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Book offer in Germany's smallest antiquarian bookshop on Burgplatz in Braunschweig

Antiquar (from Latin antiquarius ) refers to two groups of people in German usage. On the one hand, there is a bookseller who specializes in trading in used, old, out-of-print or rare books, including manuscripts , autographs , newspapers, maps and art, especially graphics . He independently runs a second-hand bookshop or is an employee there. Activities of the antiquarian are the valuation of an offered book, the purchase, the sales price calculation , the storage and the marketing with the sale. The antiquarian's customer service also includes the targeted procurement of rare books through search messages to other antiquarian bookshops.

The antiquarian has a commercial activity. In Germany, the second-hand bookshop is one of the three possible focuses of training as a bookseller. In other countries, the term corresponds more to the antique dealer , specialization in printed works such as books is not regulated in the vocational training there. The antiquarian is often also active in specialist bookshops for scientific or historical publications.

On the other hand, the term antiquarian archaeologist from the time before the scientific nature of the discipline in the late 18th and early 19th century, especially with the Realia , employed the ancient cultures, especially the Greeks and Romans. The term for modern booksellers is derived from these antiquarians, who often had a large library.


Antiquarius was an author or orator named by the Romans who liked to use outdated expressions and forms of speech ( archaisms ); In the Middle Ages , the term was used to copy old books (especially in monasteries). From the Renaissance onwards, scholars engaged in the study of antiquities , i.e. H. old works of art, employed, referred to as antiquarians (in this sense still today French antiquaire , English antiquary , Italian antiquario ). This term is still used today in German to designate scholars who were before the actual emergence of archeology or prehistory as representatives of their own subject.

The term or the designation as "antiquarian" or "junk dealer" is free in Germany , it is not subject to any professional obligation, anyone who wants can use it to describe himself / herself, if an activity is carried out as a dealer, a trade license is required.

Towards the end of the 19th century, the concept changed, especially in Germany, to a merchant who deals in older, used books. French antiquarians, especially street booksellers in Paris, are also known as bouquinists .


Bouquinist (outpatient antiquarian bookshop) on Kaiserplatz in Bonn

The antiquarian business has developed in part from the book trade and deals with the purchase and sale of larger and smaller libraries and older, used, especially scientific, but also illustrated works. Another branch of development is the antiques business, especially if these stem from the liquidation and economic exploitation of estates , which often include collections of books.

The main means of distribution were and are

  • Sales lists and catalogs sorted by subject area, which are often provided with important and interesting bibliographical comments and illustrations, and
  • public book auctions in which each individual work is knocked down to the highest bidder according to the catalogs issued above .

In 1906, antiquarians in the British Isles merged to form the Antiquarian Booksellers Association . In 1959 the Central Antiquariat of the GDR was founded, which also dealt with the reprint of rare books. The successor company Zentralantiquariat Leipzig currently operates the largest antiquarian shop in Germany in Dresden.

Not belonging to the real antiquarian bookshop , the so-called modern antiquarian bookshop , which is often associated with the general book trade , developed from the 1970s . Its task is to acquire remaining stocks, older editions and larger batches of individual works and to sell them to the public at low prices.

With the advent of the World Wide Web in the 1990s, the proportion of mail order in the second-hand bookshop increased. Customers can not only take advantage of the offers of individual antiquarians on the Internet, but also search for used books across providers on so-called antiquarian platforms such as ZVAB , AbeBooks or . Other larger platforms for used books on the net are eBay and and booklooker , where private individuals also act as providers.

Importance to science

By collecting and storing, as well as buying duplicates and "obsolete" works, the antiquarians (formerly also disparagingly referred to as Güsel or rag collectors) secure books and papers that would otherwise cause the lack of understanding, indifference or the inability of the responsible persons or institutions at the mercy of decay or destruction, for research. For many scientists, the first editions of publications are of great importance. Preparing, sifting, collating , restoring, and above all logistics , warehousing and transport can preserve priceless values, rare and rare manuscripts, autographs , and sometimes entire libraries and collections. They mostly receive support from private patrons and bibliophiles .

The quality of second-hand bookshops is characterized by the fact that they work for the rescue and preservation of valuable book stocks and the research of book history . It does not correspond to the professional self-image of an antiquarian that collections worth preserving are taken apart without documentation, (especially illuminated) manuscripts and valuable books are dismantled and the individual parts are sold or historical ownership notices are removed. Advances in printing technology have made it possible today to produce facsimile editions of individual books and also of entire libraries of important personalities in history , so that documentation takes place in this way.

Professional associations


  • International League of Antiquarian Booksellers - ILAB
  • Association of German Antiquaries V. - VDA
  • Internet Antiquare eG cooperative
  • Association of Antiquarians Austria - VAÖ
  • Association of Swiss Antiquarian & Art Dealers - VSAK
  • Association of antiquarian booksellers and engravers in Switzerland - VEBUKU
  • Antiquarian Booksellers Association of America - ABAA (USA)
  • Antiquarian Booksellers' Association (UK)
  • Syndicat National de la Librairie Ancienne et Moderne - SLAM (France)
  • Associazione Librai Antiquari d'Italia - ALAI

Well-known second-hand bookshops


  • Björn Biester: antiquarian, antiquarian book trade, antiquarian catalog, antiquarian fairs, antiquarian associations, auction, auction catalog. In: Reclam's dictionary of the book. 2nd Edition. Reclam, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-15-010542-0 .
  • Vademecum Antiquariat 2008 . Frankfurt am Main 2007.
  • Momigliano, Arnaldo (1950): Ancient History and the Antiquarian. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 13 (1-2): 285-315.
  • Bernhard Wendt, Gerhard Gruber: The antiquarian book trade. A specialist knowledge for antiquarians and book collectors. 4., rework. Edition. Hauswedell, Stuttgart 2003, ISBN 3-7762-0503-2 .
Fiction processing

Web links

Wiktionary: Antiquarian  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence