The opportunity to travel to distant lands opens up new worlds for anyone. I am no exception. This particular adventure to attend the International League of Antiquarian Bookseller’s Congress in Budapest was so much more meaningful to me on a larger scale.
In a nutshell, the Congress is a cultural and literary tour for booksellers. But unlike most visitors, we gained special access to archives and collections, as well as the experts who are the caretakers of those materials. Among our activities, we were treated to an insightful guided tour of Buda Castle and the turning of the pages of the Codex Dante from the Bibliotheca Corviniana collection at the Library of Eötvös Loránd University. We learned of the horrors experienced by Hungarians under Nazi and Communist rule at the House of Terror and gained an appreciation for Bohemian food, music, and horsemanship at the Lázár Equestrian Park.
We were all enchanted by a special mid-16th century bible gifted by the student of an important humanist to his patron, the Count Ferenc Nadasdy. As one of our bookselling specialties is heavy metal music, my husband Brad and I were awe struck by an even more compelling association. Nadasdy was the husband of the Countess Bathory, whom the Guinness Book of World Records has labeled the most prolific female murderer. She was accused of torturing and killing hundreds of young women between 1585 and 1609. In modern times, Bathory is the namesake of a pioneering Swedish extreme metal band and the subject of numerous songs, including Venom’s classic Countess Bathory.
But it was the being there, with this particular group of people, our special tribe of booksellers that elevated the experience for me. I am not just talking about late nights kibitzing in the lobby bar at the beautiful Kempinski Hotel Corvinas (although that was pretty special). It’s the sharing of a mutual understanding of things that set this trip apart. When the excited librarian told his tale of finding a fragment from Mozart’s Sonata No. 11 in the Master’s hand, I knew what everyone else was thinking: wouldn’t it be amazing if I could find the remaining part to complete this work!
I believe this sense of comradery also helped us through a difficult time. We were all deeply saddened during the Congress by news of the passing of Bob Fleck, a former ILAB president and friend to so many across the globe. My heart is heavy as I reflect on the touching musical tribute played in Bob’s honor by the incomparable Hungarian gypsy band. I will never hear a more touching rendition of Ave Maria.
Words cannot begin to convey how grateful I am for the opportunity to attend the ILAB Conference. I am grateful for the scholarship and for the hospitality that was shown to me and to all those who attended by Ádám Bősze, chairman of the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Hungary. Thank you. It is now my goal to attend many more Congresses in the future, and perhaps to help host a few. I hope to meet you there.
Please go here to read Anke Timmermann's report, another young antiquarian who was awarded a scholarship for the ILAB Congress.