksellers Association in particular, and to many of us personally. Although he retired several years ago, in many ways, he continued to be a rallying point for our association. He was the only active member of the association ever to have been elected honorary member and one of only three members ever to receive this honour.

Poul had been in the book business since 1957, when, aged 17, he began his training as a bookseller in Knud Rasmussens Boghandel on Østerbrogade in Copenhagen. He soon became interested in old books, which led him to take up employment with some of the most renowned Danish antiquarian bookshops, Politikens Antikvariat, Rosenkilde & Bagger, and Harcks Antikvariat, before opening his own shop, Antikvariat Aldus, in 2001.

Poul was the heart and soul of our association and it is hard to imagine how it will look without him. In all the 102 years of the association, no Danish bookseller has worked more tirelessly for the antiquarian book trade than him. He served as president for ABF for 18 years (1987-2005) and spent more than 20 years as treasurer of ILAB. Even after having passed on the presidency of ABF, he continued serving the trade and stayed on as substitute on the committee, attending every single meeting up until the last one in late 2022.

Poul was not only a very experienced antiquarian bookseller with a vast knowledge of books, to many of us he was also a very dear friend and a mentor. He was an incredibly kind and generous person, who liberally gave of his time to others, sharing his knowledge and experience. One could not find a more unselfish person than Poul.

He imparted to us, the Danish antiquarian booksellers, a sense of responsibility for the ABF as well as for ILAB and the antiquarian book trade in general, and he showed us how to help each other, how to make the trade a better place, and how to bridge the gap between generations of booksellers.

It is a painful fact that he is no longer with us. The trade is so much poorer for his demise, as are many of us individually. It is now up to the rest of us to uphold some of the values that Poul stood for. He will be sorely missed.


Dear colleagues,

it is with a heavy heart and great sorrow that I have to report that Poul Poulsen has died, aged 83. He played a tremendous role in the antiquarian book trade, not only the Danish, which he was part of for more than 60 years, but also internationally, with his tireless work for ILAB and general love for our trade. He shall be sorely missed.

On behalf of the Danish Antiquarian Booksellers Association

Maria Girsel
28 February 2023
President of ABF


Dear Maria,

On behalf of the ILAB Committee, I would like to join all those who have offered condolences on the passing of Poul Jan Poulsen.

It is impressive to read the memories of those who knew him. Poul played an important role in the progress of our association, and the messages of his colleagues who worked with him on the board reflect this strongly. He did not only serve as President of the Danish association but also as ILAB Treasurer for 21 years until 2012. After stepping down from the ILAB Committee, he was awarded the “ILAB Treasurer of Honour” medal.
I had the pleasure of meeting Poul in person at the Presidents’ Meeting in Copenhagen in 2017, and it became clear how much he still cared for the work of the League and how well-respected he was amongst his colleagues. ILAB loses a true ambassador of our trade, deeply committed to the international network we stand for.
Our condolences go out to his family and his colleagues in Denmark.

Mario Giupponi
Acting ILAB President


Dear All,

I am deeply saddened to learn about the passing away of Poul Jan Poulsen. I had met Poul during ILAB’s Congress in Paris 1988 for the first time and many Committee Meetings, Presidents Meetings and Congresses were to follow. His restless work for both ILAB and the Danish Association was more than inspiring. From a more personal view I want to add that he was the best thinkable teacher for me - and many others - when I had joined the Committee of ILAB. His enormous knowledge of of ILAB’s structure, his feeling of what could possibly be changed for the better of the whole trade, had helped many of us to lead the ship through stormy waters. Unnecessary to mention that he had kept more than an eye on ILAB’s finances which were always in perfect order.

He will not be forgotten.

Norbert Donhofer
ILAB President from 2014 - 2016


Dear fellow Presidents,

I just wanted to pass on the condolences from ANZAAB to the Danish Antiquarian Booksellers Association and the ILAB Committee upon hearing the news of Poul Poulson's passing.
I know he made great contributions to that Association and the ILAB community.

Kind regards,
Douglas Stewart
President ANZAAB


Dear Maria

I am so sorry to hear that Poul has died. He was indeed a great contributor to the book trade. He was ILAB's one and only Treasurer of Honour which reflects in what high esteem he was held. We were so fortunate that he served for such a long term in the role of ILAB treasurer, a difficult task to do even for just a few years, never mind for 21 years! ILAB was very fortunate indeed to have him on the Committee.

Please pass my personal condolences to the trade in Denmark and to Poul's family. I am so very sorry.

With my best wishes,
Sally Burdon
ILAB President from 2018 - 2022


Dear Maria and All,

These are very sad news for all os us that had the opportunity to know him over the years. Poul was a cornerstone for the League for many years with his tireless and unwavering spirit of work. My deep condolences to the family and the Danish association.

Gonzalo Fdez Pontes
AILA President / ILAB President from 2016 - 2018


Dear Maria and all,

I share your sorrow about Poul’s disparition. He has of course worked a lot for the League, but he was also a very good fellow quite in the spirit of those book lovers who liked to share their passion in the reality and not only on the virtual way of internet…
We will miss him a lot.

Kind regards,
Alain Nicolas
ILAB President from 1996 - 2000


Dear Maria and all,

I am deeply saddened to hear of Poul’s passing. I got to know Poul when he entered the ILAB committee when my father was at that same committee and committee meetings were held in our Amsterdam premises, which was in the late 80s, early 90s. Ever since, upto to my own years at the committee, Poul was always there, calm, composed, a bit in the background, but not without solid and well argumented opinions. For well over 20 years he was the one continuous factor in the committee: presidents and members came and went, but Poul, Poul was always there and I have greatly benefitted from all his qualities during my years on the committee.

His tireless work for both the Danish Association and for ILAB, his meticulous management of ILAB’s finances, his deep knowledge of ILAB’s history, workings, principles behind it, it all greatly served a large number of colleagues who became member of the ILAB committee. His towering figure, the pleasure it gave him to meet his international colleagues, to visit the various cities were meetings were held, the conversations around the meetings, he enjoyed it to the full and was always eager not to miss any of it. He was one of the most modest personalities (a rare quality and combination), and one of the kindest persons I’ve ever met in our trade. I’ll will miss him greatly and he will not be forgotten. May he rest in peace.

With all my sincere condolences to our Danish friends and Poul’s family,

Arnoud Gerits
ILAB President from 2010 - 2012


Dear Maria,

I would like to extend my condolences to our colleagues of the Danish Association.

On behalf of the ALAI,
Gabriele Maspero
ALAI President


Dear Maria,

Marina and I were very sad to get your news of Poul’s death. He was indeed a towering figure in the Danish Association and we can well imagine that the whole association is going to miss him terribly. I knew him well from my time on the ILAB Committee, where he was the Treasurer for as long as most people could remember.
We send our heartfelt condolences to you and the Danish Association and, through you, to Inge.
Yours Sincerely,
Keith Fletcher
ILAB Member of Honour


Dear Maria and all:

It is with heavy heart that I note the passing of Poul Jan Poulsen, Committee member for over two decades and the only ILAB Treasurer of Honor. I bemoan the loss of this loyal and diligent servant of ILAB. His good-natured and calm demeanor will be missed by all who served with him on the Committee and by the many Presidents of ILAB countries who had the privilege of experiencing his competence and good advice at Presidents’ meetings. He was by nature reserved, but beneath his manner he obviously took great delight in the company of his colleagues. He will be missed by all who knew him.

Tom Congalton
ILAB President from 2012 - 2014


Dear Colleagues,

We are saddened by the loss of Paul Poulsen and would like to extend our condolences to our colleagues of the Danish Association.

On behalf of the Brazilian Association,
Sandra Soares


Dear Maria and all who knew Poul,

Poul always seemed to be there. He was the beating heart of ILAB for so very long. The League was his passion, and I cannot remember him without seeing his good-natured presence, sitting next to Inge at so many League gatherings. He always spread a general feeling that if all was not well, it very soon would be. His Bon Homie was infectious and Hermoine and I spent many a happy mealtime with him. At meetings, he was always on top of his job. He steered ILAB finances through some complicated times when running the financial affairs of an international body was not the simplest of tasks. As president, I often turned to him for advice and always found it knowledgeable and pertinent. He will be greatly missed, and Hermoine and I send our condolences to his family and colleagues. ILAB owes Poul a great debt of gratitude.

With some wonderful memories and heartfelt condolences,

Adrian and Hermoine Harrington
Adrian Harrington
ILAB President from 2008 - 2010


Dear Colleagues,

Other than wholeheartedly endorsing all the condolence messages for Poul Poulsen, I can only add my own appreciation of, and love for, Poul.
He was a true friend not only to ILAB but also to me, particularly during my years on the ILAB Committee.

Kay Craddock
ILAB President from 2000-2002


Dear colleagues, very dear Maria,

I express my heartfelt condolences on behalf of the German federation and all its members who knew Poul Jan Poulsen personally and held him in high esteem and now share the sadness of his death. We will never forget him!

Markus Brandis
President Verband Deutscher Antiquare

Poul Jan Poulsen, by Maria Girsel (ABF President)
Article from November 2010

For his outstanding efforts and commitment to the antiquarian book trade, Poul Jan Poulsen has been elected honorary member of the Danish Antiquarian Booksellers Association (ABF), as the only still active bookseller ever, and as the third in the entire history of ABF, which was founded in 1920.

During the 90 years that ABF has been in existence, Poul has done more for the association than any other member. For many, many years, he has formed the back-bone of ABF, which would hardly be imaginable without him.

Poul has been in the book business since 1957, when he began his training as a bookseller in Knud Rasmussens Boghandel on Østerbrogade in Copenhagen. He quickly became interested in old books and began working in Politikens Antikvariat, after that Rosenkilde & Bagger, and finally Harcks Antikvariat (three of the most well esteemed antiquarian book shops in Denmark, sadly all closed now), before he started on his own in 2001 under the name of Antikvariat Aldus, which is situated in Vesterbrogade in Copenhagen.

Poul had worked for the ABF for many years, before he became president of the association 23 years ago. He had this post for 18 years (being re-elected every second year), and is thus the longest running president of ABF. At the same time, he has spent more than 20 years as the treasurer of ILAB, a post that he still holds.

Throughout his many years working for the ABF and ILAB, he has spent an enormous amount of energy on making our association and ILAB run smoothly and efficiently. Not only has the association throughout his presidency benefitted from his international work, which has made our small association an important part of ILAB, Poul has also been, and still is, a vital asset for all later ABF-committees, as he has always been willing to help and guide us with his great knowledge and experience. But as important is the fact that he has succeeded in attaching the younger generation personally to the association and given us all a sense of responsibility for the ABF as well as for ILAB and the antiquarian book trade in general.